What Business Does He Have Getting Cozy With a Crook?
Written by: Meredith Miller
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Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
- Luke 19:9-10 (NLT)
Growing up in Sunday School, I must have sung the song, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man” about a hundred times. I knew the basic story from that tune: Zacchaeus was really short so he had to climb up a sycamore tree in order to get a view of Jesus. When Jesus reached him, He called him down and told Zacchaeus to take Him to his house. The end. But when we dive a little deeper into Zacchaeus’s story in Luke 19, we find that there was a lot more to his story than this catchy kids’ song.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho, which meant he was very wealthy. Tax collectors had very poor reputations during this time because most of them stole from the money they collected. But The Message paraphrase tells us in verse 3 that Zacchaeus “wanted desperately to see Jesus.” The passage doesn’t say much about his behaviors as a tax collector, but this Scripture certainly reveals his heart: He longed to seek the Messiah! This desperation is what drove him up the sycamore tree to get a look at the Man everyone was talking about.
When Jesus reached the tree where Zacchaeus was perched, He called Zacchaeus down by name. Anytime I see Jesus use someone’s name in Scripture, it tugs on my heart strings. Zacchaeus wasn’t some fanatic hanging from a tree to Jesus; he was a person with a name and an identity that Jesus already knew and loved. That is why Jesus asked to be brought to Zacchaeus’s house, which Zacchaeus was “delighted” to do (verse 6 MSG).
Here’s where things get sticky: the crowd is not impressed that Jesus wants to keep company with a man like Zacchaeus. The Message says they muttered, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?” (verse 7). What strikes me here is that Scripture offers no evidence one way or the other about who Zacchaeus was as a tax collector prior to this moment! We have no idea if he really was a crook, or if the crowd just assumed it because of his occupation.
Who do other people say that you are? Is your reputation rooted in facts or assumptions? At some time or another, we’ve all been labeled by others based on something that wasn’t true about us. Yet the devil has a sneaky way of making those lies stick to our hearts until we start to believe they might be true.
I wonder if that’s what happened in Zacchaeus’s mind, because the next thing he says strives to negate these claims: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8 NIV).
Whether or not the crowd’s claims about his behavior were true, Zacchaeus immediately feels the need to make amends for his reputation before Jesus.
But, praise God, Jesus did not see Zacchaeus in light of these rumors, and neither does He see us this way. In reality, the truth of our reputation doesn’t really matter to Jesus because, as He states to Zacchaeus, “For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.” (Luke 19:10 MSG) If mankind was perfectly righteous all the time, we would have no need for a Savior like Jesus! We wouldn’t seek Him out desperately, we wouldn’t delight at welcoming Him into our hearts, and we wouldn’t experience the blessing of His salvation (verse 9).
Regardless of Zacchaeus’s actions as a tax collector, he needed a Savior - as did all the grumbling people in that crowd, as do we. But when we come as we are to desperately seek Jesus, let us remember that He’s not holding us accountable for the lies that contribute to our reputation with others. He knows our name and who we truly are and He has come to save us, no matter what from.
1. Is what you believe about yourself based on your reputation with others or what you know to be true? If you are believing lies, how can you let those go today?
2. How can you metaphorically climb that sycamore tree and desperately seek Jesus today?
Heavenly Father, thank You that You do not see us based on the lies that may form our reputation among humans. Thank You that You call us by name and see into our hearts to know who we truly are, even though that person is imperfect. We desperately need a Savior, so we thank You that You gave us that in Jesus. In Your Son’s Precious Name, Amen.
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