When I do a Bible study at the Youth Correction Center, some of the students come because I have snacks or because it is an opportunity to leave the cottage. I have heard several of the youth say, “I hate it when kids come just for the snacks.” I always respond with, “I’m okay with it. At least they hear the lesson.” And I think there may be a difference of seeking here. They are seeking something that is often superficial; candy, playing a game, a change of scenery. They may even be there because they think I’m a nice guy who says some interesting things sometimes. Who know? I guess its possible. But I am seeking something more. I am seeking their salvation. I am seeking for them to have a life changing relationship with Jesus, my Lord. They and I may be seeking completely different things.
Luke 19:1-10 is about two seekings. Jesus enters into Jericho and was passing through. He may even have been almost to the other side. The word seems to imply at least the possibility. In Jericho there is this man named Zacchaeus. His name means “clean,” or “innocent.” And maybe his parents named him this because that was their dream for him. Ah, but this Mr. Clean is a chief tax collector. This may mean that he was over other tax collectors or it may be a way of saying something similar to “chief of sinners.” Maybe both. He was wealthy. The Jewish people hated tax-collectors; dirty greedy traitors, collecting their hard-earned money for the stinking Romans. And on top of that tax-collectors could set their own wages. And if a tax collector is wealthy like Zacchaeus it is because they are cheats; taking advantage of their position to rob the poor.
Zacchaeus is seeking to see who Jesus was. He most likely heard the stories of this radical rabbi, this possible Messiah, who was known to be friends of tax-collectors; who even had one as a disciple. He is only seeking to see. But he is small and the crowd is crowding. Normally, in Jewish culture the crowd would have parted like the Red Sea for a wealthy person. But not for a wealthy traitor like Zacchaeus. So, he runs ahead, maybe even to the outskirts of the city, and climbs a sycamore fig tree. This tree was known for its easiness to climb; the branches growing low on the trunk. Dignified men did not run and they definitely didn’t climb trees. But Zacchaeus is intent on his seeking to see. Besides, most of the people are looking at Jesus and not him. He has no expectation of being seen. He is merely seeking to see. Best laid plans and all that. Jesus walks right up to the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down, for today it is necessary for me to go to your house.” Zacchaeus hurries and comes down and welcomes Jesus to his home rejoicing. This is beyond his expectation. This possible Messiah knows his name and wants to come to his house. Nobody wants to come to his house. Everyone in town hates him.
Bailey suggests that on his way passing through Jericho, Jesus would have most likely received many invitations of food and lodging. As soon as they recognize what is happening, the crowd grumbles; a complaining whispering. The Jewish believed that if you accepted the hospitality of a person who has ill-gotten gains, you become complicit with their thievery. This obviously fits that scenario. Zacchaeus stands. The word translated “stopped” is literally “stand” and it can imply taking a stand to make an official announcement. Zacchaeus offers to give half of all he possesses to the poor. Note that Jesus did not make this a condition of his spending time with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus also offers to pay back anyone who had defrauded fourfold. This was Roman law, but not Jewish. And again, it was not asked for. He just offers it up willy nilly. There is a lesson here. Jesus does not say, if you make reparations, I’ll come to your house. Jesus invites himself over, and then the man makes reparations. Jesus then, says to crowd through Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Okay, many assume this means that Zacchaeus was saved. I am not saying that he wasn’t, but I think Jesus is salvation. Zacchaeus is a child of Abraham just as much as the rest of them. Jesus came to seek and save the lost; salvation seeks.
Zacchaeus was merely seeking to see Jesus. Jesus was seeking to save. And those two seekings are very different. Zacchaeus’ seeking was superficial. He wanted to see who this Jesus who hung out with tax-collectors was. Jesus’ seeking was much deeper. Jesus is salvation! And salvation comes to seeks and save the lost. And he is still seeking. Some will seek merely to see; curious about this Jesus. Ah, but Jesus’ seeking is deeper. His seeking is about your salvation. Align your seeking with his. Grace.