I picture Zacchaeus as being about 5 foot tall in his built up sandals. He had worked his way up to become the Chief Roman Tax Collector for the district of Jericho. He was at the top of his profession and had probably achieved every goal he ever set. He had money to spare but he was desperately unhappy. It wasnt that he just wanted more, he wanted respect. He was trying to deal with the fear that his life didnt really matter to other people.
He was searching for something to give his life meaning and purpose. Perhaps he was starting to realize that he had left God out of his life and priorities. So when word got around that Jesus was coming to Jericho; Jesus, who he had heard was teaching about "loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves," and "Doing for others as we would like them to do for you". Zacchaeus knew that he had to see him, and hear him, so he climbed up a Sycamore tree to enable him to see something more than the backs of peoples heads in the crowd. Thats where he was when Jesus spotted him. Jesus said, Hey Zacchaeus, you had better come down for I must stay at your house today.
The "must" in the original text suggests that it was no accident that Jesus spotted Zacchaeus that day. The crowd grumbled that Jesus had gone to eat with another sinner, but Zacchaeus knew that Jesus was reaching out to him personally. He was so surprised and honoured, that before Jesus could change his mind he promised to change his life, to make amends with people he had hurt, and give lots of money to the poor. Jesus was delighted, and before he left Zacchaeus that day he said, "Today salvation has come to this house".
Zacchaeus found that salvation was not a super quality of good people; its a new kind of life that ordinary people can find in the friendship of Jesus. In Jesus friendship something remarkable happened to Zacchaeus that day. Jesus set him free to be his true self, his real self, the sort of person God wanted him to be. A person made in the likeness of God, a person capable of loving and giving, sharing and serving. In the decision he made that day Zacchaeus began to find new meaning and purpose back in his life.
And like Zacchaeus, people today still find it possible
It doesnt matter how successful our lives may appear to other people around us. The question is, "Do we feel that our life has meaning?" Many people have felt like Zacchaeus that you can have everything, but nothing, without the meaning and purpose that God puts in our lives. The existence of God is not the issue, the difference that God makes in our lives is. Long ago Saint Augustine said, "You have made us for your self, and our hearts are restless till we find our rest in Thee".
Augustine was saying that deep within us is something that cries out for meaning. And Zacchaeus was helped to see in Jesus,
that there is a God who has made us so that we feel we should remain honest in all of our dealings with others.
That there is a God who has made so that we feel that there is some point in trying to make the world a better place.
That there is a God who helps us to go on when we know we have failed; who not only forgives, but sees potential where no one else does. And this God revealed himself to Zacchaeus, and to us in Jesus. Jesus who
Showing that Gods love is not just a general love for all people, but that you and I as individuals are loved and accepted and valued.
So when we see what God is like in Jesus, we know, like Zacchaeus, that there is meaning and purpose in life. We know that at the heart of the universe, beyond all of the mystery;
And thats the meaning that underlies our life, no matter what is going on around us; and its worth everything to find that sort of relationship with God.