"Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was we!” Many of us are familiar with that song, and remember singing it when we were young. As you probably remember, He climbed up a tree to see Jesus pass by, and the Lord went to his house. And the wee little man received salvation that day from Jesus. Obviously, Zacchaeus was searching for truth, meaning in life, and forgiveness. Jesus knew that Zacchaeus was searching, and therefore, pursued him. Through this story of Zacchaeus, I think we can see an example of how many people today are searching for significance, for purpose, for salvation…many are searching, and they don’t even know they are searching. In looking at Zacchaeus’ life (Luke 19:1-10), I see four ways that we also measure our self-worth, and attempt to find fulfillment that only Jesus can bring.
We remember that Zach was a little man, but we often don’t remember that he was actually a big-time tax collector. In fact, he was a chief tax collector and was rich. Although he was a little man, he was big in influence, money and power. But obviously, that achievement did not fulfill him…only Jesus could do that.
As I mentioned, Zacchaeus was rich. Apparently, as a tax collector, he had cheated many out of their money. In fact, that was one reason so many people hated tax collectors. But once again, affluence could not fulfill the aching in his heart…only Jesus could do that.
We don’t know how tall (or short) Zach was. The ESV describes him as being “small in stature.” How would you like to be known for all posterity as the “wee little man?” Perhaps he had “small man syndrome.” Perhaps he was self-conscious of his size. Perhaps he was bullied as a child (or as an adult). Perhaps he had always wished he was taller. But at any rate, he would have learned that his appearance could not fulfill the longing in his heart…only Jesus could do that.
Because he was a despised tax collector, he was viewed as a “sinner.” In fact, when Jesus went into Zach’s house, Jesus was risking His own reputation. But perhaps Zach learned that no amount of public approval (or lack thereof) could ever provide him what he really needed…only Jesus could do that.
Zacchaeus’ story ends with Jesus giving him salvation. And Zach proved that he was serious about following Jesus by giving half of his goods to the poor, and restoring fourfold anyone whom he had defrauded. What made this little man turn to Jesus? I think it’s because He was curious about this Messiah who was offering him something he had been so desperately seeking. In fact, he was seeking Jesus so much that he climbed a tree to see Him pass by! Yes, Zacchaeus had come to the end of his rope. He realized that achievement, affluence, appearance and approval would never be able to meet his deepest needs…only Jesus can do that!