Little Man, Big Transformation
Text: Luke 19:1-10 | Listen to Message
Who Sought Whom?
The story of Zacchaeus is so familiar it even has its own children’s song! Most of us have heard about the wee little man who climbed up in a sycamore tree to see Jesus. But do we really know the point of the story?
In this story about Zacchaeus, Luke wants us to see two things: what happens when we really meet Jesus and how it is that anyone meets him in the first place.
On the surface – and initially – it looks like Zacchaeus sought out Jesus. Though he was short in stature, and thus likely to miss Jesus in the crowd, he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree so he would be sure not to miss him.
The sinner was seeking the Savior. Let those words startle you. Zacchaeus was a notorious sinner. He was, as one commentator called him, the “kingpin of the Jericho tax cartel with the scruples of a modern-day crack dealer” (R. Kent Hughes). He was a traitor and a thief. He was a wrecker of lives, but he didn’t care because each passing day brought him more money and more power. Still … he was empty and dissatisfied. So there he was, the unlikeliest of people, seeking out the Savior.
Simultaneously, and unbeknownst to Zacchaeus, the Savior was also seeking him! As Jesus passed by the most famous sycamore tree in history, he stopped and looked up: “Hey, little man, why don’t you hurry down? I’m inviting myself over to your place tonight!” The Savior had come to seek and to save the lost. And, boy, was Zacchaeus ever lost!
Interestingly enough, Luke tells us nothing about Jesus’ lengthy conversation with Zacchaeus. We can guess what Jesus said based on the sorts of things he says over and over again elsewhere. But Luke skips all of that and goes straight to the proof that Zacchaeus has truly met with Jesus in a life-changing way.
See, anyone can say they’re sorry. Anyone can say they’ve repented and believed in Jesus. Anyone can say they’re going to change. Zacchaeus just does it! He confesses his sin of defrauding people, he shifts from depending on money and power to depending on Jesus Christ, and he instantly, generously makes restitution for the harm he’s done.
This is the key to this story: True faith is always transforming faith, and true faith is the result of being found by Jesus. Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day (Luke 19:9) because Jesus had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day (Luke 19:5).
What about you? Maybe this story alerts you to the fact that you’re not living a transformed life. You would say that you’ve repented of your sins and believed in Jesus, but your life looks eerily similar to everyone else’s:
- Maybe you refuse to admit you’re wrong, that you’ve sinned, that you’ve really hurt others, when everyone seems to know it but you.
- Maybe you’ve stolen something tangible (like money or possessions) or intangible (like respect or reputation), and you have no intention of repaying or restoring what you’ve taken.
- Maybe you functionally depend on money, power, reputation, or something else besides Jesus.
- Maybe your life and priorities have nothing to do with seeking and saving lost people, even though this is Jesus’ own personal mission statement.
- Maybe your view toward money is one of greedy, self-absorbed materialism rather than openhanded generosity.
Ask God: “Where am I living an untransformed life? Show me.” He will.
But how do you change? You change the way Zacchaeus did: in the presence and power of Christ. Invite him into the “home” of your life … and discover that he was inviting himself in all along. Surrender to his grace and it will inevitably change you from the inside out.
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.