The story of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10)

11-03-2019Weekly ReflectionFather Prince Raja

The thirst: Zacchaeus was anxious to see Jesus (Lk 19:3)

Why did Zacchaeus want to see Jesus? It was perhaps a mere curiosity. But could this eagerness be an indication of something deeper – a thirst, a desire? And where does that desire come from? I think the source of that thirst is God Himself. The thirst arises from the truth that we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). Since we all bear the image of God – being in the nature of God – we want to reach our origin. As every river on the face of the earth, small and large, strives towards the great ocean, we all strive towards God. He is the alpha and the omega. St Augustine encapsulated this in his powerful statement: "Thou hast prompted man, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee" (Confessions, 1,1; trans. Outler).

The search: He ran ahead (Lk 19:4a)

To fulfil that thirst Zacchaeus goes searching for Jesus. His search is similar to that of the Magi (Mt 2:1); it is similar to the search of John and Andrew who had left their flourishing fishing industry and had gone to live with John the Baptist (Jn 1:35); and it is similar to the woman who went to the well to satisfy her thirst (Jn 4:7). But Zacchaeus has two problems. First, he was short. The first problem is part of his person – a personal weakness, perhaps. The second problem is "because of the crowd." This difficulty rises from his environment. The noise of the crowd, the size of the crowd, and the prejudice of the crowd against Zacchaeus, make it difficult for him to continue his search towards the fulfilment of his deepest desire. But the 'short-man of the Bible' does not say, 'Bad luck! Today is not my day.' He refuses to be bogged down by these impossibilities. He does not want the Lord to pass him by. Zacchaeus runs ahead to have a glimpse of Jesus.

The sign/pointer: He climbed a sycamore tree (Lk 19:4b).

The invitation: Zacchaeus, come down (Lk 19:5)

When we take one sincere step towards God, He comes all the way. The God of surprises goes to Zacchaeus who is now on the tree: "Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today" (Lk 19:5).

The experience of God has given him the courage to pour out his heart. "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham." So Salvation is not only the conversion of a sinner, but also the justification of the righteous – the vindication of the just (Rom 8:30). Zacchaeus experiences the saving justice of God. Now he does not need to be afraid of the crowds!

An answer to the prayer of the psalmist, "Defend me, oh God, and plead my cause" (Ps. 43:1)!