In yesterday’s Gospel we heard the story of Zacchaeus. This is a popular story that many are familiar with. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who when Jesus was coming to Jericho, climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Him since he was a short man. Jesus saw him in the tree and said “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (Lk 19:5) Zacchaeus came down and in front of a grumbling crowd pledged to give to the poor and to right all his wrongs.
But I wonder what would have happened had Jesus not seen him or said anything to him in that tree?
Imagine what Zacchaeus was thinking. Here he is, well aware that he is not popular amongst the crowd. Tax collectors certainly were not the most well liked people and the fact that he was wealthy means most people assumed, and perhaps rightfully so, that he was taxing more than the necessary amount from those who had so little already. He knows what he’s done and how he’s made his wealth. He’s so short he can’t see over the crowd of people. As he wanders through the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus you can just hear the people in the crowd mocking him, pushing him out of the way, saying he is unworthy to be there. He could have turned around at that moment and left. He could have picked an obscure place to hide and watch from a distance. But no! Instead he runs up ahead of everyone and climbs a tree!
Once he got up in this tree I imagine he was quite nervous. Would Jesus notice him? What would he say? What if he ignored him completely? How could he climb back down amidst this crowd that hated him after failing to catch the attention of Jesus? I wonder how long he would have stayed in that tree had Jesus not called to Him. Would he have chased after? Or would he be ashamed and embarrassed and remain stuck up in that tree until the crowds were gone and he could sneak back home? What if the news of his crazed tree-climbing reached his family? His superiors? They might think him insane!
I think we all go through times were we are stuck in a tree. We feel lost, confused, ashamed. We all have moments where we know we have failed yet despite our sins, despite our failures, we know we need God. So we reach out to Him, we climb up to see Him, knowing full well that we are unworthy.
Perhaps in those moments we go through emotions similar to Zacchaeus. Doe God see us reaching out to Him? Will He stop to take notice of our little problems? Does He hear our cries? Does He know that we need Him and are waiting for Him?
Zacchaeus didn’t have to worry for long. Jesus took notice of him and did not see his sins but instead saw a man seeking God. But Jesus didn’t merely take notice, nod, and move along. He stopped and invited Himself to dinner with this sinful man stuck up in a tree. Zacchaeus felt God’s grace and mercy and was so overjoyed he came down quickly from the tree and pledged to change his life.
When we find ourselves in need of God’s grace, stuck up in a tree, we need not worry if God sees us or hears our pleas. He is always there. His grace is everlasting and He is always waiting to invite Himself into our hearts and souls so that we can change our lives and become more like Him.
Zacchaeus was a brave man. He risked the ridicule of others and the embarrassment of being stuck in a tree just so he could see the Lord. We don’t need to worry about what will happen when we reach out to God for we know He sees us and hears our prayers. We just need to have the courage when times get tough to reach out to Him. To put aside pride and to instead realize the wondrous grace that He has in store.
I pray that when I begin to feel lost in the crowd, when I feel like God is slipping from my sight, that I might have the confidence to reach out to Him with all my strength, knowing that He is there waiting for me.