IN THOSE DAYS, Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, because He was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome Jesus. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek out and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus must have felt disgusted with his life. Have you every had any similar feelings? As a chief tax-collector he had more than enough of money. In Israel, tax-collectors were Jews who worked for the pagan Roman authorities. As their title implies, they collected tax. Their main obligation was to turn in the necessary amount of tax, how much tax they actually collected did not worry the Roman authorities unless it led it a revolt.
The lone fact that a Jew would work for Gentiles put the tax-collectors out of favor with the rest of the society. On top of that, they would rip-off their own people for personal gain. That's how they became rich....and deeply despised as traitors and absolute scum by their countrymen So, Zacchaeus must have felt disgusted with his life. Money can buy one only so much happiness.
Jesus happened to be walking through Zacchaeus' hometown, if he were content with his life-style, he would have never come out to look at Christ. However, Zacchaeus not only came out, he did two things that were humiliating for an adult man of that time - he ran in public and climbed a tree, again in public. All for what? "To see who Jesus was..."
These are pretty radical actions for a guy who had enough money to satisfy most of his desires. Yet, one of the main points that we get out of the story of Zacchaeus is that repentance comes when we finally do not feel comfortable in our present situation, in our own skin as it is configured right now. Sure, we might realize that we are sinful here and there, that we lack a truly loving heart, but we won't change our life at the core (and that's what repentance means), unless we realize that there is something deeply wrong and we need to see who Jesus is and maybe He can also tell us that He wants to visit us...
See also last year's reflection on the same Gospel lesson.
Yours in the Lord,