At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."
Luke is a fantastic writer! I liked Zacchaeus since I was preparing for my First Communion but today I asked myself why. Just look at how the Evangelist presents this short man, rushing about, jumping from one foot to the other while trying to get a peek at Christ. I can see how the exasperated expression is wiped from his face as soon as a new idea occurred to him. Within the minute he was contemplating the play from the makeshift gallery of the sycamore tree. Even though Luke never silenced the tax collector’s sins, the lively description clearly favors an endearing vision of Zacchaeus.
One of the many explicit and implicit scenes which surface in our imagination throughout the ten verses is that of the repentant sinner standing up and surprising everyone with the breathtaking declaration of his conversion. “Behold,” he commences. If this is touching for the reader two thousand years later, imagine the commotion it must have caused among those who were present. Above all, imagine what Christ felt in his heart, sitting beside his new-won friend and hearing these words, filled with a new-found goodness, pureness and love.
Luke makes it easy for us to identify with this short, witty man. He makes it easy to remember that in every sinner is hidden a noble soul and a good heart. Luke, inspired to be an Evangelist (that is: the good messenger), masterfully managed to capture Christ’s look on us sinners. Thus entitled, he teaches us to look at people with the eyes of the Lord; eyes which see through the horrid sins and right at the noble, precious, and beautiful soul that sleeps beneath. Zacchaeus is a striking example of how Christ’s merciful approach is the truest weapon against sinful life. His loving eyes found the sleeping goodness within the sinner, His gentle words awakened this "sleeping beauty," His sincere interest empowered the good soul to take control over a life which had seemed all but lost.
Many times Jesus’ loving eyes have found you and He has repeatedly addressed you like He has Zacchaeus: Despite your sins or miseries He wanted to be close to you. His merciful gaze is what enables you to look with mercy, respect and love at other sinners in turn. Reconsider the way you look at your neighbors today, especially at those whose sinfulness is known to you. Ask for Jesus’ Spirit so that you can see in them the endearing attributes of their personality and, above all, so that this initial benevolence can help you to believe in the potential conversion of each one of your neighbors.