The Bible reads:
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
All the implications in this story point to Zacchaeus being a rejected and lonely man. He is called small, despised for being a tax collector; which means he working with the hated romans. No one will help him and he has to sneak around. People are aghast when Jesus says He will dine with Him. On top of this he is the chief tax collector and a rich man, which means he was also envied.
One can sense Zacchaeus is deeply yearning to be noticed and have meaningful connection. Even though he is small he finds a way to see Jesus. He knows Jesus is extraordinary but doesn’t know what it is all about.
And what is extraordinary merely upon seeing Zacchaeus Jesus sees into the depth of His being and asks to dine with Him that night. Jesus knows his name and calls him to come down. This is reminiscent of when the resurrected Jesus says Mary’s name when she sees Him at the opened tomb. She doesn’t know who He is at first and mistakes him for the gardener; but when Jesus says her name her eyes are opened she sees He is the Lord, alive, and her soul is overjoyed with love and awareness. Zacchaeus was honored by Jesus’ request and responded with great Joy and enthusiasm. All his life he was not seen for who he was inside, but Jesus sees his true nature, and in affirming it brings the good in him to the fore. To have one’s eyes opened is to have the soul opened, and to be humbled, and in turn to be opened to new awareness.
Zacchaeus’ response shows his transformation. He cares more for the Lord’s love and salvation than for his riches. He generously restores fourfold to all those who have been wronged. Zacchaeus was one who was lost, buried under the pressure and circumstance of the World, but the Lord brought out what was inside. He can do this for each of us, whatever situation we are in in this world. The loves we hold and fight for inside are what counts the most. The Lord redeems this inner good from the ashes of bitterness.