Luke 19:1-10 Tax collectors are usually not held in high esteem. Zacchaeus was not just any tax collector; he was the chief and he was a wealthy man, which most people concluded he had obtained by cheating.
From the moment that Jesus associated with Zacchaeus people started talking negatively, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” Fact is that Jesus was crucified not so much because of what He said, but because of the company He kept. Seems like Jesus went out of His way to be with people who were considered “shady characters”. There is a long list of shady characters, starting with the Apostles and the women who had close contact with the Lord. However, because they listened to His words they changed their lives. Zacchaeus seized the opportunity by climbing a tree in order to see. Obviously he didn’t care what others were going to say. We can visualize a short fat man doing his best to rise above the crowd. Must have looked funny—but he didn’t care. Jesus saw his sincerity and invited Himself to his home. Zacchaeus could have refused, had better things to do, been discouraged with the critical looks he received. Zacchaeus opened the door to his home and the door to his heart. Right then and there he made a profession of faith and confessed his sins. Zacchaeus’ life had been centered on making money. After his conversion he was willing to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times the amount he had stolen. That might have left him in the “red” but money was no longer his priority. His attitude changed. Zacchaeus went from using people to helping people, especially the poor. The proof of his repentance was how he treated others. No doubt that the visit of Jesus with Zacchaeus was the talk of the town.
There were no televisions, no radios, no cell phones. One of the few options people had was to gossip. Why would a famous teacher, healer, prophet want to contaminate Himself with a tax collector? Why did Jesus want to ruin His reputation? Probably, in the eyes of his neighbors, Zacchaeus was a lost cause, especially if they had been victims of his unjust taxation. Consider that once we make up our minds about someone, we tend to put them in a box. We categorize people. “That person is bad; that one is a flirt; I’ll never trust that one again.” When we judge others, we can prejudice our opinion about them and automatically disregard them.
That’s what had happened with Zacchaeus—folks had made up their mind that he was a sinner because of his occupation—someone to avoid. Jesus did not share in their opinion. Our Lord gave Zacchaeus a chance. How many chances should we give one another? Better put, how many times should we forgive? Jesus would answer, “As many times as we want to be forgiven.” Forgiveness opens the door to communication. Zacchaeus made a move—he climbed a tree. If we stay hidden in our hurt, we will not give ourselves the opportunity to be called by Jesus. We cannot hear the Lord if we are buried in bitterness, resentments, regrets. Some families refuse to speak to each other and claim that forgiveness is impossible. Then we make God a liar. He would not have asked us to do the impossible. We pray for His grace, because only God can soften a heart. We cannot change anyone, only the person we see in the mirror. We can also change our perception of others, especially the people we do not like or the ones who have hurt us the most. Perhaps the people, whom we have trashed, are the ones with whom Jesus would want to visit.
His message has never changed: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Today the Lord comes to our house as we receive Holy Communion.