Read Luke 19:1-7
1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town.2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. (NLT)
Two people may look at a dust-covered, shabby piece of furniture left on the footpath for a council clean-up. One sees a piece of junk which may have been attractive once but is now only good for the scrapheap. The other sees a well-made, useful item which only needs a bit of work to restore it to what it was originally made to be.
When it came to looking at people, Jesus took the second approach. Zacchaeus is an example. To most he was a diminutive crook, getting rich from his corrupt collection of customs duties. He was a collaborator, not fit for normal or polite society.
Jesus saw beneath it all. He didn’t just see a pathetic, undignified figure peering at him from up a tree. He saw a man who was willing to give up his old life and start again. He saw an outsider who desperately wanted to belong. He saw a man who sought and needed the grace and mercy he had to offer.
And we know that when Jesus accepted Zacchaeus as he was, Zacchaeus became more than who he was. He made a fresh start. He had met the one man who saw beneath the surface to what he could become rather than dismissing him merely for who he appeared to be. He met the man who didn’t identify him with his sin but saw that sin as something from which he could and should be freed.
May we have such a meeting with such a man.