“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of
Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
Zacchaeus was a very short man, probably barely 5 feet tall with his shoes on. And he was not a very popular man in Jericho. He was chief tax-collector for the Romans and he had made such a travesty out of it, that he was the richest and shortest man in Jericho. When he got wind that Jesus would be passing through, he climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see something more than just the backs of other people. That is where Jesus spots Zacchaeus.
"Zacchaeus," Jesus said, "come down immediately. I'm hanging out with YOU tonight." (v. 5) All Jericho rolled their eyes and snickered at the fact that Jesus didn't have better sense than to invite Himself to the house of a man that nobody else would touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole.
But Jesus knew what He was doing. Zacchaeus was so startled and surprised by the honor of Jesus’ request, that before he had a chance to change his mind, he promised not only to give half of his possessions to the poor but to also pay back, four times the cash he'd cheated from anyone. Jesus was absolutely delighted. "Today salvation has come to this house," He said (v.9), and since that was Jesus’ specialty after all, you assume He was right.
Zacchaeus makes a good story because, in a sense, he can stand for all the rest, you and me included. He's a despised social disaster with a big bank account and a crooked job, but Jesus welcomes him aboard anyway, and that's why he reminds us of all the others too.
There's Aaron fooling around with the Golden Calf the moment his Moses’ back is turned. There's Jacob deceiving everybody including his own father. There's Jael hammering a tent-peg through the temple of a tormentor of Israel, and Rahab, the first of the red-hot mamas. There's Nebuchadnezzar with his penchant for barbecuing young enemies and Paul holding coats as the people go to work on Stephen. There's Saul, the paranoid, and David, the stud, and those double-dealing, double faced friends of Job's, who would probably have succeeded in boring him to death if God hadn't intervened just at the right time. And then there are the ones who abandoned and deserted the people who loved them such as Absalom and poor old Peter, and even Judas.
Like Zacchaeus, they're all peculiar as Hell, to put it quite literally. Yet you can't help but to feel that, like Zacchaeus, they're all somehow loved and accepted too. Jesus said of him, “This man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Why are they loved and accepted? Who knows? But at least one can say this about it: they're loved and accepted, less for who they are and for what the world thinks of them than for what they have it in them. Ultimately, of course it's not what the world thinks of them at all. "All the earth is mine!" says Yahweh, "and all that dwell therein," adds the Twenty-fourth Psalm. And in the long run, presumably, that goes for you and me too.