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Zaccheus

    The chatter of friendship was nowhere to be found in the extravagant home of Zaccheus. Only the clatter of gold, silver, and bronze coins filled the hush in the home of Jericho’s chief tax collector.

    It wasn’t easy being the most hated—and one of the shortest—men in the city, but it was something Zaccheus had learned to handle. And punishing with tax increases those wretched people who despised him brought vindication. With each disparaging comment from the public, Zaccheus quietly plotted another way to bleed more money from their shallow pockets.

    Zaccheus knew what he was doing was wrong, but he didn’t care. Overtaxing was his easy revenge. Yet the more he taxed, the more people hated him. So, Zaccheus taxed the people more. And the vicious cycle continued.

    We can imagine him making his way through the city one morning, when he overheard two men talking about a man named Jesus. They said Jesus was on His way to Jericho and that He had healed a blind man earlier that day.

    Healing the blind? Who was this man? Zaccheus wondered. There were taxes to collect, but that chore could wait. Zaccheus’ curiosity was piqued as he pondered how rich a man with such powers could become.

    Before Zaccheus could even ask about Jesus, the mob of people following Jesus began moving in Zaccheus’ direction. Zaccheus raced around the crowd to see if he could catch a glimpse of this man with healing power. But it was useless as a few members of the crowd identified the chief tax collector and began shifting their bodies to shield him from seeing Jesus.

    However, Zaccheus was not going to be denied. It wasn’t in his personality to surrender, evident in his ruthless tactics to collect money from tax evaders. Without wasting any more time, Zaccheus raced ahead and climbed a tree along the roadway.

    And it was then that Jesus saw Zaccheus.

    "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house," Jesus said (Luke 19:5).

    Not only did Zaccheus meet the Savior, he experienced the life-changing power of God’s Son by offering half of his possessions to the poor and returning four times the amount he had taken from the people. (v. 8)

    His determination to find Jesus, along with a strong desire to obey God, made Zaccheus mighty in spirit.

    Experiencing all that the Lord has for us does not just happen with a casual stroll in the park. Often, it requires our preparation and sacrifice, like climbing a tree or walking the extra mile. It requires seeking the Lord.

    The writer of Hebrews states, "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (v. 6).

    What were Zaccheus’ intentions for seeking Jesus? Maybe they were pure and honest from the beginning, maybe they weren’t until later. His intentions weren’t nearly as important as his action of seeking. And if we truly seek Christ, we will find Him, and our lives will be changed.

    Acting on Jesus’ words, Zaccheus "hurried and came down" from the tree. Then he turned to Jesus and announced his changed ways.

    When we have an encounter with the Savior, it shouldn’t leave us as simply excited people, proud of our dinner guest. Instead, He transforms our hearts, reforms our minds, and renews our spirits.

    In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul urges us to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

    That’s what happened to Zaccheus. It wasn’t enough for him to stop swindling the Jewish people—he wanted to restore four times all he had taken as well as give half his money to the poor. This, no doubt, was a huge sacrifice for a man who sat comfortably in the lap of luxury. This, no doubt, showed that Zaccheus was a changed man.

    There were others whom Jesus beckoned, yet they were unwilling to love Him above their possessions. Zaccheus, however, was more than willing to surrender it all to the Lord. He had spent many lonely nights counting his money, and now he wanted his life to count. For all his shortcomings, Zaccheus realized that following the Savior was the only way to true meaning and purpose.

    Zaccheus learned the truth of the apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:21: "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps."