I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Zacchaeus. I’m amazed that so many lessons can be learned from 10 bible verses which tell the story of an inquisitive man’s encounter with Christ.
Today I’d like to discuss Zacchaeus’ response to Christ, how his encounter caused a change in his character and God’s ability to exceed our expectations of Him.
The first thing to note in this story is that Zacchaeus had no intention of MEETING Jesus when he climbed in that tree. In verse 3 of Luke 19 it says that
“he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.”
Put frankly Zacchaeus simply wanted to put a face to the name of a man everyone was talking about, but because he was short and the crowd was thick he had to take what could be deemed as extreme measures to accomplish his goal. When he climbed into that tree on the day that Jesus was passing he was not expecting to have an encounter with God. He really just thought he had figured out a way to overcome the problem he faced: being too short to see.
That day however, Zacchaeus got more than he bargained for and his encounter with Christ made Him a better man. In the account of this story, the bible tells us that Jesus stood under the tree and acknowledged Zacchaeus by name and then proceeded to go to his home to share a meal with him. Can you imagine Zacchaeus’ surprise when Christ decided to meet with him, a dishonest man, who was hated by many?
The exhilarating part of this story for me is how Zacchaeus responded to being in Christ’s presence. Verse 8 of Luke chapter 19 says
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.”
What we see is that while in God’s presence Zacchaeus not only acknowledged his wrong doings but he also made decisions to do what was necessary to reimburse those persons whom he stole from. Zacchaeus’ response to Christ has within it a clear model of what repentance looks like. Repentance is the acknowledgement of your sin and a decision to no longer do that thing which displeases God. It requires us to confess to God that we were wrong and sometimes it means doing what is necessary to undo some of the hurt we caused through our ungodly actions. Zacchaeus also teaches us that Godly encounters – through prayer, worship, the word of God, prophesies, dreams, visions, etc. – help us to change those things which are displeasing to God while building our character.
In addition to Zacchaeus’ response in this story I can’t help but admire and appreciate God’s ability to meet us at the point of our needs – even when we don’t realise how badly we need Him – and to exceed every possible expectation we have of Him at the same time.
I remember once I prayed and asked God for a new job because I felt stagnant in the one I had at the moment. Mere weeks after talking to God about it I got an answer to my prayer in the most unexpected way. God did not give me a new job. Instead, he allowed the managing director of the company I worked for to see my potential for a position I was not qualified for and because of that, I was transferred to another department and promoted. The ironic thing is, I wasn’t only unqualified but I was the youngest and most recent addition to the staff. Most of my colleagues could not understand the decision made by my manager but I knew it was God’s way of exceeding my expectations of him. Needless to say I went on to be very successful at that job and before I resigned I was responsible for spearheading major developmental projects for the company.
I guess what I’m getting at ideally, is the fact that it is possible to encounter God and see a change in our lives and circumstances because of that encounter. It is possible to experience the power of God to influence change in us and to see ourselves move from a place of sin to a place of repentance and restoration in Christ. Like Zacchaeus, we may not be expecting a life changing encounter with God but once we have a desire or an expectation of Him, He can meet and exceed all that we desire.