The Desire of Zacchaeus

The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (19:1-10)
Today we hear and we celebrate the story of Zacchaeus. The more that I think on this story and contemplate the more I am blown away. Zacchaeus blows away our conceptions of what it is to desire the Lord. Zacchaeus blows away our understanding of what it means to repent. Zacchaeus utterly demolishes our understanding of what it means to welcome Christ into our lives.

Zacchaeus stands as a corrective for my lame efforts. He shows me that I while I desire to know Jesus Christ, I don’t desire Him with the zeal and the love and the purpose with which Zacchaeus desires to know the Lord. This should put me to shame because I know more of Jesus than Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus had heard of the Lord’s teachings and likely new of some of His great miracles. But I know that Jesus was crucified out of His deep love for us. I know that He willingly suffered and endured great shame for us. I know that He rose from the dead. I know that He has sent us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to be with us. I know that He has forgiven me.

Yet with all the unbelievable and amazing things that I know about Our Lord Jesus Christ, I don’t show half of the zeal and desire of Zacchaeus who was considered a sinful tax-collector. Most of the tax-collectors were considered sinful because they made their wealth by preying upon the people and over-collecting on taxes. It is likely that Zacchaeus did the same. Yet, although he was hardened by sin, Christ found a way into his hardened heart and through that small crack, the light of Christ began to invade his being. Instead of fighting this light, Zacchaeus followed it to the source. He desired to know this Jesus and nothing would substitute for this knowledge. No one could stand in his way. Indeed, even his own limitations as a man, his very short stature, could not stand in his way. We are reminded that our limitations can never stand in the way or be an obstacle for the one who is consumed with a desire to know the Lord Jesus. But we are also reminded that you can’t know Him on your terms. You can only know God on His terms!

We see this demonstrated in that Zacchaeus begins his great effort to see Our Lord Jesus and then while he is hanging in the tree, the Lord looks up to him and says to him “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your place today.” Sometimes we say that we want to know God, but we also want that to happen on our terms. However that is not how things should work since God is the sovereign Lord. He should direct us and we should, out of our great love for Him, obey faithfully. Zacchaeus took an amazing first step in his search for the Son of God, but imagine what would have happened if the Lord spoke to him and then Zacchaeus responded differently. If he said “Lord, I apologize but I’m not in the mood today.” Or “Lord, I’m already exhausted from fighting the crowds and climbing this tree so perhaps maybe you would consider coming over tomorrow.” It seems funny but we do this often in our lives. We put off Christ or delay our encounters with Him. We say, I will just spend an hour on facebook or instagram and then I will go read my Bible. But let me binge watch some Netflix and then I will pray for a few seconds before bed. But Zacchaeus is not like us. He shows us what it means to be hungry for God in our lives. He shows us what it means to hear God’s voice and to obey with haste. For this reason we are not surprised that our Lord promised salvation to him and His house because salvation is the restored relationship with Jesus Christ.

St. Nikolai of Zicha writes, ““Today, salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).
Thus it was spoken by the One Whose word is life and joy and restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself into greenery and flowers from the breath of spring, so does every man, regardless of how arid and darkened by sin, becomes fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ.”

And he continues saying,

“Today, salvation has come to this house” said the Lord upon entering the house of Zacchaeus the sinner. Christ was the salvation that came and Zacchaeus was the house into which He entered. Brethren, each one of us is a house in which sin dwells as long as Christ is distant and to which salvation comes when Christ approaches it. Nevertheless, will Christ approach my house and your house? That depends on us. Behold, He did not arbitrarily enter the house of the sinner Zacchaeus, rather He entered as a most desired guest. Zacchaeus of little stature climbed into a tree in order to see the Lord Jesus with his own eyes. Zacchaeus, therefore, sought him; Zacchaeus desired Him. We must also seek Him in order to find Him and desire Him in order that He would draw nearer to us and, with our spirit, to climb high in order to encounter His glance. Then He will visit our house as He visited the house of Zacchaeus and with Him salvation will come. Draw near to us O Lord, draw near and bring to us Your eternal salvation. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.”

– St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Zacchaeus Of Little Stature”

Source: Sermons