Have you ever wondered how Zacchaeus ended up being a tax collector? What would motivate an Israelite to collect taxes for Rome? The majority of people in Israel detested such tax collectors because, well, who really likes tax collectors to begin with? More than this, they were traitors for collaborating with Rome. They were typically corrupt and Rome tended to turn a blind eye to the behavior of tax collectors as long as Rome got its expected share. These were the people who benefited by helping the enemy by (usually) gouging their own countrymen. In the common person’s view, I’m sure Zacchaeus and others like him were beyond redemption... unclean.
Who do you know who is “beyond redemption?” Who are the “undesirables” to you? Jesus saw a sinner, a child of Abraham, who had become misguided by the temptations of this world. Jesus looked up and saw the interest of one who was empty and searching. Jesus wanted to extend fellowship to one who was searching and needed to hear the words, “God loves you.” But the reaction of the people observing was textbook: They muttered, “sinner.”
How could Jesus be friendly to a traitor? Someone who lives his life in such an “unclean” manner? How could Jesus dare to call himself a teacher or a prophet if he associated with such sinners?
Jesus never condoned sinful behavior but He loved the sinner who had the potential to become a saint. Jesus didn’t praise Zacchaeus because he had decided to give his wealth away or suddenly seemed to be interested in following the Law. Jesus saw a repentant heart. But the occasion for repentance may have never come if Jesus had not sought that which was lost.
Jesus loved to give people the opportunity to express repentance. Repentance often came when people experienced God’s kindness when it was not earned or deserved. God loves to forgive. And God is looking for an army of forgivers to go forward and show His kindness to those who are lost.
"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field," (Matthew 9:37-38).
Love in Jesus,