Can you even read those words without singing the Sunday-school song? I cannot. And we all sing this little tune was with a lavish amount of finger wagging and head-shaking - you know - like a scolding parent - because of course - this song could only be about naughty Zacchaeus caught in the naughty act of tree-climbing.
But that's not what this passage is about at all!
Here's a guy who'd - lets just get real for a second - found a way to live prosperously despite having a serious disadvantage. A way mind you, that required far more brain than brawn. We also know that he was good at it because he wasn't just any old tax collector - he was the chief tax collector of Jericho. Corner office, chauffeured donkey. The whole bit.
While we don't have any specific information about Zacchaeus's own life beyond this passage - it was not uncommon for tax collectors to be shunned by their communities; today still some might say. Sure he was up in a tree because he was too short to see Jesus amidst all the crowd - but come on - most of the houses of that time were built for roof-top BBQ's and such. How come he didn't just hang out on someone's roof to watch the Messianic parade go by? Maybe - because he wouldn't have been invited up - or worse - was afraid (truly - and smartly) of being thrown off?
What's more - Jesus didn't finger wag, point, nag and scold. He didn't need to because - well - for starters, Jesus is waaaaay cooler than all that patronizing, told-you-so non-sense; but more importantly - Zaachaeus was already drawn to Jesus and sought Him out. We are not told that Jesus walked under Zacchaeus's office window.
From there it just gets better.
Zacchaeus didn't hesitate. He came straight down with zero debate and led Jesus straight to his house. Then he laid out of a feast. He was a man of means hosting one of the most famous men of their time in front of his entire entourage and the whole community - he couldn't dare not to. Then he asked Jesus to fill out some complicated bureaucratic form, some 99948392438948290-PDQ - in triplicate - and then he'd give the poor some minuscule percentage of some ridiculous calculation ...
You almost get the sense that the guests were all mid-chew when Zacchaeus - maybe stands up (on a chair maybe) - and shouts over the din and clatter that he's turning over a new leaf and he's now going to give one half of his wealth to the poor - PLUS - if anyone's been wronged by him - he'll make it right - four times over.
I think we might forgive Zacchaeus' wife for having dropped the soup tureen at this point. He's just promised to beggar the family - in front of Jesus and every single who's who in town! No take-backsies now.
And Jesus' announcement that salvation has come to the house is an amazing compliment. He even calls Zacchaeus a true son of Abraham - something maybe no one has called him in a while - or ever. Zacchaeus didn't buy this compliment with his gestures and words - but rather declared it to be an obvious truth - Zacchaeus got it. He was a Kingdom man now.
Of course Jesus didn't love Zacchaeus more after lunch than He did before lunch. But like the Woman at the well, Legion, the tenth Leper - what a privilege to be so able to please the savior. I can't imagine Jesus not smiling as He spoke those words in verse 9. I can't imagine Zacchaeus not basking in Jesus' company and praise.
How many of us could wish to be as big a man as Zacchaeus was? I know some days I behave more like Zacchaeus the day before he climbed the tree. Ya know - He still sees us sitting in our trees, tells us he wants to have lunch with us, and smiles when we give our hearts fully to Him.