I’ve always loved the story of Zacchaeus, the “wee little man” who climbed the sycamore tree to see Jesus. As a child, however, I was more enamored with Zacchaeus trying to see Jesus than with Jesus actually seeing Zacchaeus and inviting Himself to come to Zacchaeus’ home. Zacchaeus was rich, a chief tax collector, and apparently not someone the crowd viewed as worthy of Jesus’ time and fellowship. As Luke recounts:
“And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they (the crowd) saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner’” (Luke 19:5-7).
The crowd complained about Jesus’ choice. They viewed Zacchaeus as a sinner. Were the tax collectors not often guilty of taking for themselves a high percentage of what they demanded from the people? Why would Jesus choose to fellowship with Zacchaeus? Why, indeed?
I think Jesus chose Zacchaeus for the same reason that He chose me – and for the same reason He chose you. I think Jesus chose Zacchaeus for the same reason that He chooses both the best of us and the worst of us.
Jesus doesn’t come to us because we’re worthy. He comes to make us worthy. He doesn’t come to us because we’re without sin, but because we’re covered up in it. He doesn’t come to us because we deserve Him, but because we need Him – desperately.
It seems that Jesus sees something in each of us that we can’t see in ourselves. Could it be the image of God in which we were created? While nothing in us may be worthy of Him, every single human life has infinite value and worth to Him. In fact, after Zacchaeus joyfully declared that he would give half of his goods to the poor and that he would restore fourfold anything he had taken from anyone falsely, Jesus replied: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
Jesus sees us in all our unworthiness, but that’s exactly why He came – not to chastise, condemn, or tear down. He came to seek and save us – to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He came to make us worthy. Zacchaeus responded to Jesus in haste. He came down from the tree and received Jesus joyfully. The prophet Isaiah exclaimed: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
I never cease to be amazed that I have been made worthy. I am clothed and covered with Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He came to me just as He did to Zacchaeus and invited Himself to come in. But what if I had refused? What if instead of receiving Him joyfully, I had bemoaned the fact that I was a sinner, that I didn’t deserve what He had to offer, that I just wasn’t good enough to allow Him entrance? The fact is – I was a sinner. I didn’t deserve the goodness of Christ. And I surely wasn’t good enough. But that’s exactly why, like Zacchaeus, I needed Christ! He clothed me and covered me – He made me worthy!