"And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich."
Not only a tax collector, but chief among them. A tax collector of tax collectors. His presence emanated authority and power. The swarms of the common people avoided him as if he were a Roman soldier, and the reason why was obvious when taxes were collected. Whether or not his demands were fair and legal, the people had no choice but to comply. Yes, Zacchaeus was a rich man.
The tax collector's height (or lack thereof) rarely bothered him. When taxes were collected, his small stature was of no consequence: the commoners spoke to him with respect (and a reasonable dose of fear) and surrendered to him all that he required.
But today wasn't tax day.
With excitement, anticipation, and a hint of revengeful glee, the throngs of people thrust Zacchaeus aside. Aware of his lack of popularity, the tax collector of tax collectors entered the current of people advancing toward a welcome Guest.
The waves surrounding him seemed to enjoy his plight. His money - rightfully theirs - didn't help him right now, and the commoners certainly weren't going to. They didn't owe him this time. They knew today wasn't tax day.
In frustration, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a closer look. He felt more comfortable when he was higher than the common people. Now in plain view, Zacchaeus soon felt the familiar stares of contempt. Soon, he noticed Someone else staring at him - but not with contempt.
The children's song tells what happened next: "I'm going to your house today," the Guest told the shunned chief of tax collectors.
Today was grace day.
As Zacchaeus' door closed behind him and his honored Guest, disapproval grumbled through the crowd. After waiting for the Teacher to change His mind, the commoners returned to their normal business, complaining to each other in disbelief: "'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner'" (Luke 19:7).
A few lingered longer, marveling that such a Guest would stoop to let such a sinner be His host. At last, these, too, continued on their way, their blinded hearts still judging. They could not yet see the change taking place in sinner Zacchaeus' heart. They did not understand that the Guest came in search of stained sinner hearts, including their own.
One day they would marvel again. The Guest would return to other sinner hearts...and never leave.
'"Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me."'
Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net