Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."
We have another example of Jesus’ interests in the conversion of sinners. All tax collectors were reputed to be extortionists and the Roman system of tax collecting encouraged injustice. This man, Zacchaeus, was the chief of the tax collectors in Jericho and probably more unjust than the others. Some special grace of god made him curious to see Jesus. He had heard of him evidently. This curiosity brought salvation not only to himself but to his whole household.
Zacchaeus’ interest in seeing what Jesus was like was caused by something more than idle curiosity. Unknown to him, the grace of God was working within him. He thought that he just wanted to see what Jesus was like. Jesus knew already what Zacchaeus was like and intended to see him and save him from his downward rush after earthly wealth. He would offer him eternal riches. This is exactly what happened. Jesus entered the home and heart of Zaccaeus that day, and not only the home and heart of Zachaeus, but of his whole household. From that day Jesus had devoted followers in Jericho, and Christianity had a strong foothold in that ancient city.
There were many other sinners in Jericho that. In fact, it is most likely that the vast mahjority of the adult population were guilty of violating one or other of God’s commandments. Why then did Zacchaeus get this great privilege and not the others? God alone knows the answer to this question. We can assume thath the mercy o God and the grace of conversion was available to all of them. However, unlike Zacchaeus, many of them refused to accept God’s offer. Jesus told them all that he “had come search out and save what was lost.” Many of them unfortunately did not realize that they were lost and so did not interpret his words as applying to themselves. Certainly, those who murmured, because he was entering the house of a sinner, must have felt that their own house was haven of sanctity. But was it? Even if had no sins, this lack of charity, of interest, in their fellow citizen’s salvation was a violation of one of the basic commandments.
Not to admit that we are sinners is a fundamental impediment to the working of the mercy and grace of God in our hearts. The second and more common impediment is to refuse to listen to the calls to repentance, which God so frequently sends out to us. God wants all mankind, the whole human race, to enjoy the eternal happiness of heaven. His divine Son became man so that men could share this eternal happiness with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever. The door of heaven is open. The road is clearly mapped. All the necessary means for the journey are at our disposal. The only ones who can fall are those who wander deliberately off the road and refuse to return to it when called.
Those who fall cannot blame God. It was his love for us and his desire that we should be eternally happy with him that led him to the humiliation of lowering his divine Son to the level of a mere creature in his human nature. He endured the tortures of crucifixion, in order to raise us up to the level of divine sonship.
We cannot have the slightest doubt that he wants us all in heaven. Neither can we doubt that he is sending out calls to us when we wander foolishly off the right road, unfortunately for ourselves, we can refuse to listen to these calls. We can turn a deaf ear to God’s offer of mercy and grace. If we do, one of our greatest sources of sorrow and regret in our future life, will be that, while we still had a chance to repent, our stupid stubbornness made us refuse to listen to our loving Father’s calls to repentance.
Zacchaeus was not so stubborn or so foolish. The story of his conversion is put before us today, not as a matter of historical interest, but as a matter of vital spiritual interest. We are all sinners to a greater or lesser degree. Jesus is approaching each one of us today by means of this very lesson which we have read.
Let each one of us today try to see what Jesus is like. He is a loving brother who died that we might live, a fellow Man who suffered tortures that we might have eternal joy. He was also the Son of God, the God of infinite love. At the same time, let Jesus see us as we really are. Let us expose and confess to him all our earthly weaknesses and injustices against God and neighbor. He will find a remedy for us. He will put us back once more on the straight road to heaven. Today, salvation will come to us and to our house. We will become again true sons and daughters of Abraham, true heirs to heaven. Amen.