In the short (no pun intended) story of Zaccheus’ appearance in the gospel of Luke, a great lesson is to be learned by us all:
“And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:2-10)
We know very little of Zaccheus’ conversion, only what is laid out here before us. We know he sought the Lord, and then hurriedly and glady received Christ’s invitation despite the gumbling accusations of the crowd. Beyond this, we don’t know if any more words were spoken, or if only the nearness of the encounter to Christ caused Zaccheus’ heart to ”burn within him” just as the two disciples’ describe their trip on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:32). All we know is that his heart is transformed and his actions follow suit: he seeks to separate himself from his former selfishness and greed, allow his dishonesty and fraud to come to light, and make reparations for past mistakes. He responds to Jesus’ presence with a radical sense of generosity and integrity. His encounter with Christ transforms his heart and his financial life forever. Whatever it was about our Savior that caused Zaccheus’ heart to put others before himself, I pray for all of God’s people to be similarly “transformed”.