My new book “Bible People for Young People” (“reviewed” at the end of this post) shows Zacchaeus on the cover. I thought I’d draw some lessons today from this man’s story. If you recall, Zacchaeus, who collected taxes for Rome and pocketed some for himself, was possibly the most despised man in Jericho. Perhaps as a child you sang “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man.” If so, you know that he was height-challenged. Lesson one: When Zacchaeus couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd to catch a glimpse of Jesus, he climbed a tree. If you lack something, deal with it. Compensate. If you can’t do math in your head, resort to a calculator. If you can’t drive a car, become an expert in bus routes. If you weren’t gifted with good looks, be the best dresser in your family. If you can’t hit home runs, be a cheerleader. And so on.
Second lesson: Look for Jesus. Zacchaeus did a foolish thing for a town official. He went out on a limb and hid in the leaves of a tree to see the popular teacher from Nazareth. What lengths (or heights) would you go to in order to see Jesus? Wake up at an ungodly hour to meet God in the Eucharist? Befriend a homeless person? Be missionary in a foreign country? Be kind to someone you don’t like? Spend fifteen minutes a day thinking about Jesus? Obviously when Zacchaeus had the chance to see Jesus, he didn’t care what others thought or said about him.
Third lesson: Obey Jesus—quickly. What if Zacchaeus had refused to come down from the tree? He and his family might not have been saved. Sometimes Jesus speaks to our hearts, nudging us to act. “Go help that person.” “Volunteer for that job.” “Donate blood this week.” We could stay right where we are, clinging to safety. Or we could hem and haw until the opportunity has passed. Who knows what gifts we might miss then.
Fourth lesson: Ignore critics. People “grumbled” that Jesus had favored a sinner, a tax collector. At that point, Zacchaeus could have quieted them by saying, “Lord, I am not worthy. Go to someone else’s house.” But he didn’t. He delighted in being the object of Jesus’ special attention. Are people bothered by you? Are they jealous? Don’t let it get to you and prevent you from doing what is right and what is good for you. What matters is what Jesus thinks of you.
Fifth lesson: Be sorry. Face-to-face with the holiest person on earth, Zacchaeus realized he was a sinner and instantly decided to atone in an extravagant way: half his goods to the poor and fourfold restitution to those he cheated. Most of us aren’t thieves and cheaters, but all of us in some way have not lived up to the ideals God holds before us. How do we make up? Extravagantly?
I imagine that when Zacchaeus came home with Jesus, the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and the others in tow, Mrs. Zacchaeus was quite surprised. It could be that they were wealthy enough to have servants and food to feed the crowd. Or maybe Jesus, considerately, came alone. In any case, it was bound to be one happy meal.
Who is your favorite Gospel person (other than Jesus and Mary)? Why?
BOOK REVIEW Bible People for Young People
Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND
Bible People for Young People presents fifty-four people you meet in the New Testament. These include Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit, the apostles, deacons, women disciples, and a few unnamed souls. Each short chapter begins with a hook to grab the reader’s attention. This is followed by the story of the person’s life and anything else we know about him or her. The language is simple, not deep theology.
The Gospels were the main resource for the book, but in some instances a legend is mentioned. For saints, the feast day and what they are patron of is given. For each person, an interesting tidbit of information is highlighted as a “Factoid.” The chapter concludes with suggested activities that are related to the person.
Each chapter is accompanied by a full-color picture of the person. In almost all cases, this is an art masterpiece. As a result, the book is quite beautiful.
Writing about these Bible characters, I learned more about them. Reading this book, children of all ages will come to know better the members of their spiritual family tree. And so will adults.
The book is 118 pages. On Amazon it sells for $20.00, but bought from me it is $15.00.
Here is a song about Zacchaeus from the Medical Mission Sisters that was popular when I was a young sister.