Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
This is a pretty familiar story, but it struck me afresh today in light of the extended reflection I just wrote on loving one’s neighbour. Jesus here intentionally, and even forcefully, enters the life of the other, for He says, “I must stay at your house today.” Jesus very willingly enters the dynamic process of Zacchaeus’ life, and very quickly succeeds at redeeming and reorienting his heart. Suddenly, Zacchaeus’ whole perspective shifts, and a deep concern for the poor and justice emerges. Zacchaeus has encountered—or rather, been encountered by—God in flesh and blood and has come out the other side deeply affected, deeply changed. This is a result of the dynamic nature of our relationship with God. It is not God who changes in this relationship, but because God is infinite life, infinitely dynamic yet unchanging, we are profoundly changed in the encounter. God hunts us. He desires to have us and He will have us, and this is because of His great love for us.