When I was a kid, my favorite part about church was all of the songs that helped us learn about key biblical figures. My favorite song was about Zacchaeus. I remember thinking how silly it was for a man to climb up in a tree just so he could see over people. (I mostly imagined him to look like a Keebler elf) I thought how important Jesus must have been to make him want to do this. Then I grew up, got older, and didn’t sing as many songs with little hand motions and that story went to the back of my mind.
It wasn’t until much later, when I was in Bible College, that I truly revisited the story and focused more on what was happening. Here is a man, a tax collector (boo), a person the religious would call a “sinner” who is desperately trying to just get a glimpse of someone he knows is changing things. He even goes so far as to climb a tree (something highly looked down on for adult men to do). And that’s when it happened. Jesus called him by name to come with him.
Over the summer, I kept running into the same student. During Summer Camp, there was a rising sixth grade student who showed up and, low and behold, acted like a rising sixth grader. He was loud, energetic, and had trouble written on his face. At the end of the first day, I told him that I was really glad he was there and that tomorrow was going to be a better day. His response: “You want me to come back?” We had a really great time that whole week and that group of misfits even ended up getting the spirit award on the last day.
I thought that was that and went on about my summer. But, last week, we helped host Booth’s Camp Warrior. It’s an orientation for newcomers to middle school. And you’ll never guess who showed up. Yep! We got to help him get to know more of his schoolmates, more about his new school, and even how to open his locker. I believe it really helped him to come into a new place and someone already know his name.
When Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, he wasn’t just telling him to get out of the tree. He was letting him know that Jesus already knew who he was and what he was about. And yet, Jesus still wanted to be with him despite what others thought of him. Or worse, what Zacchaeus thought of himself.