How Zacchaeus Reclaimed Paradise

Many people say that they want to know God. Sometimes people are more specific and they say that they want to know Jesus Christ. This is really the correct way to think about it. We know the Father only through the Son. The Lord Himself says “He who has seen me, has seen the Father who sent me.” He has also taught us that “No man comes to the Father except through me.”

It is a good thing to desire to know God, but what is the process by which we obtain this knowledge? How do we acquire knowledge of God? Can we do a google search and know God? No. We can do a search or a study to learn about God. But to actually know God, more is required of us. Today’s gospel reading is an outline of the process that is required.

One of the first steps necessary to gain knowledge of God is to focus on our desire. We all have passing desires. Many of the holy fathers of the Church tell us not to focus or hold on to our desires because if we do we will become entangled by them. However, our desire to know God should follow the model of Zacchaeus. He had a desire and he didn’t ignore it or get distracted away from it. His desire to see the Lord Jesus was not just a brief moment of wishful thinking or daydreaming. He allowed it to overtake him. It was the driving force behind his real struggle and efforts.

Zacchaeus has so much to teach us. Even though he was a tax-collector, among the most hated people in all of the Jewish world, he impressed the Lord so much by his zeal for knowledge of God. Zacchaeus demonstrated his heart for God by not allowing anything to become an obstacle for him. He was born short, it was easy for him to shrug his shoulders and say “too bad God didn’t make me taller so that I could see Jesus.” He didn’t complain about the crowd that surrounded Christ. He could’ve said “I would’ve loved to see Jesus but there’s simply too many people.” He doesn’t use these difficulties or obstacles as excuses, he uses them as proof. What did he prove? Zacchaeus proved that his desire to see Jesus was genuine, heartfelt and powerful.

Every single man, woman and child will have some obstacles or difficulties that keep them at a distance from God. Do these allow us to create excuses or do they challenge us to struggle and to fight to know Him? Zacchaeus demonstrates his willingness to struggle to know God. He may look foolish as a grown man who is climbing into a tree. He probably got sweaty and dirty. It took effort. But it was all worth it wasn’t it?

We each say that we want to know God more. We want to have a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus. What are we doing to make that happen? We often say that we are too busy or too distracted to fast, or to pray or to study the word of God or the writings of the fathers or the lives of the saints. How would Zacchaeus respond in the same situation? We already know the answer. This is the difference between the one who claims to desire God and the one who pursues his desire. One of the great figures of the Old Testament, and a patriarch of the Jewish people was Jacob. Jacob deeply desired to have Rachel as his wife. So he struggled and worked and toiled for 7 years. At the end of the 7th year he was rewarded for all his hard work. Rachel’s father gave him his daughter to be his wife, but there was a small problem. It was not the daughter that he had desired. What was Jacob to do? What a terrible thing to have happened to him. He was fooled. It was a great obstacle. He had toiled for 7 years and guess what? He learned at that moment that if Rachel was truly worth it, he would need to struggle even longer. He toiled for 7 more years to receive the hand of the daughter that he truly wanted. That is real desire! He worked for 14 years to finally marry the woman that he loved.

We as the Church are the bride of Christ. How much do we desire to enter into a deep relationship with our beloved? Work to develop a relationship with God as if your life depends on it. Don’t be afraid of how you will look, or what others will say (yes they will undoubtedly say things). Don’t be afraid of the pain and the struggle (yes, pain and struggle will be present). Don’t be afraid that you will fall short of your goal (you will fall short almost daily). If we are faithful, He is yet more faithful. We want to know Christ but in truth Christ wants to be known by us….He wants to dwell among us and to say to us “today salvation has come to this house.” So pour yourself into the task of climbing the tree. By a tree, Adam and Eve were banished out of paradise. By climbing a tree, Zachaeus found paradise in the form of a man and was granted not only to see Christ but to sit and to dine with Him. May we struggle to climb the trees that lead our minds upwards toward the heavens. May we not rest until we hear the blessed words “Make haste and come down, for I must stay at your house today”. Glory be to God forever AMEN.


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