Zacchaeus climbs a tree.
Why? To see Jesus.
But who is this Jesus? He is God incarnate who gives far more than we even know to ask. Zacchaeus says to himself, “I just want to see Jesus.”
Our Lord says to him, “I’m coming to your house to dine with you.”
This is the God that we serve. We ask for a little mercy, and He confers upon us sonship. We ask for a little grace, and He sends the Holy Spirit to abide in us. We ask to be pardoned our sins, and He sweeps us into His arms to embrace us. We ask to be saved, and He deifies us. He is the God who gives more than we could ever know to ask for.
Our Lord says that He has come to save the lost. He means those who know they are lost – for we are all lost. The man who knows he is lost cries out for help. The proud man, however, listlessly wanders in circles – the circles of his own reasoning.
This is Zacchaeus Sunday, the first harbinger of Great Lent.
With that in mind, perhaps we can view the tree in which our little publican climbed to be a metaphor for fasting. He was small, just as we are immature in our spirituality. He struggled up the branches, and we too will soon struggle up the ascent of the Great Fast. He sought to see Jesus, and we too should fast for no other reason. Our Lord called out to Him, just as He does to us through the many services of Great Lent. Our Lord dined with him, just as He says to us, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Jn. 14:23).
With our hearts burning to see the sweet face of Jesus, may we climb the ascetical tree of Great Lent, and may our entire being become a dwelling place of our God.
Illustration taken from a 12th century German illuminated text.