Who was Zacchaeus? And why does his story still mean something to us today? There are probably many people that we know who are like Zacchaeus. Maybe, when we look at ourselves, we realize that we are Zacchaeus. He’s (1) the person who’s not happy with his life; (2) who made money the “be all” and “end all” of everything, only to find that what it promised was never delivered. He’s (3) the person who hates his job, or is not proud of how he has earned a living. He’s (4) the person who has compromised his principles for far too long, and his conscience is finally getting the better of him. He’s (5) the person who has fallen into addictions only to be faced with frustration, guilt and shame. He’s (6) realized that he’s capable of great sin and can’t look at himself in the mirror. He’s (7) the person who’s finally said to himself: “I can’t do this anymore.” And maybe, because of this realization, he finally, without even knowing it at the time, has put himself on the path that will result in an encounter with Christ.
We can say that Zacchaeus found salvation. But I think it is more accurate to say that salvation found him. But this didn’t happen until he put himself in a place where he could be found. In this, the setting of the story has special meaning. Zacchaeus put himself in a position where he could see Jesus, but what’s more important is that Jesus saw him. Zacchaeus could not change himself, but he could be changed. Same with us.
For a person to come to the conclusion that “I can’t do this anymore”, or “I need a new life”, is not the end of the world. It may seem so at the time because when you are saying these words you are at whits end—-you are in great despair. You feel that there’s little hope, that you’ve reached rock bottom. And maybe some terrible thing has happened and everything has come crashing down around you, or perhaps the burden is more secret which can even be worse. Because now you’re trying to hide it.
So what are you to do? Put yourself in Christ’s path. Let Christ find you. Don’t think you have to save yourself, because you can’t do that on your own. Don’t think that Christ is playing hard to get. Actually, he’s looking for us even in the most unlikely places (spiritual not geographical). To shout in despair, “I can’t do this anymore” may sound like the cry of the hopeless. But you can say those words in a certain way, and they are no longer the words of the hopeless, they are the words of the hopeful. Just put one word in front of that phrase and it changes the whole emphasis—-the whole attitude and perspective. Just say “Lord, I can’t do this anymore” and you are putting yourself on the path that will result in an encounter with Christ. Those words seemingly spoken in despair now become a prayer. And it’s through prayer and opening yourself to Jesus that salvation comes to you (us).