Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
A wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree,
For the Lord he wanted to see...
I make no apologies for the fact it is now stuck in your head. My Arabic-speaking friends call this guy Zaki. I like it. So I will use that name. But Zaki is immortalized for being short. As my friend Stevan Betcher pointed out in his sermon at Church of the Savior, though, Zaki was a tax collector--a public ally known "sinner" of Jericho. He didn't push through the crowd because someone might have stabbed him. Zaki is the Despised One in every sense. So he takes a safer, more memorable path to get a good look at Jesus.
And as the Savior passed that way,
He looked up in that sycamore tree.
And he said, "Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I'm going to your house today."
What the song doesn't go on to say is what Jesus does: the crowd's contempt for Zaki goes away. And the contempt for Jesus shows up. JESUS becomes the Despised One. Jesus takes Zaki'/ place as the resident "sinner" in Jericho. And Zaki becomes the one who is generous, who brings justice, who demonstrates grace to those who despised Him. It's the foretaste of the Great Exchange that would take place at the Cross. Jesus shows up. He frees Zaki. And Zaki now has a new identity and a new life. Let's embrace the scandal of our exchange.