Seek God and He’ll Find You

Zacchaeus Sunday (2024)

1 Tim 4:9-15 

Luke 19:1-10 

What’s in a name? In earlier cultures, one’s name would sometimes be given as a reflection of their character. We hear of this with the names of Native Americans, but the practice was not confined to those cultures.

The Old Testament Patriarch Abram’s name means “Exalted Father”. God later changed his name to Abraham,  meaning “Father of a multitude” - and he did become a father of a multitude, first through his physical descent, becoming the father of Arabs, Israelites, and many other nations.  And then, through adoption in Christ, he became our father.

The name “Paul” means “small” or “humble”.  In writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul refers to himself as least of the Apostles.  And Jesus? Our Lord’s name means “Jehovah is salvation”.

What about Zacchaeus?  Well, his name means “Pure”.  Now, it seems that the name doesn’t really fit his profession of  Tax Collector. In Roman times, tax collectors weren’t just low level government functionaries, like they are today.  They were more like contractors.  If they had to collect taxes on a hundred people, they had to pay Rome the taxes on those hundred people, even if they didn’t collect it.  They would overcharge, sometimes exorbitantly. And the extra amount they collected? It was theirs.  So, they became rich while  being despised by the people.

And Zacchaeus wasn’t just a tax collector; he was a chief tax collector. So, he was in charge of a number of other tax collectors. And, we can probably say that he shared in the excessive taxes collected.

Doesn’t sound very pure, does it?

But, the thing is, our Lord doesn’t care about our past.  We all have a past.

Matthew was a tax collector, but Jesus chose him as an Apostle.  After the Resurrection, Matthew continued preaching to the Jews.  Eventually, he went to other nations and was martyred for the faith.

I mentioned Paul saying he was the least of apostles.  Why? Because he persecuted the Church! The book of Acts says that he was breathing “murders and threats against disciples of the Lord”.  But God sought him out, took a hold of his life, and turned him into one of the greatest Apostles.

Then, there’s St Augustine.  In his younger days, living in Carthage, he lived a rather hedonistic lifestyle. He had a son with a mistress, but then, when a job opportunity in Milan presented itself, he took his son there, deserting his mistress.  Yet, from there, God got a hold of his life, turned him around, and made him into one of the most influential Christian teachers of all time.

Yes, God is not so much concerned with our past as with our future.

So, what happened with this chief tax collector? When Jesus came by, Zacchaeus lived up to the promise of his name.  He climbed up a tree in order to see  God! And, when Zacchaeus sought Jesus, Jesus reached out to him and invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner.

The crowds, of course, weren’t very pleased that Jesus reached out to him, though. “Oh, he’s gone to eat with a sinner”. How often do we do that, when we see a celebrity looking for Christ? “Oh, he just wants to look good to people”.  Right?

But Zacchaeus?  He didn’t care what the crowds said about him.  Neither should we care what people say of us when we seek to know and seek Christ. Rather, Zacchaeus sought to make restitution to those whom he’d wronged.  The Mosaic Law required that he repay 125%, but Zacchaeus went over and above that.  He promised to pay back FOUR TIMES!

In Jeremiah, we read God talking about the New Covenant. He says there, “I will write my law upon their hearts”.  Well, isn’t that what happened here with Zacchaeus? And Jesus said, “Today, Salvation has come to your house”.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. 

Now, think about this.  What would have happened if Zacchaeus HADN’T climbed up that tree? Would Jesus have called out to him and stayed with him? Would Zacchaeus have been inspired to return, in a sacrificial manner, the money that came from his avarice? Would Jesus have proclaimed that salvation had come to the house?

I doubt it. 

Oh, Zacchaeus would have received the benefit of being part of the crowd, but he wouldn’t have received that special grace, that special attention. And others wouldn’t have seen Jesus reaching out to him.

Our names can actually indicate what He plans for us.  Yes, our parents didn’t have the meanings on their minds when they named us, but God knew. Or maybe your parents named you for a saint, and you can take inspiration from that. So, find out what your name means, and ask yourself how it applies to you. And remember, seeking Jesus was necessary for Zacchaeus to live up to the name God had planned for him, it was necessary for him to become the man God had intended that he be.

God doesn’t care about our past so much as He cares about the future He calls us to.

Seek God, and He’ll find you.