They were both rich. One had known and kept all the commandments from his youth. The other made his living off of stealing from his neighbors. Jesus asked the “good” one to “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” Luke 18:22. But as for the “bad”, stealing, rich man, Jesus never asked such a thing. The “good”, rich man having encountered Jesus, went away saddened, weighed down by his own goodness and riches. Zacchaeus, as you will have guessed, having encountered Jesus, “hurried and came down and received him joyfully”. And he would go on to do what the “good”, rich man couldn’t and he would give, give, give, and give again.
Why sorrow with one and joy with the other? If Jesus was to enter any man’s house, it should have been the “good” one’s house. He had nothing to hide. No shame. No guilt. And Zacchaeus had everything to hide. Jesus was about to enter Zacchaeus’ house and see all the plunder he had accrued over years and years of robbing those on his street. Shame and guilt dripped from the walls of his house. Then how could be scramble down the tree with joy? What had mattered to him before no longer had any hold on him. His treasure had suddenly shifted from the things of this earth, to the things of heaven. A new treasure was about to enter his home that would claim surpassing greatness over the things that sat in his house, waiting for moth and rust to destroy, waiting for thieves to break in a steal.
At the beginning of Zacchaeus’ story, we find him, “seeking to see who Jesus was” (Luke 19:3), but at the end of his story, in verse 10, we read this. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus knew he was lost. And Jesus found him.
This has become our Christmas verse for this year, “For the Song of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Luke 19:10. We put up our nativity set today, and I desperately wanted to have a figurine of Zacchaeus, the man who knew he wasn’t good enough. Sadly, the “good”, rich ruler was too good to be at the manger scene, for he came to Jesus arms overflowing with his own goodness and riches, that he had no place or need for the Son of Man. The manger scene is only for those who know they shouldn’t be there. And those who think they should be there, cannot be there.
I did not have a figure of Zacchaeus to put at our manger scene this year, but I did have four children who had been gifted bobble heads of themselves, a bit disturbing and unnatural looking. Having told the story of the good, rich boy, and the bad, stealing boy, I had them all go get their bobbleheads (as well as a baseball player bobblehead, who was delightfully invited by my son to join the group), and put them at the manger scene. My manger scene has never looked so shocking. And I have never loved it more. None of us should be there. But because we were lost, a babe came to earth to be good for us, to shed his blood for us, to rise again victorious, that he might seek us out and find us. That we might be His treasure, and He ours.
O come, let us adore Him!