“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Luke 19: 1-6
I woke up this morning thinking about short people for some reason. I ran with it, thinking that God must have something to say to me on the subject. I recalled the story of Zacchaeus, a physically short man, who was elevated in social stature when Jesus called to him. I’m sure he must have felt physically taller because the Master singled him out. I imagine him swelling up with pride and his chest sticking out as he straightened his posture and raised himself a few inches. But by the end of the passage, Zacchaeus had been raised spiritually, as well. His height had increased. He was no longer short.
I had a dream once, of a short man of my acquaintance. I didn’t know why I dreamed of him, for at the time, there was no love lost between us. He was not one of my favorite people. In the dream, I heard a voice say, “He is short.” And I woke up wondering about the dream and thinking to myself – well, that’s no great revelation! Everyone knew that he was short. But then, the realization came to me: he was not just short – he was SHORT. Not just diminutive physically, he was a man who had fallen prey to small thinking. He didn’t see the big picture and how his actions impacted others or even, his own future. He couldn’t fulfill the full potential in his position of influence because he failed to grow. Although he was a man resentful of his height, he didn’t see that he had opportunities to increase in other areas. The problem was not his physical appearance. He wasn’t just short, he was short sighted. He had fallen short of his potential.
I thought of that man today, as my thoughts dwelt on Zacchaeus. When the Master lifted Zacchaeus, he realized that here was his opportunity to not live as a short man any longer. He jumped at the opportunity – seizing that moment to declare: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8) When Jesus called Zacchaeus down from that tree, he was calling him back from that life of greed that caused him to live a dishonest life. Sometimes when we feel like we have been shortchanged – in whatever area, be it height, weight, looks, money, position, etc., – we feel a sense of entitlement. Like life owes us something and so we are justified in taking what does not rightfully belong to us. Likely Zacchaeus had been using his position of influence to harm people financially. He was in a short place, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Then Jesus came on the scene and gave Zacchaeus a chance at being a different person, to live a different life, regardless of his stature. He offered forgiveness and a way to start over afresh. Anew. The people who were witness began to mutter against Jesus. They wanted to keep Zacchaeus in that short place and bind him there forever, a prisoner to his past. (I’m sure we all know people like this, well-meaning religious folks. But don’t look too far – it could be you, LOL!) That Jesus, a prophet and man of God, would reach out to someone so despicable, so deplorable, so obviously a sinner was unimaginable. But Jesus responded with this: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10) Salvation was for Zacchaeus, too. It was especially for him, and for all of us who once were, and still now are lost. Especially for us.
The call to Zacchaeus is the same for us. Increase! Grow! Rise! God is calling us. He’s saying don’t become stagnant spiritually and stay in that same place. Go beyond what you have become. Don’t let our physical limitations define us because that is not who, what or even all that we are. Don’t let our mental squatness continue to stunt our spiritual growth. Let those of us who are short in stature, spiritually and mentally, those of us who have fallen short, got the short end, or just plain come up short, learn and grow and rise to the full heights of the destiny to which we were called. And while we’re at it, reach out and encourage others to do the same.