Once there was a short, rich, bad man in Jericho named Zacchaeus. He heard that Jesus was coming to town, and he really wanted to see him. Unfortunately, the crowds around Jesus were thick and Zacchaeus was short, so he couldn’t see. Then Zacchaeus had an idea. He would climb a sycamore tree. Fortunately, Jesus spied him up in the tree and invited himself to dinner. Zacchaeus was so happy that he volunteered to make good all the financial harm he had done. At this point, Jesus declared him saved.
This is the tale of Zacchaeus as we’ve all heard it—a short bad man climbing a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. It is the story as I knew it until I heard Charlie Cook preach on it one Sunday in the mid-’70s. Charlie was the pastor of the United Methodist Church I attended when I lived in South Bend, Indiana, where I taught. He was a short good man, and one of the most extraordinary pastors I have ever known. Here is the way he told it: