The Hidden Little Man

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”


So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”  (Luke 19:1-10)


St Ephrem the Syrian poetically writes:

“Blessed are you, hidden little man,

for he came from on high to stay in your house.

The treasure entered, the Holy Treasure,

and scattered the hoards gathered by injustice.

Blessed is your wealth that He sowed so that it might be reaped,

and your possessions dispersed to be handed over [to the poor].

He had you come down from the tree you had gone up,

and saved you by His wood.”

(HYMNS, p 330)


Zacchaeus was considered to be rich, yet Christ the true treasure enters into Zacchaeus life, enters into his heart.  Zacchaeus in response freely gives of his wealth which as Ephrem notes was “gathered by injustice” (since it was assumed the tax collectors were by nature dishonest and greedy).  Despite how he had come by the wealth, Ephrem says the wealth became a blessing to those to whom Zacchaeus distributed it.  And, as Ephrem lyrically says, Zacchaeus comes down from the tree he had ascended in order to be saved by the wood of the tree of the cross.  Even the tree he climbed to see Christ became a symbol of the salvation in Christ.