Zacchaeus was indeed a man small of stature, but that didn’t keep him from being big in riches – his wealth acquired by fraud and extortion. We are not told what aroused his interest in Jesus, but his curiosity drove him to climb a sycamore to see this man of whom he had only heard rumors. To climb a sycamore wasn’t a small thing since in Biblical times its fruit was considered humble food so that Zacchaeus humbleness made him big – big enough for Jesus to see him and call him by his name.
Salvation isn’t difficult for those who climb sycamore trees. “I must stay in your house today”, Jesus informed a tax-collector both surprised and exhilarated by this sudden interest in him. And Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully the narrative matter-of-factly tells the reader. The moral of the story is evidently that it is not a bad thing to climb sycamore trees.
It is not unusual for new converts to throw every penny into a rather well-meant and extensive self-improvement program of which Zacchaeus was no exception. Perhaps he rather should have spent his energy climbing the sycamore again, because Jesus displayed no interest in his, from an ethical standpoint, very noble resolve to make things right by handing out his riches to the poor and those he had defrauded. It is not unlikely that Zaccheaus eagerly anticipated another pat on his shoulder by such a display of generosity.
But again Jesus confounds the wisdom of a world reluctant to climb sycamores, but which praises everything that can earn it some acknowledgment in the eyes of God. It was a different matter that was Jesus’ priority when He again addressed Zacchaeus: “You are now a son of Abraham”. The thing is that climbing sycamores provides people with a new identity and that is really the crux of the matter according to Jesus, whose words definitely are trustworthy by virtue of that He himself climbed the biggest sycamore – the incarnation.