I once met a woman named Zachaea, and I shared this story with her in another language by simply translating the words to this song.
I don’t know why we think of it (Luke 19:1-10) as a children’s story. With “wee little,” my mind goes to leprechauns and elves, but Zacchaeus was simply a short man, not a mythical creature and not a child. What is more, his life experience was far beyond that of those who usually sing about him.
Read on to discover how this story-song speaks to parents (perhaps more profoundly than it speaks to their children) in the 21st century.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
Unimportant, overlooked, insignificant. That was Zacchaeus. Like a hobbit jumping to see over the shoulders of the race of men, he just didn’t measure up. Even worse, his occupation as a tax collector meant his own people despised him.
In the day-to-day, my life as a parent often feels inconsequential. It’s hard to keep focused on long-term parenting goals when every day feels the same (young kids) or you’re tired of driving all over the place (older kids). I can start to question my value to society. Then I catch myself saying, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.
Zacchaeus had to make an effort to get close to Jesus. Unlike those tall, respected guys who just wandered down and stood along the road, he had to get creative. I imagine he looked around for a solution until he saw the tree. He hesitated before he climbed it because, well, climbing trees is not something we adults do. Especially not in a robe. When’s the last time you climbed a tree? It’s not as easy as it was when we were kids! Ever done it in a skirt? No, me either, but I think it would be really hard. If I did climb a tree out in public somewhere, I can imagine that people would stare at me incredulously. Zacchaeus’ desire to be close to Jesus superseded everything: effort, difficulty, embarrassment…
A young mother told me recently that she tries to get up early and spend time in Scripture, but her toddler invariably starts crying before she can. Been there? Me, too. Remember those days before kids when you could sleep as long as you wanted, get up slowly, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down with your Bible for as long as you wanted? I think I vaguely recall something like that. Like Zacchaeus climbing the tree, spending time with Jesus takes more effort and creativity now. If we think it’s worth it, though, we find a way.
Here’s one idea that’s great for summer: audio Bible and a stroller. You can make notes on your phone. You can even pray out loud because people will think you’re talking to someone on the phone. (Bonus: exercise!) Sure, it takes some effort to get the kid strapped into the stroller and the diaper bag packed and the audio file or podcast set up. But it’s worth it.
As the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree, and he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down…
This is the best part of the story. Jesus could have changed directions or He could have ignored Zacchaeus. But He didn’t. He stopped and honored—not just acknowledged but honored—this overlooked, despised tax collector. I’m going to go out on a limb here (all pun intended!) and say Zacchaeus was pretty embarrassed to be discovered up in that tree. But Jesus didn’t care. He already knew Zacchaeus by name, and overlooking his ridiculous position in the tree, Jesus looked him in the eye.
When we make the effort to get close to Jesus, He knows exactly where and who we are, and He always responds. He will not overlook us. He will not ignore us. He will not laugh at us.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. –James 4:8a
For I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.
Jesus didn’t wait on Zacchaeus to invite Him. Jesus invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ house. It was a sign of respect that Jesus would eat with Zacchaeus—one that Zacchaeus probably didn’t think he deserved.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. –1 Samuel 16:7
Jesus wants to come into our homes today, with the piles of dirty laundry, the unswept floors, the clutter on the kitchen counter. Jesus wants to come into our lives, with the feelings of insignificance, the effort we make just to open our Bibles, the embarrassment of “putting ourselves out there” again and again.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. –Revelation 3:20
Dear parent, like we’ve considered this children’s song afresh, receive this news today as if it’s fresh. God knows where you are, and He knows who you are. He wants to join you in the middle of your parenting mess.
Do you have a special memory or significant understanding of this song or story? Share it with us in the comments below!
Song Attribution: traditional
Previously in this series:
Still to come:
- Jesus Loves the Little Children
- I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
- Father Abraham
- The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
Is there a children’s song you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments.