However let’s try to imagine Zacchaeus as a child or a young person, very sensitive and wanting to be respected while others make fun of his insignificant posture. We all know stories of kids laughing at the shortest boy in the class. Zacchaesus must have dreamed to prove that he was somebody, special and important. However the way he achieved it wasn’t noble. He indeed climbed the ladder in the society but the cost was high. He became a tax collector, he worked for the regime that conquered his country, and he was a collaborator. He had money, he had power. Now the roles changed. His fellow citizens envied him money and they were afraid of him because he had power over them. Zacchaeus didn’t care about how he achieved it because now he could be somebody important in the society. However it didn’t change that he didn’t accept his shortness which was his complex. He simply developed some way to make up for that. He became really cruel and heartless. Later he admits that he had cheated, it meant that he accused falsely somebody for finical crimes in order to confiscate his property. Zacchaeus we meet at the beginning of the Gospel is full of complexes that made him lonely and depressed though cruel and powerful.
As we reflect on his situation let’s think about our own complexes that upset us and about how we take them out on others to recompense ourselves. Somebody may not be intelligent, another person may have some physical or psychological disorder while another person may be ignored by his
acquaintances. The list can go on and on. The point is that in this way we become self-obsessed, focused on ourselves, that leads to being devastated when we are not recognized, acknowledged, respected etc. This sick self-obsession of Zacchaeus is confronted with self-offering of Jesus. Jesus who comes to Jericho is on the last leg of his journey to Jerusalem. He is just about to start ascending from this lowest inhabited city in the world to the Holy City of Jerusalem. Jesus is undertaking this journey because he is thinking about others. He is doing this for others not for himself. That’s why the therapy Jesus gives to Zacchaeus isn’t simply reduced to accepting the man as he is, with his physical shortness that he was born with and with his shortcomings he developed in order to feel special, but Jesus’ therapy breaks this sick self-obsession of Zacchaeus and leads him to focusing on others instead. Zacchaeus sees how important it is to be reconciled with God. He doesn’t want to live life that separates him from his God. That’s why he takes such a big step to make amends for his previous, sinful actions. He, who was terrorizing the neighborhood before with his finical influence, is extending his retribution to those he abused. There is no doubt he becomes vulnerable now. Just remember that he puts himself in the position that others can take advantage of. He who was bossy and powerful before becomes weak now but what he gains is freedom in Christ. Look, he doesn’t find excuses for his previous behavior, but he admits before Christ and the people dining in his home that he cheated. Before he was probably thinking: “They have been cruel to me, I am just paying back.” Now he admits he did wrong. Now he makes up for the wrong he did by giving most of his property away. Before money was so important to him, now he is free. He knows who he is in the eyes of God and he doesn’t big money to feel good. That’s freedom.
We don’t know what happened to him after Jesus left Jericho to go to Jerusalem to be crucified and raised to new life. But before Jesus walked out of Jericho there was a changed man in the city. Zacchaeus wasn’t a prisoner of his complexes, they didn’t determine his life any more. Zacchaeus grew very quickly to understand that what is important in life is doing things for others rather than proving himself to others. I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a laughing stock in his community because change of life doesn’t mean wining people’s admiration. They may take advantage of it, but still it is worth leaving self-obsession behind and following the example of the Lord who cared about others even when they were ungrateful.