Today the Eastern Church reads the gospel story of Zacchaeus. We are now entering the threshold of the preparatory weeks before the Great Fast (Lent). Indeed we are now only eleven weeks from Pascha (Orthodox Easter).
Zacchaeus was an unethical tax-collector working for the oppressive Roman government. How then was Zacchaeus saved? Zacchaeus was saved because he knew he was small, both literally and figuratively, and so had to climb up into the sycamore tree to see the Son of God Whom he desired to see. Christ did not leave Zacchaeus sitting anxiously in the tree. He acknowledged him and then He called him down. “Make haste and come down. For I must stay at your house today.”
Like Zacchaeus, we will not be saved until we too understand that in order to see Salvation, we must first climb up into the tree of repentance, up onto the cross of humility, bringing the fourfold fruit of repentance. Only then will we hear Christ’s voice calling to us and saying: ‘Come down’, because He is calling us to eat with Him in His Eucharist.
Zacchaeus became a follower of Christ and was numbered an apostle of the Seventy. Tradition says he followed St. Peter to Caesarea, where Peter appointed him the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. He died in peace.