During my formative years attending Sunday School, I liked the biblical character Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Here was a short, rich publican, a sinner, who had to climb up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus as He passed through his town. We are not told what exactly provoked his curiosity. Maybe it was just the chance to be above the crowd for a clear view of this man who had created quite the stir. Regardless of the reason, Zacchaeus did not realize that his encounter with the Son of God would change his life from that day forward. Isn’t that just like Jesus? Any genuine encounter with Him and a person cannot remain the same.
On this particular day as Zacchaeus perched in the tree, Luke tells us that Jesus, having arrived at the place, looked up and said unto him, “‘Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.’ And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully” (vv. 5-6, KJV). What intrigued me is what followed: “Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (v. 8). That latter half of the verse speaks of restitution – the act of restoring to a previous state. It is a tragedy of our times that for the most part, we have lost this practice. It is not unusual for individuals, Christians included, to hurt or offend each other, sometimes unknowingly, but the ball and chain tied to our feet and retarding our spiritual progress is our inability to go and make things right with the ones we have offended.
It is instructive that Jesus coupled restitution and reconciliation as a crucial part of genuine worship: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Maybe somewhere within, Zacchaeus knew that there was no way he could have meaningful fellowship with Jesus without first making things right with his fellow men.
There is something in that for all of us. Is there someone you need to make things right with? Sure, there may be many reasons why you may not want to do it, but bear in mind that it is your relationship with the Lord that is at stake. Interestingly, Jesus did not say the person had to offend us, but rather if we remembered that he or she has something against us. In other words, the onus is on you and me to make the first move. That can be very difficult but we do not get a vote. Jesus, the only one with the authority to do so, laid down the standard. May God give us the grace to step out in faith and reach out to that someone so we can be free to worship in spirit, and just as importantly, in truth. According to Jesus, these are the people the Father seeks to worship Him (John 4:23).