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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Climbing down

With blessing of salvation, Zacchaeus completely refocuses his life

Read: Luke 19:1-10

Generations of Sunday school children have grown up singing the refrain: "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he." Part of the fun is the smooth whirling sound that wee makes when rolled off one's lips. A young child can also get pretty excited by the idea of a grown-up as runtish as a kid, who is lucky enough to actually have Jesus come to his house.

Either way, Zacchaeus is a shorty to most of our minds. And he has become rich through means that scarcely do justice to the true meaning of his name: "the righteous one." Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner refers to him as the "sawed-off little social disaster with a big bank account and a crooked job."

But was he really short? The Greek text is ambiguous and doesn't make clear whether the "he" of short stature is Jesus or Zacchaeus. All we know is that the crowd got in the way of Zacchaeus' sight lines. So he climbed a tree.


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