Old and New Testament Thinking

sycamoreTreeRemember the Sunday School song:

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see…”

What’s the significance of the sycamore tree? A sycamore tree produces figs, but they are such poor quality that they aren’t eaten by people except in times of famine. Instead they are fed to pigs. The prodigal son in Luke 15 was reduced to as low a position as a Jew could be given—rip figs and leaves off sycamore trees to feed pigs. He was so thoroughly humiliated and hungry that he tried eating this fig-pig-feed, and it wasn’t enough to keep him alive for long. He returned home to his father and threw himself on his mercy.

Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree purposefully to humiliate himself. He knew that people would look up into the tree and see him for what he was—a fig-pig-feeder.

“. . . And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree, and he said,
‘Zacchaeus, you come down, For I’m going to your house today.’”

So, you want Jesus to stay at your house tonight? Go ahead, climb into a sycamore tree. Humiliate yourself, and Jesus will come on over. And he’ll eat with you (signifying forgiveness).

But Jesus didn’t stop at forgiveness. He instituted restitution. And even tax collector Zacchaeus knew that Old Testament Law, so he told the Lord he would give half of his gifts to the poor, and if he had defrauded anyone he would pay them back four times as much as he had taken.

Jesus didn’t say, “That’s Old Testament thinking, Zach, my boy. When I die on the cross for your sins, that will all be done away with.”

Jesus honored restitution and said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

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