And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house. And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. And when they [the Jews] saw it, they all began to grumble saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Luke 19:5-7 (New American Standard Bible)
If you pay taxes you can have an idea how much the Jews disliked the Publicans, or tax collectors of their time. These men were hired by Rome to wring revenue from the people under their rule. The average tax collector was not paid a salary by the Roman Government. Rome assigned these people a certain amount to be collected. As long as Rome got their portion it didn’t care how much ‘payment for services’ the Publicans took so most of them took more than Rome demanded. They were just not relentless extortionist they were ruthless.
So the Jews were offended that Jesus was not only going to the house of a tax collector but was going to dine with him. In today’s terms think of the most notorious figure you know. Now picture Billy Graham going to his or her home, maybe sitting poolside with them and acting like they were his good friend. In voicing their displeasure at Jesus’ action the Jews were saying Zacchaeus was only worthy of God’s punishment.
Think of how many times we have the same feelings toward someone. I just wonder that if this example of Jesus’ grace and love had been modeled in the childhoods of the John Dillinger’s, Al Capone’s, Josef Stalin’s and Adolf Hitler’s of history how their stories would read today.
Jesus had a heart for people, just like the ones around us every day that are outside of the redemption of Christ. There is some hesitancy to sit down with these “sinners” and just be their friend. How will those who hunger and thirst after righteousness taste it unless we bring the Bread of Life to their table? Those who taste of the Lord will see He is good. He will become a refuge and blessing to all who dine with Him. Jesus has always been a friend of those who could demonstrate ruthless qualities. Jesus has been a friend to us all.