The beautiful “must” of Luke 19 reminds us that Jesus didn’t have any questions about what He was doing on the earth. He knew what He was sent here for, and He was perfectly willing to sully His reputation by hanging out with the likes of you and me and diminutive money-grabbers like Zacchaeus. Jesus wasn’t on some rogue mission from the Father, but instead was perfectly intentional about what was happening. He Himself would go on to say: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
The tax collector took a tentative step forward. Then another. Then he grabbed hold of the low branches and swung a leg up. He looked around briefly. The crowd was coming, the noise growing louder. Up and up and up. His heart beat faster and faster and faster. Still he climbed. He was sweating now through the weight of his clothes. He barely had enough time to consider, once again, why he was pushing his way up this sycamore tree, because the crowd was right below Him now, teeming with excitement. The leaves got thicker as he edged forward… and then he saw Him. And something burst inside of Zacchaeus.
He froze, like a squirrel caught on a limb too far from the next. It was a feeling like he’d never experienced, for to his great surprise, the man wasn’t looking at the crowd. He wasn’t glad-handing the people around Him, nor was He looking forward where He was going. He was looking into the tree. Right at Zacchaeus.