Daddy was the first one I heard suggest the possibility. Will Willimon preached a whole homily that insisted on it. It refers to a strange twist on that old singsongy line, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.”
It happened this way, according to Luke 19. A throng met Jesus, coming through a place called Jericho, and among them lurked a guy named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus worked as the ancient Roman equivalent of an IRS auditor. He wasn’t only rich, but you get the idea that he had gotten rich at the expense of others.
It should come as little surprise to learn that people didn’t care for him.
Kids who grew up in church can even tell you the kind of tree Zacchaeus climbed up so that he could see Jesus as he passed by him that day. The reason given for the climb: “He was short in stature.” But did you know that the text’s grammar makes it entirely likely that it was Jesus, not Zacchaeus, who was on the short side? And as daddy pointed out, think about how little we know about Jesus physically.
What if he was only four feet tall or talked with a stammer or a lisp or walked with a limp or had a hunched back or bucked teeth or thinning hair? What if he did not come close to meeting Hollywood’s minimum standard? Does the thought of an ugly or misshapen Jesus mess with your faith? Do you think Billy Graham, for example, would have had as much of a worldwide appeal without a square jaw and well-coiffed hair and that voice of his?
“He had no beauty that we should desire him.” Most Christian exegetes take the graphic language of Isaiah 52-53 in reference to Golgotha. But it is at least worth considering how much of what goes by the name of faith rests solely on outward appearances. “God looks at the heart.”
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The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.