Some Christian brothers and I were discussing the story of Zaccheus from Luke 19 the other day, and something came to my mind that I had never considered.
When most church-raised Christians think about Zaccheus, they almost immediately start head-singing a song about him being “a wee little man, a wee little man was he”. He was indeed a short man, but he was also a publican. That is to say, he was a tax collector for the Romans. That meant that he was shunned and despised by almost everyone.
Of course, there were those that were more than just unfriendly to the publicans. They hated anything Roman, but absolutely and totally hated anyone that was working with the Roman occupiers. This group was known as the Zealots. The Zealots known as Judas the Galilean and Zadok the Priest actively opposed the Jewish census ordered by Cyrenius (or Quirinius). The Zealots were the ones who barricaded themselves in the mountaintop fortress of Masada in AD 73 and ultimately killed each other instead of allowing themselves to be captured by the Romans.
Of course, the most famous of the Zealots was a man named Simon. Referred to in the Bible as “Simon the Zealot” to keep him from being confused with Simon Peter. That is, to keep one apostle of Jesus Christ from being confused with another disciple of Jesus Christ.
Scripture doesn’t mention the disciples in this passage, but as this scene takes place almost immediately before Jesus enters Jerusalem for the Passion, it is doubtful that any of them were missing.
Imagine Simon the Zealot’s reaction to seeing Jesus talk to another publican. As a man, I do not doubt that he would wish to drive Zaccheus from Israel entirely, if not just kill him where he stood. But Jesus showed Simon the Zealot through publicans what He showed Simon Peter through a vision: no one is too sinful or too unclean to hear the Gospel or to respond and be saved.
Most importantly, it is not our duty, nor our right, to decide to whom we should and should not interact, relate and witness. It doesn't matter if they are a leftist, liberal, progressive, pro-abortionist, socialist, atheist, whatever, they can be convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sin and be led to repentance.