In the Gospel of Luke, we’re introduced to a man who we only know a few things about – he’s short in stature, he’s publicly recognized as a sinner, he’s good at climbing trees and he’s personally sought out by Jesus. His name is Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus was a Jewish tax collector who worked for the Roman officials and was seen as a traitor and sinner by his own people. Scripture tells us he was rich, which indicates he may have cheated others out of their money. He likely lived a life where others regularly looked upon him with disdain.

That is, until he encountered Christ.

When Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming, he was too short to see anything above the crowds. He ran ahead to climb a sycamore tree, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus – but it was Zacchaeus who was seen. As Jesus walked by the tree, He looked up, saw Zacchaeus and, calling him by name said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Lk 19:5)

Jesus knew Zacchaeus – He knew everything he had done, all the people he had cheated, how he was seen as a betrayer of the chosen people – and even then, especially then, He sought out Zacchaeus. Jesus wanted to dwell in the home of Zacchaeus’ heart, exactly as he was.

This is the kind of love we all desire – unearned, unconditional, unashamed love. A sincere love that seeks us out and sees the good in us in the very midst of our brokenness. A love that recognizes our dignity, even when we’ve lost sight of it ourselves. It is this love that Jesus expresses for you and for me as He gives Himself fully on the cross on Good Friday. He knows you, He sees you and He seeks you. He desires to dwell in the home of your heart, now and for all eternity.

When we begin to understand that we have been loved in this way from the very first moment of our existence, everything changes. We start to experience in our own hearts the shift we see in the life of Zacchaeus the moment he realizes he is seen. As soon as Jesus looks upon him with love and not disdain, Zacchaeus not only comes down from the tree quickly and receives Jesus joyfully, but he also decides to give half of his possession to the poor and to repay everyone he had cheated, fourfold.

Like Zacchaeus, we are invited to receive this unconditional love from God, to respond with our very lives and to experience in our hearts a depth of relationship that is far beyond our greatest imaginings – seeped in the very love we were created for.

This Lent and Easter season, I invite you to ponder the great love God has for you. Whatever your sycamore tree may be, know that Christ Jesus looks up, He sees you and He calls you by name. In His unconditional and personal love, He will never stop seeking you.