Zacchaeus was a con artist whose interest in Jesus Christ brought him to repentance and eternal life. A Hebrew translation of his name would be “pure one” or “innocent,” which is ironic given his behavior.
Because of his short frame, Zacchaeus had to climb into a tree just to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was shocked when the Lord addressed him by name and ordered him to down from the tree. Later that day, Jesus accompanied Zacchaeus back to his house. As a result of hearing Jesus’ teaching, the renowned sinner gave his life to Christ and changed forever.
The Story of Zacchaeus, Christ, and the Tree
Zacchaeus, a Jew, worked for the Roman Empire as the main tax collector around the area of Jericho. Men would bid on certain roles under the Roman system, promising to rake in a particular sum of money in exchange for the opportunity. Over and beyond that target, whatever additional funds they could collect would be considered profit. From what we can gather from Luke, Zacchaeus amassed a lot of fortune by extorting money from the people and encouraging those under him to do the same.
Zacchaeus, a small man, missed seeing Jesus walk through Jericho because he couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd. He dashed on ahead and climbed a sycamore for a bird’s-eye viewpoint. Jesus paused, looked up at Zacchaeus, and said, to Zacchaeus’s awe and delight:
“Zacchaeus! Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today” (Luke 19:5, NLT).
Many in the crowd, however, voiced their disapproval at the thought of Jesus associating with a notorious crook. The Jews viewed the tax collectors as corrupt agents of the imperial Roman government. Many in the crowd, notably the self-righteous, scoffed at Jesus for caring about a sinner like Zacchaeus, but Jesus emphasized his purpose to seek and redeem the lost.
Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ invitation by promising to return four times as much to anyone he had defrauded and giving half of his wealth to the needy. The day of salvation, Jesus promised, would come to the home of Zacchaeus.
In Zacchaeus’ house, Jesus shared the parable of the ten servants.
Even though the Bible never again mentions Zacchaeus, we may safely infer that his penitent heart and acceptance of Christ resulted in his redemption and the deliverance of his entire household.
Who Is Zacchaeus?
The tale of Zacchaeus may serve as an example to people of all ages. We may learn more about Zacchaeus from three different angles, all of which are grounded in the Bible’s account of his life.
Zacchaeus, As The Crowd Sees Him
If we examine Luke 18:11 as it is stated, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector,'”
The Pharisees looked down on Zacchaeus because of his occupation as a tax collector, assuming he was corrupt and materialistic.
Historically, tax collectors had a bad image. Tax collectors were reviled because they extorted money from the public and were often rumored to be too greedy in their charges. In Matthew 18:17, even Jesus said, “If they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
The Jewish people resented the oppression they felt when paying Roman taxes because they felt they were supporting a foreign country rather than their own.
Given this, it’s clear that the crowd’s opinion of Zacchaeus reflected the consensus regarding tax collectors and how they abused their authority to enrich themselves at the expense of the helpless.
This is where the crowd’s attitude was coming from. He was a sinner because he was a prolific crook. It is not unexpected that the Jewish people took a firm position against those who collected exorbitant taxes from their hard-earned earnings.
It’s human nature to focus on the faults of others, just as the audience focused on Zacchaeus’. We are quick to pass judgment on others but slow to examine our hearts to see if we, too, are full of sin.
Zacchaeus, As He Saw Himself
Zacchaeus was aware of Jesus’ existence from the beginning and was eager to meet him. Due to his modest stature, he sought alternative means of reaching Jesus. He accomplished this by scaling a sycamore tree.
It’s clear from the tale what kind of person Zacchaeus was. Given that a tax collector’s job often involves directly or indirectly requesting and receiving monetary contributions from others, his proactive nature was likely one of the traits and mindsets that would serve him well in this role.
More than that, we recognize that he was looking to Jesus for deeper significance in his life. He was curious to learn the realities of living.
He ascended the tree to get a glimpse of Jesus and discover the purpose of life, as his position as a tax collector was difficult due to the nature of his work and the crowd’s perception of him.
Zacchaeus immediately opened his doors to Jesus after hearing that He would stay at his house. This mindset further demonstrates that He was a man open to salvation and service. His home was a safe haven for Christ and was open to the Lord’s counsel.
The viewpoint of Zacchaeus offers much food for thought. We seek purpose in our lives because we feel a void amid the constant barrage of information we are exposed to in today’s fast-paced, information-overloaded society. We “climb trees” to better view a more tranquil and promising future.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our better tomorrow and now. To be seen by Jesus, we don’t have to scale any trees. Before Zacchaeus ascended the tree, Jesus had seen and recognized him.
Zacchaeus’ need to be seen, however, was what captivated Jesus’ attention. Even while we understand that Jesus sees us as we truly are, it is nevertheless vital that we make an effort to present ourselves to Him.
Constantly giving Him the praise He deserves is crucial. Last but not least, we need to demonstrate regret for our wrongdoings.
Zacchaeus, As The Lord Saw Him
Despite Zacchaeus’s reputation as a sinner and tax collector, Jesus nonetheless visited his home. As for the crowd’s reaction, Jesus didn’t give a hoot. Instead, he proceeded to Zacchaeus’ residence and stayed there.
As we can see, Jesus commanded Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5-6, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly,”
This is one way that Jesus compels us to pay attention to Him when we need Him the most.
When he said, “I must stay at your house,” he wasn’t making a request. Instead, he was telling Zacchaeus that he had to invite him and let him stay with him.
Jesus already understood that he desired to welcome him to stay, not only in his household but in his heart. After all, Jesus came into the world to redeem us from our sins so that we may spend eternity with Him.