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Zacchaeus climbed the Sycamore Tree to see Jesus (Photo by Pastor Davis)

While Jesus was in Jericho, he sought out a wealthy and corrupt tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus, which was the chief tax collector at the time of Jesus visit, and Jesus took the liberty to invite himself to this individuals home.  Zacchaeus was despised and hated by the people; he would soon become an example of a rich man coming to salvation.

Now here is how Luke tells the story of what took place.  “He said, when Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.”

Zacchaeus, like the rest of the people in Jericho, was curious to see this man whose healings and teachings had been astounding people all over the country.  Moments earlier, a blind man sitting on the side of the road had been healed.  The news had spread, and Zacchaeus wanted to get a look at Jesus.  The text reveals another detail about this wealthy tax collector: he was so short that he could not see over the people in the crowd.  Zacchaeus would not be put off.  He ran on down the road and climbed a sycamore tree.  The sycamore tree was easy to climb, it was like an oak tree with wide lateral branches.

Then Luke says, “When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”

Zacchaeus must have been a pretty bad character, for the crowd reacted with great displeasure that Jesus would have chosen him out of everyone.  No one else in the crowd could have known that Jesus visit would change this tax collector’s life.

Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”

The crowd grumbled, but Jesus knew that Zacchaeus was ready for a change in his life.  After Jesus took the initiative with him, Zacchaeus took the initiative to follow wherever the path of obedience to Jesus might lead.  The rich young man had come asking and had gone away empty, unable to give up his money and possessions.  Zacchaeus, however, was able to give away his wealth in order to follow Jesus.  This is the heart attitude that Jesus was looking for.  Perceiving it in Zacchaeus, he quickly brought this man the Good News.  So eager was Zacchaeus to rid himself of the shackles of wealth that he said he would pay back four times as much of the overage that he had charged people.  His attitude was correct, and his actions showed his inner desire to obey.  Zacchaeus was setting his priorities right and he would be ready for the Kingdom.

Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham!  For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

This tax collector was perceived as a traitor by his people, so they would not have considered him a son of Abraham in the sense of a Jew looking for the Kingdom, but also a son of Abraham in the truest sense of the word because he experienced salvation.  Salvation came to Zacchaeus, not because he did good deeds, but because he truly believed in Jesus and set aside anything that might get in the way of obeying him.  To the grumblers, detractors, and self-righteous, to those who thought they were saved simply because they were descendants of Abraham, Jesus explained his mission, he came to seek and save those like Zacchaeus who are lost.

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One comment

  1. true metanoia (change of mind, repentance) indeed is a result of God’s goodness

    “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance”
    – Romans 2:4

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