The story of Zacchaeus in the tree is one I have heard many times over the years but like any good Bible story, there is always more to learn. We recently studies this story in church and it brought up so many interesting thoughts to my mind that I couldn’t wait to share with all of the My Christian Walk Friends. For the first time, I saw myself as the man in the tree, the man who was seeking a savior and that was changed when he was found in His presence.
If you are not familiar with the story it can be found in Luke 19:1-10. Let’s first take the time to read through the passage and then take a deeper look at what we can learn from it.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man there, named Zacchaeus, was a chief tax collector and a rich man. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but since he was short in stature, he could not see him because of the crowd. Therefore, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to catch a glimpse of him for he was going to pass that way.
When he reached that spot, Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ Zacchaeus came down quickly and welcomed him joyfully.
When the people observed this, they began to complain, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, I intend to give half of everything I possess to the poor, and if I have defrauded someone of anything, I will repay that amount four times over.’
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek out and to save what was lost.’ ”
Jesus was just planning to pass through Jericho but because of Zacchaeus’ actions, Jesus changed His plan and asked to stay with Zacchaeus instead. What a thought that our actions could actually change the plans that God has. I am a strong believer in free will and that God gives us the opportunity to make the right decisions every day knowing the path we will choose.
Zacchaeus was Jewish but was employed by the Roman government as a chief tax collector. Because of this, you can imagine how the people in Jericho felt about him. They treated him like an outsider and a trader.
Zacchaeus “was seeking to see who Jesus was”. He was interested in Jesus but was not yet a follower. This led him to climb a tree to get a better view of Jesus as He passed. The height of the tree gave him a prime location to see and hear Jesus but it also gave Jesus the opportunity to see Zacchaeus.
Although Zacchaeus was not liked in his community he would have been considered a dignified man because of his job title. At this time men of dignity did not run or climb trees so he was taking a risk in his actions. This was a risk that he knew he must take to meet the Lord. What risk do we need to take to put ourselves in a position to be face-to-face with God?
Jesus addresses Zacchaeus as if He knew him personally and asked him to quickly come down from the tree. Jesus calls for immediate action from Zacchaeus and He does the same for us. When Jesus calls us we don’t have time to get our affairs in order we must go right then and there. In Luke 9:59-62, we meet some people who had this same issue and Jesus tells them, “To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ ”
When Zacchaeus was called down out of the tree not only did he do it quickly but he did it with joy. He was no longer just an onlooker or just a bystander, he was the focus of Jesus’ attention.
The people of Jericho did not like that Jesus has chosen someone they despised and began to complain. They couldn’t understand why the Son of God would go to a sinner's house. We might think ill of them for this but in reality, we do the same many times, such as when someone we don’t believe deserves something gets it or when blessings fall on someone other than us.
The change in Zacchaeus was evident in his promise to repay and donate his wealth to those he had done wrong. The moment that he met Jesus he knew his ways had to change and although we don’t know much about what happened to this man after this story we can be certain that he was never the same. When we devote ourselves to God the change in us should also be evident in our actions, speech, and generosity.
Jesus ends this story by confirming what His mission and goal were on this earth. “ ‘For the Son of Man has come to seek out and to save what was lost.’ ” Jesus’ goal was to travel the earth and seek out the children of the Father who were lost. This brings my mind to the story of the lost sheep and how the good shepherd will go out to find just one sheep to bring it back to the herd. There is no distance that God will not cover to aid one of His children.
Zacchaeus' response to Jesus was the opposite of the rich young ruler we learn about in the previous chapter of Luke (Luke 18:18–30). The young ruler could not give up his riches to follow Jesus but that is exactly what Zacchaeus did.
Now that we have taken I deeper look at the story of Zacchaeus I hope you are able to see the evidence of God’s redeeming grace and love. I hope it makes you think about the grace and love that you have received from God.