Read: Luke 19:1-10
Luke presents the wealthy, cheating, scum of the earth, tax collecting thief known as Zaccheus as the center point for teaching us how to reach those who are lost. Well, that’s probably what the people were thinking when they saw him run ahead to climb the infamous sycamore-fig tree.
Jesus is going through Jericho, it’s not His primary target. Zacchaeus gets wind of the occasion and for some reason wants to see Jesus. At this point Jesus’ earthly ministry was well known, I’m sure there were plenty of rumors going around. Perhaps Zacchaeus just wanted to see who this bigshot was for himself, an effort to separate truth from fiction.
This presented a logistical problem and time was of the essence. Jesus is not staying in Jericho, at least that’s not His itinerary, so Zacchaeus comes up with a plan that seems a bit odd to me:
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:4
As I wonder about these actions, my imagination wanders. Does he have no other way to get a glimpse? How short is he? Was he the bullied child that became a tax collector to get back at people? Did people intentionally turn their backs on him and refuse to let him pass?
And what about the tree? Perhaps this was “the tree” that everyone climbed for processions going through town, common knowledge for anyone growing up in Jericho. But since when do adults go around climbing trees? I know I’m stretching the thought a bit, but on the heels of Luke’s story about the children coming to Jesus, I think of Zacchaeus as one who has childlike faith and enough agility to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of this famous teacher.
His pulse was racing when he saw Jesus. When their eyes met, I wonder if Zacchaeus could even speak. I wonder if he was able to comprehend the words spoken to him by this Rabbi that didn’t seem to care what others thought. Time stood still for a moment. Jesus’ words penetrated his heart.
So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. Luke 19:6
In an instant, Zacchaeus was changed. He vowed to give away half of his wealth and pay back four times as much to those he’s cheated (although he did say, “if”). He didn’t say, I’ll keep half my wealth, though some would like to argue from that perspective. Giving away half of his possessions for the poor is huge! And since he was the chief tax collector there were others who reported to him, so it is likely that by association he may be guilty of cheating many people–precipitous payments were likely. He probably knew of many inappropriate deals, even if he had risen above such, but that didn’t slow him down a step!
Enough of my imagination:
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 came to seek and to save the lost.”Luke 19:9-10
Of course, the people grumbled, Zacchaeus was used to this by now, but his heart was changed. He didn’t suddenly have all the answers, but he acted on faith and was rewarded beyond comprehension. I suspect he became an evangelist for Jericho by his actions more than his eloquent preaching.
Once again we have an example of Jesus not being swayed by the crowds or by politically correct behavior. Instead, He shows us that we must get out into the streets and make ourselves available to those who are lost, those who for a moment might be open to the gospel — even the wealthy.
The church must become the means for restoring the lost and rejected by seeking them out, not by remaining isolated from them. NIV Application Commentary
This is the church I long to be a part of. Lord, help us to be the Church that seeks those who are lost, regardless of social status. Help us to look up, down, left, and right, to find those who are seeking You. Give us the right words to say. Change our hearts as we are drawn to You.
Podcast idea. Let me know if you like this concept
NIV Application Commentary
Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland, David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 53587-53588). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.