Luke 19: 1 – 10 Zacchaeus the tax collector
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
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.
All the people saw his and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’
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 save the lost.’
* * *
Jesus was travelling through Jericho. Crowds of people surrounded him. Many people disliked what he did; many people marvelled at his actions. Jesus attracted people to his presence whether they were supporters or opponents.
Zacchaeus was obviously particularly keen to see Jesus. This was no mere curiosity; it was a passionate desire to come close to Jesus. When he found he couldn’t see, he ran ahead of the crowds and climbed a tree. Now, in 1st century Palestine a rich man wouldn’t run and I very much doubt whether he would climb a tree. These activities would have been humiliating; Zacchaeus sacrificed all his dignity to be able to see Jesus. He was prepared to endure public ridicule for the chance to be near Jesus.
I think Zacchaeus must have felt an intense need for liberation from his sinful life.
When Jesus comes to his house, Zacchaeus promises to make restitution for his sins. He will pay back four times the amount to those he has cheated. He also shows that he has been liberated from his slavery to money – he will give half his possessions to the poor.
It is interesting to compare this story with that of the rich ruler (Luke 18: 18 – 27). Jesus told the ruler to sell everything he had, and the ruler went away sad. In this case, Jesus rejoices when Zacchaeus says he will give just half his possessions to the poor.
The difference, I think, is in the attitudes of the two men. The rich ruler cannot let go. When it comes to it, he chooses to keep the illusion of security given by his wealth. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, gives from his heart. After meeting Jesus, he is able to let go of his wealth. Jesus has cured him of his enslavement by riches. The camel has passed through the eye of a needle.
Truly, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ (Luke 18: 27)
Truly, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’
I’m sorry for my tepid enthusiasm for Jesus. Please stir up my desire to see him. Please give me the faith to accept Jesus’ healing.
In Jesus name, Amen