Reading through the Bible together
Zacchaeus was a short man. Not only was he short physically, but he short-changed other people, by taking too much in taxes. As the chief tax collector for the city of Jericho, he collected customs fees from everyone crossing the river Jordan. And while Zacchaeus was not short on money, he was somewhat short on honesty. His fellow Jews hated even his name, for the name Zacchaeus meant "Pure." What a paradox that one whose wealth came from injustice should be called "pure."
However, Zacchaeus was not completely short of purity. He had heard of Jesus, the Rabbi who actually liked tax collectors. When he was told Jesus was coming to Jericho, Zacchaeus decided to see Him. But he was too short to see over the heads of people. “So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way” (Luke 19:4).
Soon Jesus passed beneath that tree, stopped, and looked up. A subdued laugh went through the crowd as they realized who Jesus had found sitting in the tree, but Zacchaeus heard only the words of Jesus. “Zacchaeus, make haste, come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down, led the way to his house, and joyfully welcomed Jesus. The crowd: “complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner’” (Luke 19:5-7). No doubt many in the crowd had been cheated out of hard-earned money by Zacchaeus. They considered him a thief.
Before we condemn the crowd too much, think of the murmuring that spreads through a church when certain sinners walk in. But the crowd hushed as Zacchaeus stood up and made a startling pledge: He would restore four-fold everything he had taken dishonestly, and he would give half of His possessions to the poor. Who could doubt the genuineness of such repentance?
When you come to Jesus you also may have to make things right. Don't worry about what the crowd will say or think. It's Jesus’ approval that counts. Your reputation or what you have may change, but God can open the floodgates of heaven and give you greater spiritual riches, more than you can receive. What Zacchaeus received that day was Jesus’ assurance: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).
Salvation is not just a change in heaven’s records. Salvation comes to us in the person of Jesus. He invites Himself to our house, to eat and live with us. He wants to do for us what He said was His mission: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Like Zacchaeus, receive Him joyfully and give Him control of your life and what you have.
Douglas Jacobs, D.Min.
Professor of Church Ministry and Homiletics
School of Religion, Southern Adventist University