Luke 19:1-4 “Then Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who was very wealthy. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but could not see over the crowd because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Him, since Jesus was about to pass that way.”
The throngs of crowds followed Jesus wherever He went. The miracles had been captivating and the times where He supplied food became a huge draw for these curious masses. There were times when people pressed in to hear, or listen, or touch His robe and had much difficulty approaching Him. Earlier, a woman who had been bleeding for years was barely able to touch the hem of his garment, when she did so the power of God coursed through her body and she was immediately healed.
Mothers of children pressed in that Jesus might bless them and the disciples, thinking they were His bodyguards tried driving them away. Jesus rebuked His misguided men and called the children forth, He blessed them and instructed the crowd on what faith in its purest form looks like.
Zacchaeus was a short man, a tax collector, and was probably not so formidable. His soft tender hands and rotund body confirmed the fact that he hadn’t done much hard labor for a long time. His profession was one of disdain among the Jewish people. Tax collectors got rich because of the position they held lent itself to corruption. Take the taxes from the people then take a little extra for yourself was the rule of thumb. Even in this day and age, we see this prevalent among politicians and in many countries the police officers as well.
Zacchaeus was no doubt troubled by his life. Anyone who lives to get rich understands the false hope this proposition has offered. Many have succeeded and many have lost their lives to the corruption of greed and self-indulgence.
Mark 10:25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Now, the idea that someone rich cannot enter into the Kingdom of God is to me, a bit perplexing. I have known many who are wealthy and exemplify righteousness, grace, and love.
What about the one in whom God has blessed?
There are many who started very poor and godly, then through much prayer, faithfulness, and hard work were blessed for their efforts. Are they then disqualified for achieving wealth?—–Of course not.
The condemnation is given toward those who make acquiring wealth their priority. Achieving worldly riches is the aim of the condemned and for them to give up their fascination with achievement, they must forsake the idolatry of money and embrace the spiritual path of loss.
Contentment is their goal but money is their means to achieving their goal.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Zacchaeus had devoted his life to acquiring wealth and now we see Him seeking after truth. This pattern is one we see among many in our world today, they think they know what will make them happy until they achieve their goal and then the false hope of gain and greed reveals their hopeless end.
In the midst of despair, there arises a Light.
Jesus enters into our darkness and illumines it. He shows us the way to true contentment, He gives us the freedom from the chains of sorrow, and He presents to us the way of Hope.
Isaiah 9:2 “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Jesus entered into Zacchaeus’ darkness and he was drawn to His light. He was so motivated to see Jesus, He took his fat little body and climbed into a sycamore tree so he could gain a better advantage. Jesus could have just passed under the tree and continued as He was going, but that was not how Jesus worked.
The Lord recognizes faith when he sees it.
Jesus stopped under the tree that Zacchaeus was perched upon and called out, “Zacchaeus, hurry down, for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
Jesus showed his mercy to a man despised by the people, because he saw the value of faith in that man—–This is how Jesus sees us.
He doesn’t see us for our faults and failures, He sees us for what is in our hearts. If Zacchaeus had harbored bitterness and anger in his heart, he would have avoided the Savior as He came his way. If Zacchaeus had still been reliant upon his fame and fortune, he would have been content to live his life the way he wanted and the riches he had acquired on earth would have been his limit.
The mercy Jesus showed had an impact in Zacchaeus that was profound.
Luke 19:6-8 “So Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed Him joyfully. And all who saw this began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinful man!” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will repay it fourfold.”
The evidence of repentance is shown in the response. Zacchaeus was transformed by the mercy of God and he recognized his past as being evil.
Knowledge of evil comes by understanding the Truth.
Understanding is imparted by the Holy Spirit and that comes by obedience. Zacchaeus began to return his stolen possessions and his knowledge of the law was reflected in his desire to repay fourfold to others. When the Lord sees our hearts and our obedience confirms our contrition, God’s response is the same.
Luke 19:9-10 “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.”
The change we observed in Zacchaeus first began when he decided to climb that tree. He undoubtedly wondered if God could ever show such a man of evil any mercy at all. God’s answer is a resounding—-Yes!
We all too often think we have gone to far, the knowledge of evil becomes more apparent the closer we draw near to God’s Holiness. It is in that moment when He calls that we have a decision, do we allow God in, or do we keep Him out?
Zacchaeus allowed Jesus in and his life was transformed forever. Even the people observing all the spectacle were skeptical, and yet God didn’t care about their skepticism, He cared about Zacchaeus.
God also cares for you. He is coming your way, He is calling you and the question is—-how will you respond? Will you do whatever it takes to see Jesus? Will you do what is necessary to escape this world and draw near to Him?
What awaits is life forever more.