We get to meet Zacchaeus today. A little man on a mission. A despised man because he made his living at the expense of others. “He was a chief tax collector and he was rich” (verse 2).
Zacchaeus didn’t really know who Jesus was but Jesus knew who he was. I’m wondering how much Zacchaeus knew about Jesus. He apparently had heard stories about Him, otherwise he wouldn’t have been interested in finding out more. He was desperate to know more. He wasn’t planning on asking Him any questions, he simply wanted to see the Man everyone was talking about. I don’t know of any other character in the bible who went to such lengths just to have a look at Jesus. I don’t think tree climbing was part of Zacchaeus’ regular activities, but he could see no other way to accomplish his goal.
Jesus knew about Zacchaeus and his heart’s condition before he climbed the tree. I believe He knew about Zacchaeus before even coming to town that day. Zacchaeus was ready to receive what Jesus had to give.
As Jesus walked along the road that day no one told Him Zacchaeus’ name or pointed him out in the tree. Most of the people in the city would probably have preferred to ignore him completely. I wonder if anyone saw him in the tree before Jesus pointed him out.
Jesus’ greeting to him was very unexpected and unusual. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (verse 5). Not a “Hello” or “What’s your name” but a direct command instead. Jewish traditions are very big on hospitality but even then, the guest doesn’t invite themselves, the host does. Jesus broke with that norm in this instance.
Zacchaeus didn’t argue for one second. He was more than willing to entertain Jesus. But Zacchaeus invitation didn’t stop at the dinner table. He invited Him and His teachings into his life. Zacchaeus would never be the same again.
When those watching saw who Jesus was going home with, they were disgruntled. Of ALL the people He could choose to associate with, Zacchaeus was the most disliked. He represented governmental corruption at its worst. He was a sanctioned thief! And Jesus wanted to eat with him.
I have no doubt that Jesus shared His message during dinner and Zacchaeus took in every word of it. His heart was open to Jesus. Zacchaeus was so moved by what he heard that he independently made a pledge before everyone present that day. “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (verse 8). This was his heart reacting to Jesus’ presence and His message.
What Zacchaeus did is in direct contrast to what the rich ruler did after asking how to inherit eternal life. Both men were rich. Both men were powerful. And both men had an encounter with Jesus. The rich ruler valued his goods more than anything else, including following Jesus. Zacchaeus used to value his goods this same way, but he found real value in Jesus and His teachings. No longer did money occupy the throne in his life. He didn’t need to be asked to give up anything; he volunteered.
Jesus told Zacchaeus that salvation had come to his house that day. He recognized the change in Zacchaeus heart. He knew before Zacchaeus even climbed up into the tree what lay ahead. The angels were celebrating that night!
Thank You God for Your timing. It is amazing how You can bring just the right song or just the right verse when I need it. You have even brought just the right amount of money BEFORE I even knew I had a need. Like Zacchaeus, You prepared ahead of time for our encounter. You knew from the beginning of time the obstacles I would encounter. You placed help along the path before I even took the first step along it.
I’m reminded of the time I felt encouraged to pray for my husband. I didn’t know what was going on but You did. You moved my heart. You brought the words. You fought the battle. And You gave both of us the victory that night. Thank You for telling me that I “must” pray, just as Jesus told Zacchaeus that He “must” visit his house that night. YOU KNEW! And You still know what’s up ahead too.