Luke 19:1-10 NRSV
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Why do you think Luke included this story? It is the only mention of Zacchaeus in the Bible. Perhaps you are familiar with the children’s song about Zacchaeus the “wee” little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. It might help to think about this man. He was the chief tax collector. This meant that he was considered a Roman collaborator and was hated by his fellow Jews. The fact that he was rich tells us that he was skimming money for himself as he collected for Rome. Rome didn’t care as long as they got their money. He may have been bullied or ridiculed as a youngster because of his size and chosen to be a tax collector to get even. He is identified as a sinner and, as such, would be shunned by the “good” Jews.
Jesus apparently sought him out as he tells him that he must stay at his house that day. Zacchaeus was either curious about this Jesus or feeling he needed to see him to go to the lengths of climbing a tree to do so. Imagine his surprise when Jesus called him to come down!
Zacchaeus was joyful. Why? He was included for a change and he was given the honor of having Jesus as his guest.
Whatever transpired in that house, it changed Zacchaeus into a repentant person eager to repay any debts fourfold and give half of his goods to the poor. I think this story is an example of what John Wesley called prevenient Grace. The Holy Spirit had prepared his heart to receive forgiveness, acceptance and love from Jesus. Jesus called him a son of Abraham because he was now a believer. He was no longer lost. It is just such a person Jesus came to save. He still seeks the lost and the lonely.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, melt the cold places in me that don’t trust and obey Jesus. Help me to make room for your indwelling Spirit. Remake me into a believer every hour of every day. Amen.