Defining your purpose: Zacchaeus, A little man with a big story

I Corinthians 1 27 (1)

Zacchaeus was a little man with a big story.

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. (Luke 19:1)

Tax collectors have never been popular, but especially not in Roman Palestine which is the backdrop for Luke 19. The Romans “farmed out” tax collection services- instead of official Roman personnel collecting taxes, they “outsourced” this to locals and paid them a commission of whatever they collected. The more that a tax collector took in, the more he received. The tax money was used to fund the repression of God’s chosen people by the pagans. Fair to say the incentives and motives of the tax collectors weren’t pure, the processes were corrupt, they weren’t well liked, and the end result of their efforts funded pagan efforts.

Luke writes that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector so he had been doing this for some time and earned a reputation for himself. The verse also describes Zacchaeus as wealthy, and since he is paid a commission of what he collected, he must have collected a lot of tax money. Zacchaeus was collecting money to subsidize the pagans, and he’s taxing the local hardworking farmers to do it. Hardly the sort of person God would want to use, right?

Matthew 7

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.  (Luke 19:3-4)

When Jesus came to Jericho, Zacchaeus just had to “see what he was like.” In John 6:44, Jesus says “no one can come to me unless the Father draws Him.”  The tug that Zacchaeus felt inside was the grace of God drawing him to his Son.  Chances are that God wished to draw others to come out into the street and see the Savior of the world.  But many probably were just too busy. For them it was just business as usual. -Dr. Marcelino D’Ambrosio

Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was and he set out to find Him. He did not let obstacles (his height, crowds filled with people who didn’t like him) stop him. He finds a solution and isn’t deterred by the obstacles- he literally goes up a tree to find Jesus. Zacchaeus searches for Jesus and finds Him- and his act of faith changes everything.

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Isaiah 45

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. (Luke 19:5-6)

Zacchaeus stopped what he was doing, determined to see Jesus, and let nothing stand in his way. He climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus- and when he did Jesus stopped and called Zacchaeus by name. Jesus knew who Zacchaeus was, and called him by name!

Of all the places that Jesus could stay, Jesus chooses to stay with Zacchaeus- a broken man, someone who the locals do not like, no one that would help Jesus’ image. But Jesus isn’t concerned with image- Jesus is concerned with Zacchaeus.

Our past failures never prevent God’s willingness or ability to use us. In fact, our weakness is a great opportunity for the display of His glory. In our own strength, we are totally ineffective. But when we submit to the Lord’s authority, we can experience His victory in whatever He calls us to do. -Dr. Charles Stanley

I don’t need my name in lights, I’m famous in my Father’s eyes. Make no mistake- He knows my name. -Lyrics from Francesca Battistelli


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 this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19: 5-7)

Have you ever wondered who “All the people” were who muttered? All those people were sinners too, and they were only too eager to cast that title to Zacchaeus. Jesus came for sinners- including Zacchaeus and “all the people”.

“All the people” muttered their judgement- under their breath- characterizing Jesus’s decision to visit Zacchaeus. They are no different from Zacchaeus. Perhaps they were not tax collectors, but they were sinners.

Jesus doesn’t address the crowd, or their muttering- in fact, He does not even acknowledge it. What a lesson to us. There are crowds of mutterers everywhere and we do not need to react to it.

Zacchaeus is not deterred by the crowd or their comments. Zacchaeus does not lash back and exchange insults with the mutterers. In fact, Zacchaeus is motivated by the entire circumstance and that motivation brings about great change.

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus met Zacchaeus right where glory meets with suffering; the hurt and Healer collide.

Romans 3

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 to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)

Zacchaeus sought Jesus, determined to meet Him. Jesus chose to interact with Zacchaeus- He valued him when other did not. Zacchaeus was transformed after meeting Jesus and he was willing to change. Zacchaeus believed. Jesus forgave Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was saved.

Just like we can all relate to Jonah because we have disobeyed God and become angry with God, but know that we can never go so far from Him that He stops loving us or providing for us; we can also relate with Zacchaeus because we are all sinners and we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Zacchaeus is a sinner but he is also a seeker. God loves Zacchaeus despite his sin just as He loves us.  Jesus saves Zacchaeus because He came to save the lost.

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:44)

One Response to Defining your purpose: Zacchaeus, A little man with a big story

  1. Pingback: Lent 2015, Led to the Cross: Lost and Found | Krisi Davis

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