Think of the ripple effect. People getting paid back, changed people, changed community.
I’ll bet many of you remember the story of Zacchaeus. If you went to Sunday school as a child, I’m pretty sure you would have heard about him. In fact, I can remember a song we used to sing in Sunday school about Zacchaeus. Do you remember? I wonder why this story is confined to pre-school. I think we should take another look. If you need a refresher, read the story in Luke 19: 1-10.
Zacchaeus lived in Jericho. In Jesus’ day, Herod the Great had built a winter palace there as well as an impressive garden, so Jericho would have been a pretty wealthy place. We remember that Zacchaeus was a tax collector, but he was really more than that. Notice in verse 2, “…he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” He would have been in charge of many tax collectors working for him. We don’t know how he got that prestigious position, but he was clearly a wealthy, powerful man in that community.
As Jesus approached the city, Zacchaeus wanted to see Him. Maybe Zacchaeus had heard some of the stories about Jesus, or perhaps he knew of the calling of Matthew, a tax collector. But, as Jesus approached, Zacchaeus found himself in the back of the crowd and couldn’t see. I think it was more than just the fact Zacchaeus was a short man. As a tax collector, he would not have been very popular. I can imagine him trying to squeeze through the crowd and being blocked. So, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a good view. When I heard this part of the story as a young boy, I never gave it a second thought. Climbing a tree was a good idea. That’s what I would have done. Now try to imagine a person that had the stature in Jericho that Zacchaeus had climbing a tree. Wouldn’t it be great if we all showed that amount of desire and determination when seeking knowledge about Jesus?
When Jesus saw him, He said, “…Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Not only did Jesus know his name, He knew his state of mind! Earlier in the Book of Matthew, Jesus healed a paralytic, and forgave his sins, some of the teachers of the law accused Jesus of blasphemy. “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9: 4) Later, Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking Him a question about paying taxes. “But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘you hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?’” (Matthew 22: 18)
Jesus would go with Zacchaeus. This caused the people in the crowd to begin to grumble. They were shocked Jesus would go to the home of a tax collector, and not one of the religious leaders. Zacchaeus proclaimed he would give half his wealth to the poor and if anyone had been cheated by a tax collector Zacchaeus would repay him four times the amount. “Jesus said to him, ‘today salvation has come to this house…” (vs. 9) There is nothing in the story that suggests Zacchaeus was less than honest. His salvation is not a money issue, but a change of heart issue. I can imaging Zacchaeus’ response stunned the crowd, and in verses 9 and 10, Jesus confirms Zacchaeus was being authentic and Jesus reminds them (us) of His mission. Think of the ripple effect. People getting paid back, changed people, changed community. That’s the power of grace. That’s a miracle.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.