Here is a recent sermon I taught about a man named Zaccheaus who had an encounter with Jesus. It is a little longer than my normal post, but I think it is worth reading. God bless you as you learn how this despised and hated little tax collector was changed forever! God bless, Dick
How many of you remember learning about Zaccheaus as a child? Do you remember the song about Zaccheaus? “Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he! He climbed up in the sycamore tree to see what he could see!”
This morning we are going to study about Zaccheaus. Even though this is a popular children’s story there are wonderful deep teachings we can learn from in this short story. This is not a parable, but a story about a real man named Zaccheaus.
This is a story of God’s grace and man’s faith and salvation. In this story we see how God loves everyone, and seeks out even the worst of the worst and offers them the free gift of salvation because of God’s extraordinary love for His creation! Let’s read the story.
Luke 19:1-2 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zaccheaus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
Jericho was a very wealthy and important town. It was one of the largest taxation centers in Palestine. A man named Zaccheaus lived there and he was a chief tax collector for a section of Jericho. The chief tax collector leased from the Romans the right to collect taxes. Zacchaeus had leased a section (which was a very wealthy region) of Palestine to collect the taxes for the Roman government. There was a normal commission that the tax collector received for collecting the taxes. But the system made it easy for the tax collector overtax the people and enrich himself. Tax collectors were known for their corruption. As a result, tax collectors were understandably despised and hated by the people and referred to as “sinners.”
But as corrupt as Zaccheaus was, he had a desire to see Jesus. He was curious about Jesus. He wanted to see who he was.
Luke 19:3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.
Zaccheaus had a problem. He was very short and was easily identified as the chief tax collector. He was easily recognized. Because Zaccheaus was hated so much he probably didn’t mingle much in public because there was significant risk involved. However, when Jesus came into town, Zaccheaus wanted to see Him and find out who he was.
The NIV says, “He WANTED to see who Jesus was.”
The KJV says, “He SOUGHT to see who Jesus was.”
The AMPL says, “He was TRYING to see who Jesus was.”
So, we see that Zaccheaus clearly had a strong curiosity about Jesus.
This word “wanted” gives us insight into what was really going on inside of Zaccheaus. This word actually means, “to seek after; specifically to worship God.”
So the meaning of this word gives us insight into the true motive of Zaccheaus. There was a much greater desire to see Jesus than the word “wanted” implies. It was more than a casual or passing interest. Zaccheaus was seeking after Jesus to see who He was for real. God was working in Zaccheaus. Something inside of Zaccheaus was compelling him to see Jesus up close and see for himself who Jesus was.
This “drawing and compelling” of Zaccheaus to see Jesus up close and find out who He was is called GRACE. Grace is God’s divine influence and favor. This is what Zaccheaus was feeling, and what he was responding to. He felt compelled to see Jesus and get close to Him and see for himself who Jesus was.
Grace is the first part of the process of salvation. Grace is what compelled Zaccheaus to seek out Jesus in the first place. Faith is the second part. Faith was the act of seeking that was what Zaccheaus was doing. It is the combination of Grace and Faith that leads to salvation.
Ephesians 2:8 NIV For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.
But for Zaccheaus, demonstrating his faith and seeking to get close to Jesus and find out for himself if Jesus was really the Son of God was a real challenge. It took real courage for him to go out and join in with the people and mingle with the crowd surrounding Jesus. His life of overtaxing the people and getting rich on their backs left him despised and hated.
When he tried to maneuver to the front the front of the crowd to see Jesus, the people shut him out because they despised him. They probably took advantage of the situation and got revenge on him by shoving him, or elbowing him, or stepping on him, or kicking him and in general roughing him us as much as possible.
But this did not stop Zaccheaus. HE was determined to get close enough to see Jesus and find out who He was. This shows us the strength of his desire to see Jesus.
Luke 19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
Let’s consider who Zaccheaus was. He was the chief tax collector with the power of the Roman Empire backing him. He may have been short, but he was an important and powerful man. If you did not pay your taxes he had the power to turn you over to the Roman government for punishment, and this was not a good option. It would have been undignified and perhaps even embarrassing for a man of his station to climb up into a sycamore-fig tree, yet he did what he had to do to see Jesus.
He put aside his position and pedigree and his human pride and humbled himself to see Jesus up close. Zaccheaus was serious about seeking Jesus and finding out who He was. Zaccheaus knew Jesus was special and possibly even the Son of God as Jesus claimed. Zacccheaus wanted to find out who Jesus really was and was willing to take the risks to find out.
Sycamore-fig trees had a short but wide trunk with low branches that grow horizontally. They were shade trees that often grew alongside the road with lots of branches. It was easy for Zaccheaus to climb up this tree and get above the crowd and see and observe Jesus. So, Zaccheaus climbed up the sycamore-fig tree to get a good look at Jesus.
But then Zaccheaus got the surprise of his life!
Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheaus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
Jesus always knows those who are seeking Him. And Jesus always responds to those who seek Him with open arms!
Jesus went right to that tree and looked up and saw this little man and said, “Hey Zaccheaus! Come down here at once! I must stay at your house today!”
What was Jesus doing?
Jesus was demonstrating his divine power! Jesus was telling Zaccheaus that He was indeed the Son of God! Who but the Son of God could reveal what was going on in Zaccheaus’ thoughts and feelings within his heart? Who but the Son of God could know Zaccheaus’ name without ever meeting him? Who but the Son of God could know that Zacccheaus was seeking Him. Who but the son of God could know that Zaccheaus wanted to know if Jesus was really who He said He was?
When Jesus stopped at that tree and called Zaccheaus by name and invited himself over to his house, Zaccheaus KNEW that Jesus was the Son of God! Zaccheaus had a life-changing encounter with Jesus! He believed!!
Notice that Jesus did not invite himself as a “guest” in Zaccheaus home, but Jesus invited Himself to “stay” at his home. What a difference!
The word “stay” means to, “abide, continue and remain in a given place, state, relationship or expectancy.” Jesus was not just talking about dinner with Zaccheaus and staying in his home, but a personal relationship with Jesus, the Son of God!
Luke 19:6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Zaccheaus hustled down the tree and welcomed Jesus to come to his home! Zaccheaus received Jesus’ words with joy and excitement !
The people saw this whole encounter and did not like it because of who Zaccheaus was.
Luke 19:7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”
The people did not like what they saw. They did not see what really happened.
They saw what happened as evidence that Jesus was NOT the Son of God because he went to be the guest of a terrible “sinner”! The people knew what a corrupt man Zaccheaus was. They knew that he collaborated with the Romans. They saw him as a traitor, a treasonous turn-coat. They saw how the hated Romans backed him up as he cheated them out of their money. They saw him as a big-time thief. They saw a man who enriched himself at their expense with no remorse whatsoever, and they gripped and grumbled about Jesus even speaking to such a “sinner” and going to his house.
But something happened to Zaccheaus as he sat in that tree when Jesus invited Himself over to Zaccheaus’ home. Zaccheaus was a NEW man! God had changed him! As Zaccheaus jumped down out of the tree and hit the ground he was already a new man!
He hit the ground and stood up and said some things that astonished the people as he spoke to Jesus.
Luke 19:8 But Zaccheaus 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.
Look at how this NEW RELATIONSHIP with Jesus CHANGED this unlikable, self-absorbed, corrupt, despicable little man! He said to Jesus, LOOK, LORD!! Here I am! And I’m giving HALF of all my possessions to the poor! And for those I cheated out of their money, I will pay back FOUR TIMES THAT AMOUNT.
Wow! The people who knew of Zacchaeus probably could not believe their ears! This was certainly out of character of this corrupt tax collector! Zaccheaus publically committed to give half of his wealth to the poor on the spot and he didn’t stop there.
Normal restitution for a wrong committed was to add twenty percent to the value of the goods lost. But the penalty for theft was four times its value. Zaccheaus was coming clean publically before Jesus and all the people.
He was saying, “I am a sinner! I am guilty of cheating the people! I am a thief! He was saying that he was going to make restitution like a criminal and thief and pay you back four times the value of what he had stolen!
We see a perfect picture of the process of salvation in this story.
We see Zaccheaus being drawn to God by His grace, and we see Zaccchaus’ faith being demonstrated as he sought out Jesus to find out just who Jesus was, and we see Zaccheaus receiving Jesus as his Savior and we see real change in Zaccheaus life!
And what did Jesus say?
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 people hated Zaccheaus and because he was in league with the Romans, and they no longer considered him one of them. He was an outcast. But Jesus told the crowd that “this man, Zaccheaus, was a son of Abraham”, too!
And what was Abraham known for? HIS FAITH!
Zaccheaus did not receive salvation because he was a descendant of Abraham, or because he was a loyal and upright citizen of Israel, but because he had faith in Jesus!
This is what made Zaccheaus a son of Abraham! All true believers are sons of Abraham!
What about you? Are you a little bit like Zaccheaus?
Is God working in you? Is God doing to you what He did to Zaccheaus? Is He drawing you to Him?
Do you want a new life that has purpose and is fulfilling like Zaccheaus did?
If so, then just pray this simple prayer from your heart.
“I am seeking you today, Jesus.
I know you love me.
I know you went to the cross and took my place and died a terrible death for my sins.
I want to do what Zaccheaus did.
I want to confess my sins, and repent of my sins.
And I want you to forgive me of my sins.
Jesus, I want to receive you as my Lord and Savior.
I want to be in your true family forever.
Thank you for saving me today! Amen!”
If you prayed this prayer and God has changed your life like He did Zaccheaus’, contact me on my website, GrowingbigInGod.com and I will send you may book on how to grow in your new relationship with God.