Zacchaeus, was a Jew, detested by his countrymen for being a publican. His position and riches were the reward of a work they hated, and carried out by injustice and extortion. Among the publicans, there was a confederacy, so that they could oppress the people, and sustain one another in their fraudulent practices.
The publicans openly disregarded God’s instruction in Leviticus. This instructions stated, “‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit” (Leviticus 25:35-37, 17).
Yet, this rich customs officer was not completely the heartless man of the world that he seemed. Under the guise of worldliness, there was a heart sensitive to God. He had a sincere desire for change and transformation.
His Encounter With Jesus
Zacchaeus had probably heard of Jesus and he yearned for a better life. John the Baptist had preached at the Jordan, and Zacchaeus probably had heard of the call to repentance. John’s instruction to the publicans taught, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you” (Luke 3:13). Though outwardly ignored, this instruction had touched the publican’s heart and he realized that he was a sinner before God.
So, when the news sounded through Jericho that Jesus was entering the town. Zacchaeus wanted to see Him. But because the streets were crowded, Zacchaeus, who was short of stature, climbed a wide-branching fig tree to see the procession of Jesus and His followers.
Suddenly, just beneath the fig tree, a group halted and Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). Then, the multitude gave way, and Zacchaeus gladly led the way toward his own home. But the rabbis murmured in discontent and scorn, “that He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:6).
Zacchaeus had been overwhelmed by the love and condescension of Christ in stooping to him, who was so unworthy. Now love and loyalty to his new-found Master opened his lips. And he made a public confession of his repentance. In the presence of the multitude, “Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19: 8).
No repentance is real that does not make a change in life. The righteousness of Christ and His grace is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the convicting the principles of heaven. The Lord instructed, “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; . . . none of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: . . . He shall surely live” (Ezekiel 33:15, 16).
Then, Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). Not only was Zacchaeus himself blessed, but all his household with him. Zacchaeus had received Jesus, not merely as a passing guest in his home, but as One to abide in his heart. And thus, he became a child of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).
Zacchaeus illustrated the power of the grace of God. When the rich young ruler turned away from Jesus, the disciples marveled at their Master’s saying, “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” So, they exclaimed one to another, “Who then can be saved?” But now they had a demonstration of the truth of Christ’s words, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Mark 10:24, 26; Luke 18:27). In the story of this publican, they saw how, through the grace of God, a rich man could enter into the kingdom.
In His service,