83. Saving Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson Other online lessons from Luke | Lessons in book format Free Email Bible Study on Jesus and the Kingdom of GodTextLuke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; hewas a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short manhe could not, because of the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him,since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. Imust 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. " But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of mypossessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times theamount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son ofAbraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." A Readers Theater of this passage for 3 readers (www.jesuswalk.com/rt/rt-zacchaeus.htm) A short story about Zacchaeus healing, "Standing Tall" (www.joyfulheart.com/jesus/zacheas.htm)ExpositionThis final event in Lukes long section detailing Jesus ministry on the road to Jerusalem ends with thestory of Zacchaeus. It sums up several of the themes that Luke has developed, including who maybecome disciples and how discipleship should affect their lives. It concludes with Jesus the GreatShepherd, seeking and saving the lost.Passing through Jericho (19:1)"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through." (19:1)Jesus has no plans to stay in Jericho. But it lies on the way to his final destination -- Jerusalem. Thewords "passing through" translate the Greek word dierchomai, "go or travel through."Zacchaeus, the Wealthy Tax Collector (19:2-4)Luke, the storyteller, first introduces the chief character, Zacchaeus, and then goes back to Jesus who isentering the city. This quick shift of scenes helps the reader get acquainted with Zacchaeus so that thefull significance of the story is appreciated at its climax.
"A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wantedto see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead andclimbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way." (19:2-4)We meet a small man, too short to see over the crowd. His name is Zacchaeus, an abbreviation ofZechariah, meaning "the righteous one" -- a big name to live up to.The name is incongruous for Zacchaeus, since he is the chief tax collector in Jericho, and tax collectorswere notorious for cheating the general public to fatten their pockets. They would assess a tax, and ifthe person refused to pay or called it unfair, Herods soldiers would threaten him. Regions of a kingdomwould be divided up into districts, and a tax collector would become responsible for collecting a certainamount of tax and passing it up the chain to the government. Whatever he collected over the amountrequired was his to keep. A chief tax collector would employ tax collectors under him to collect taxes invarious parts of the district.As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus is probably was responsible for collecting tolls on goods coming intoJudea from Perea, a main trade route. This business has made him rich. The word for "wealthy" isGreek plousios, "pertaining to having an abundance of earthly possessions that exceeds normalexperience, rich, wealthy. " But despite his riches, or perhaps because of them, Zacchaeus is hatedby the people. They see him as a crook and a traitor, who works as a spy for the Roman oppressors inorder to take their money and give it to the occupation government, and on to Rome.Zacchaeus is short, wealthy, and hated. But he is also curious. He hears that Jesus is coming throughtown and is determined to see him. The word "wanted" (NIV) or "sought" (KJV) is Greek zeteo, "todevote serious effort to realize ones desire or objective, strive for, aim (at) try to obtain, desire, wish(for). " One evidence of his earnestness and purpose is the fact that he runs ahead to where heknows Jesus will pass. The words "ran ahead" translate Greek protrecho, "outrun, run on ahead." Hefinds a large tree, and therein establishes a reconnaissance outpost where he will be able to see Jesuswithout attracting unwanted attention. The sycamore-fig tree (Ficus sycomorus) is a robust evergreentree that grows to about 40 feet (12 meters) high, with branches spreading in every direction. Theirmany branches make them easy to climb. It is springtime, and new leaves have appeared among theold foliage on the tree. Zacchaeus is ready.Jesus Invites Himself to Dinner (19:5-6)"When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus come down immediately. Imust stay at your house today. So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly." (19:5-6)I am always fascinated when I read this. Jesus is walking along, mobbed by townspeople. But all of asudden he looks up and sees Zacchaeus in the tree above him and stops. Does he know hell findZacchaeus in the tree that day? We dont know. It wouldnt surprise me. And more remarkable, he callsZacchaeus by name. Does he know Zacchaeus name ahead of time, or does he pick it up from angrywhispers in the crowd about the man Jesus was peering up at.Now he calls out to Zacchaeus by name: "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at yourhouse today." The word translated "immediately" (NIV) or "make haste" (KJV) is Greek speudo, "hurry,hasten." Jesus is not content to make an appointment for later. Now is the time. The phrase "muststay" (NIV) or "must abide" (KJV) is interesting. It uses the Greek word dei, "to be under necessity ofhappening, it is necessary, one must, one has to, denoting compulsion of any kind." "Stay" or"abide" is Greek meno, "remain, stay," often in the special sense "live, dwell, lodge."Jesus says he "must" come to dinner! Now! Immediately! We might think of this as presumptuous andrude. But Zacchaeus is overjoyed. Here he was, a social outcast being offered the opportunity to hostone of the most famous men in the country. Of course, he is happy. He scrambles down the tree andwelcomes Jesus. The word "welcome" is Greek hupodechomai, "to receive hospitably, receive, welcome,entertain as a guest. "
Jesus isnt the first prophet to be sent by God to an individual who would feed him. God tells Elijah theProphet:"Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supplyyou with food." So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gatheringsticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" Asshe was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread." (1 Kings 17:9-11)Jesus has invited himself for dinner at this mans home. Out of hunger? No. But because he knowssomething about the desire and earnestness in this mans heart. Jesus can see that he is wealthy. Hisclothes betray that easily. Be he can also see the mans longing and his faith. Jesus has spiritual sight.Ive had experiences in preaching where I knew without anyone telling me the people with whom Godwas working during the message. Perhaps it could be explained by subtle body language, but I believethat God was showing me certain people who he was working with. Now, I havent always had thisinsight -- not by any means. But I know it exists. And I believe that is what Jesus has that day inJericho; it accounts for him inviting himself to Zacchaeus home for dinner. Elijahs presence isinstrumental in feeding the destitute widow and her son. Jesus presence is responsible for providingsalvation and forgiveness to a wealthy man who is starving for spiritual life.Guest of a Sinner (19:7)But Jesus choice of dinner companions didnt make him popular in Jericho."All the people saw this and began to mutter, He has gone to be the guest of a sinner. " (19:7)The word "mutter" is Greek diagogguzo, "complain, grumble (aloud)." Arent you glad that Jesusloves you whether or not others approve? Perhaps the people are jealous that the honor of Jesuspresence goes to such an unworthy citizen. And perhaps they think less of Jesus for associating withpeople like Zacchaeus.Zacchaeus Repents (19:8)"But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessionsto the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."(19:8)Look at Zacchaeus reaction to the criticism and shame he is bringing on his guest. First, he stands up,indicating probably that he had fallen to his knees before Jesus. Next, he offers to give half hispossessions to the poor. The rich young ruler (who evidently was richer than Zacchaeus) has troubledisposing of his wealth, but not Zacchaeus. In one stroke he pledges half his possessions to help thepoor. 50% of ones possessions goes far beyond the 20% that might be considered generous by therabbis. Here is a fledgling disciple who does not love money, but has his priorities in the right place.Finally, he offers restitution to any he has wronged -- four times the amount he cheated them. OurEnglish translation "if I have cheated anybody" might indicate that Zacchaeus isnt taking responsibilityfor cheating, and making it only hypothetical. The verb translated "cheated" is sukophanteo, whichmeans "to secure something through intimidation, extort. " This conditional clause doesnt put indoubt the fact of the extortion, only its extent. Marshall translates it, "From whomsoever I havewrongfully exacted anything...."It is wonderfully refreshing to see such repentance by a man who realizes that his life must change or itwill bring discredit upon his guest. These days it is common to see people wearing a cross -- the symbolof Jesus death for our sins -- and be involved with all kinds of sin and degradation. King David, whocommitted adultery, murder, and deceit, was heartbroken when the Prophet Nathan reminded him, "Bydoing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt..." (2 Samuel 12:14). It is so
vital to repentance that we recognize, as David did, that "Against you , and you only, have I sinned anddone what is evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:4). Our sins against others discredit the God with whom weidentify ourselves, and we owe him a huge apology.Zacchaeus acts of repentance were both genuine and required if he is to remove from Jesus the shameof associating with him. Isnt it wonderful that Jesus takes our shame upon himself willingly, waiting,hoping that we will understand and repent. What grace! What mercy! Love changes people. Jesus lovechanges us. Our love for others can bring change to them.Son of Abraham (19:9)"Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son ofAbraham. " (19:9)Now Jesus moves to reconcile Zacchaeus with the townspeople who despise him. They view taxcollectors as worse than infidels, banish them from their synagogues, and disown them as Jews. ButJesus insists that Zacchaeus has received salvation (Greek soteria). His actions evidence repentance, achange of heart. And Jesus reaffirms that Zacchaeus is indeed a Jew, a son of Abraham. He calls on themans neighbors to welcome and accept him.Seeking the Lost (19:10)"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (19:10)The final passage of this section of Lukes Gospel contains Jesus mission -- that of a Shepherd, to seekand to rescue the lost and straying. It is a servants role. There is little glorious about this kind of work.It may look spectacular in mass meetings where the converted stream from the stadium seating to aplace of repentance on the infield, but it involves working with slimy people who have committedgrievous sins and whose lives are both miserable and misery-filled.Those people are in our churches, in our neighborhoods, at our jobs, in our schools -- hurting peoplewhose lives are messed up and who need Jesus mercy and grace. These people need our willingness tolove them rather than judge them, our willingness to go out of our way to extend ourselves in love.Lessons for DisciplesI see a number of lessons in this story for modern-day disciples: 1. No one is beyond redemption and repentance, even those whom we see as gross sinners. They are all susceptible to sensing Jesus love for them. 2. Love changes people. Acceptance and openness which were Jesus modus operendi and must become ours, too. 3. We disciples must not be overly concerned about tarnishing our reputation. Yes, we are to be wise and discrete and avoid the appearance of evil. But we must not be more concerned about ourselves than we are for the lost. We need to be willing to take the shame of their sin upon us, as it were, so that we might bring Jesus love to them. 4. Our Masters mission is active, not passive. He doesnt wait for people to come to him. He actively seeks the lost in order to save them. 5. God can give us both natural and supernatural insights into people so that we might help them. 6. Our ministry to others may require a boldness, an edginess that calls on us to invite ourselves for dinner if that is what is required. 7. Disciples of Jesus are no longer enamoured with money, but with Jesus and his righteousness.Perhaps you can see some more lessons. In this story I see Jesus as the Great Shepherd, relentlesslyseeking and relentlessly saving one lost person after another. And you and I are his assistants, hisdisciples, his co-workers. His mission is our mission. His clients are our clients. His sorrows, our sorrows.
And the joy in Jesus eyes as he watches an enthusiastic, short sinner, scramble down from a tree and bechanged in an instant into a saint -- that joy, too, is ours to share.PrayerJesus, as I read about Zacchaeus, I think of my own selfishness. Sometimes I am impatient with people,despairing of people for whom you died. Forgive me for my lack of vision. Help me to see you at work inpeople around me. Help me to be willing to risk whatever reputation I have to join in your search andrescue campaign. I long to see your salvation shine more brightly through me. In your holy name, Ipray. Amen.Key Verse"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10) All 120 lessons now compiled as a 808-page e-book and paperback. Get your copy for easy referenceQuestions 1. What do we learn about Zacchaeus in verses 1-4? Limiting yourself to these verses, what do you know about Zacchaeus? About his life, his hopes, his desires? 2. Why do the townspeople despise Zacchaeus so much? 3. How do you think Jesus knew Zacchaeus name? By divine knowledge? From the bystanders? 4. Why do you think Jesus said that he MUST stay at Zacchaeus house that very day? What risk did Jesus take in doing this? What were the implications of this action to the bystanders? To Zacchaeus? 5. Which aspects of Jesus ministry to Zacchaeus seem to motivate him the most? (1) Jesus love and acceptance? (2) Jesus reputation? (3) Zacchaeus consciousness of his sinfulness? Others? 6. How does our cynicism about people keep us from presenting Christ to them? Can we be open and loving without being vulnerable and overly trusting? Whats the balance? How do we achieve this? 7. Which shepherd role does Jesus comment on in this passage? (19:10) In what ways can his disciples be involved in this role?ReferencesCommon Abbreviations www.jesuswalk.com/faq/abbreviations.htm 1. BDAG 244. 2. Marshall, p. 696. 3. Otto Michel, "telones," TDNT 8:88-105, especially pp. 97-99.