ZACCHAEUS IN A TREE
cchaeus was the head tax collector for Rome n the city of Jericho. In such an appointment it was easy to commit fraud even unintentionally. The temptations to enrich himself at the expense of others were abundant. As long as he collected the quota set by Rome, any additional money he collected belonged to him. When tax collectors met the demands of Rome, it was not uncommon for them to add a surcharge with which to line their own pockets. However, there is no evidence in scripture that he was a dishonest tax collector.Some are of the opinion that he was not as honest, fair, and generous as he claimed to be. In the days of Jesus the Jews had an intense hatred for tax collectors and even moreso for Jews who served as tax collectors for Rome. None of us like to pay taxes.
I read about a promotional contest that Northwest Airlines had several years ago. The prize was the use of an entire Boeing 727 Jet for a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which promised airline transportation home and three nights in a luxury hotel for ninety-three people. You could take your relatives, co-workers, church group or your neighbors. It sounded like a geat deal, except, for one thing. The prizes in such contests constitute taxable income. The winner of the Northwest promotion would be forced to cover the taxes on the value of the tickets and rooms used by each of their friends or family he took along. If the winner made use of the full value of the prize, he would add $50,000 to his taxable income for that year. What finally happened? The winner skipped the free trip and took a cash settlement. No one likes to pay taxes, but we don't have to hate tax collectors as people did in the time of Jesus.
t Whatever the character of Zacchaeus, it would appear that he was not a happy man. But this is not surprising, for many rich people have not found happiness. Among His many travels in Palestine, Jesus one day entered and passed through the city of Jericho, which was the hometown of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a wealthy man, and he was despised by others. The Jews literally hated tax collectors.A number of admirers and His followers were gathered around Jesus on that day as they passed through the city. Zacchaeus received word that Jesus was in town, and he had heard that Jesus had power to cast out demons, heal the lame and blind, and heal all kinds of diseases.
For reasons not stated Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, perhaps just to see what He looked like or maybe to see one of His miracles performed. but he knew Jesus was a Jew, and if He was ike other Jews He was sure He would have a low opinion of him. So he wanted to keep a low profile and keep out of view among the spectators. However, he ran into a terrible problem. He had short, short legs. He was built close, close to the ground. He wasn't midget, but he didn't have much height. He was a sawed-off kind of man. Sometimes people feel discriminated against by nature because they are too tall or too short or they come from a disadvantaged family or because of their race, or for a host of other ridiculous reasons that have nothing to do their ability or character. Most us accept this and take it as a part of life, but some let it get the best of them, and it makes them miserable. When Zacchaeus joined the crowd to see this famous teacher in Israel, the crowd was so great, and he was so short of stature, there was no way he could even get a look at Jesus. But that did not stop him. He ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up into a Sycamore tree, and waited for the party to pass directly below him. Kids have loved the song inspired by this happening. It goes like this: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up into a Sycamore tree to see what he could see.” That's what he did, and he was just waiting for Jesus to come by, and he was sure no one would ever know he was up in that tree. It seems to me that it was somewhat comical for Zacchaeus, one the most well-to-do people in Jericho, clinging on to that Sycamore tree sstretching his neck to see Jesus. Even worse than that, the procession came toward the tree and stopped directly under him.
The most surprising thing in this story is not that Zacchaeus was up in a tree to get a look at Jesus Jesus, it was that Jesus knew of his desire and saw the effort he made just to see Him. Jesus had already seen Zacchaeus. He could not see Christ as he tired to push his way into the crowd but Jesus saw him. Jesus saw Zacchaeus befoe He ever came Jericho. In all probability , Zacchaeus was the principal reason He came to Jericho. The first thing Jesus did when He arrived under the very spot where Zacchaeus was holding on to the tree, He looked up and said, “ Zacchaeus.” He called his name.
It would not have ssurprised me if he would have fallen out of that tree. Jesus had never seen him before. How could He know his name? Here is a prominent public figure, with the most hated job in town looking ridiculous, a grown man of wealth, up in in a sycamore tree–and Jesus knows his name. However, Jesus knows the names of many people; He knows the names of all people whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life. I read of an old ministe who was dying. A young man who was also who came to visit him and offered to read to him from he scriptures. When he asked for the scripture he would like to hear read, the said the old man said, “Please read the first chapter of I Chronicles, The young man read the chapter, but it was a difficult chapter to read. Chapter 1 of Chronicles consists primarily of Hebrew names. It was hard work pronouncing two hundred fifty unfamiliar names in the fifty-four verses. The old minister listened to every name. When it was finished, he uttered a fervent Amen. He said, “Thank you my son; that was so comforting.” The young man was frankly puzzled. “Please tell me,” he said, “What is so comforting about that chapter. “Ah,” said the old minister “just to think that God knew them all my name.” God never forgets names, and He will not forget our name if we walk with Him through this life.
Not only did Jesus call this tax collector by name, Zacchaeus was even more shocked when Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today.” In effect the Lord said, “Zacchaeus, get down out of that tree, I am going to your house today. “ It also shocked the multitude around him and most likely it shocked the apostles. Jericho was one of the cities of the priests, but Jesus sayed with none of the priests. Rather, He requested to lodge for the night with one whose life occupation was so hateful to the Jewish religious world. The Master recognized in his intense eagerness to get a sight of Him that it was in the chief publican's house where His Father's business was for Him that day in Jericho. Please notice the words, “They all murmered.” That showed the general intense Jewish spirit of the age. The people could not imagine any goodness, religious interest or generosity in one who served the detestable Roman power. When he finally got down and stood before Jesus, he made a statement that no believed except Jesus. He said, “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.” I do not think for a moment that he was lying, bragging or trying to impress Jesus. What he said did not refer to a future purpose, but they speak of a past rule of his life which he had set for himself to follow, and probably had followed for a long period. He knew Jesus understood what a difficult job he had and sympathized with him. I like the words of a commentator who paraphrased his words like this, “He whom you have thought good to choose as Your host is not, as some allege, a being unworthy of Your choice. Though I am a tax collector, it is with no ill-gotten gain with which I will entertain You.” And entertain Him, he did. Jesus knew he was an honest man, even though he made his living in a very tempting and difficult occupation. One of the unforgettable truths that come to us from this story
is an assurance to the world that men might work in any profession, and at the same time live a life pleasing to God. If Zacchaeus could do it, everyone can do it. Furthermore, another valuable lesson that comes from this striking scene is that it is never the work or the position in life which ennobles the man in the sight of God, but it is only the way in which the work is done and the position is used. which are of great price in the sight of God.
One more thing should be noted about Zacchaeus. Jesus had alrready honored him greatly by inviting Himself to a night's stay in his home. The greatest honor of all ame to him when Jesus said,”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 save what was lost.” The salvation that Zacchaeus received was the forgiveness of sins which restored him as a Jew to the favor and grace of God. under the law of Moses. Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost. Most of the entire nation of Israel was lost in the days of Jesus and needed to be restored to God's favor. Jesus also said that Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham, that is, a true son of Abraham. Here was a Jew who was doing his best to keep the ten commandments, obey the law of Moses, and live in a way that pleased God. However, all Jews had sinned and had fallen short of the glory of God. Zacchaeus had made his mistakes and had failed to completely live as Moses commanded. Thus he needed forgiveness, restoration and acceptance with God. Under the law of Moses Jews were already the children of God, but they wandered away from God and became lost. While Jesus lived on earth, His work was restore Jews who needed to be brought back to God. The Old Testament church needed to be restored to God. Jesus restored this man, and God looked down on him with mercy.
Finally, I wonder what happened to Zacchaeus. Did he pass away before the Christian religion replaced the Christian religion? If he did, I believe he died a saved man. Was he still alive after Christ nailed the law of Moses to His cross, and gave the world a brand new religion founded on the sacrificial death of Christ for the sins of the world? If so, he was under command by Christ to become a Christian. If he refused to become a Christian and live by the law of Christ, he became a transgressor of the new law of God; and he lost his favor with God. All faithful Jews to the law of Moses were under the same requirement. All devout Jews who refused to become Christians became transgressors of God's new law and lost their hope of going to heaven. Whether Zacchaeus foundit in his heart to become Christian, no one knows, but I sincerely hope he did. All that happened on that day in Jericho was a blessing bestowed by Christ on a Jew who lived under the law of Moses. Thousands of Jews became Christians in the first century, and their reward will be eternal life in heaven. All Jews who refused to become Christians, then and now, are transgressors of Christian law, and God no longer accepts them as His chosen people. They have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. The are sadly going about trying to establish their own righteousness but have not submitted themselves to the righteousness God planned for them and the Gentiles. The only law God has had for two thousand years is the law of Christ, God's divine Son. The only chosen people God has had since 33 A.D. are Christians. Three thousand Jews coverted to Christianity on the birthday of the Church of Christ, 33 A.D. All Jews today must confvert to Christianity, as thousands and thousands of their fellow Jews did in the first century. Moreoer, all people in the ten or twelve reiligons in the world must also convert to Christianity in order to go to heaven. If all people in the Jewish religion must convert to Christianity to be saved, it is necessarily implied that all other religions must convert Christianity or they cannot go to heaven. Jesus made this truth clear when He said, "No one can come to the Father but by Me."