ZACCHEUS – A CHARACTER SKETCH

(cf. Luke 19:1-10)

Zaccheus was really a strange name for a guy who’s a chief tax collector because in Hebrew his name meant ‘the righteous one’. He was the head of the tax collecting district of Jericho, and the religious authorities ostracized him. He made his money on the problems of other people; made them pay exorbitant taxes more than what was due. He worked for the Romans and people hated him for that. It was a very important job though. He was a very influential rich person in his own town. He was a rich man too which was quite obvious, but he really lacks something. You know, you can have all the things the world offers and still not have peace and contentment and satisfaction. I think that we really get duped sometimes into thinking if we just had what someone else had, if we just had their money, their looks, their talent, their mind, their position, you know, the truth is we can have everything the world offers and still be miserable. Jesus is going to try to bring to this man’s longing the answer to his deepest needs, and it’s not things – It’s a personal relationship.

This man was searching for something more in his life. I’m sure he heard that Jesus had called Matthew the tax collector to be one of His disciples. I’m sure he heard that Jesus ate with notorious sinners, and talked to prostitutes, and and embraced lepers. I’m sure he had heard all about Jesus and His love for people, and this man was really curious. This man really had a longing and a need. The Holy Spirit had done His work very well in this man’s life. You know the Bible speaks in John chapter 6 verse 44 and 65, that no one comes to the father unless the Holy Spirit woos them, or draws them. This man had that experience. He was searching for something more. He was looking. He was seeking.

So here is Zaccheus, the rich tax collector atop a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus who was coming through on that street. And Jesus looked up and called him by his name, and says, “I must stay at your house today”. It was a divine appointment indeed. God had arranged it for Jesus and Zaccheus to meet eyeball-to-eyeball. You know, I think there’s more divine appointments in our life than we can imagine. I think God brings believers and non-believers together in predictable ways day after day. I hope that we as Christians can be more sensitive to these divine appointments that are in our lives every day that we often miss. Jesus recognized this, and He had to go this man’s house. Do you know that Jesus going to this notorious sinner’s house would have made Him ceremonially unclean? Jesus is doing something so radical to show His great love for all people.

During His stay at Zaccheus’ place, It doesn’t record what they talked about, but obviously knowing Jesus, He must have talked about the kingdom of God, the fruit of righteousness, the Judgment coming on unrighteous people, and the need to trust God by faith. That message found a home in the heart of Zaccheus, and he begins to respond. It is obvious that this man has responded for these reasons: He confesses his sin. He turns away from it and he makes restitution. He was so grateful to Jesus for bringing salvation to his home. He was giving half of his wealth to the poor, and would pay back four times anybody he had defrauded. This man’s life has been changed. Here is a man who has been confronted with the Person of Christ. An obvious renewal has taken place. Truly the fruit of salvation is a changed lifestyle. Yours may not change radically as this man, because this man had a backlog of problems. Jesus came to deal with those who recognize their needs. Zaccheus didn’t have any problem admitting that he had extorted people. He didn’t have any problem admitting he was a sinner. He had no problem admitting he had needs. Well, the hardest people to talk to about their need for a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ are those who are pretty good people, those who are pretty moral, those who do religious things, those who are kind to their neighbors. You see they don’t have a real sense of need. Jesus came to give help and comfort and peace, and salvation to those who recognize that they had a spiritual need. The prerequisite for salvation really is a sense of need. You don’t need a savior unless you recognize that you’re a sinner. You don’t need someone to find you unless you recognize you’re lost. You don’t need to hear the good news about Jesus until you’ve heard the bad news about you. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the people that are lost and are in need. And certainly, Zacchaeus was one who recognized he had a need, and Jesus satisfied that need by bringing salvation to him and to his household. Later Church tradition, specifically Clement of Alexandria says, Zacchaeus became the bishop of Caesarea in Palestine.