Encounters With Jesus: Zaccheus

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 

Jericho was an important town on a trade route to the east about 15 miles from Jerusalem / Jesus’ final destination.

He could have taken other routes but I believe He chose this one because of the need of one man – Zaccheus.

There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 

He was a tax collector.

Rome appointed a tax collector and gave him an area over which he was in charge of collecting taxes. 

They set the rate or amount that he needed to collect and send to Rome

He collected the taxes …

If he were a just man he could have collected the amount Rome needed and had a sufficient income for himself to live on.

But Rome set the amount and so long as it was forwarded to the government … no other questions were asked thus most tax collectors were greedy extortionists and very unpopular.

Zacchaeus had become not just rich but ‘very rich’ and there was only one way that happened. 

Zacchaeus was a tax collector, very rich and rogue (a dishonest man) …

T.S.  He was also curious.

He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 

Jesus presence had captured not only Zacchaeus’ attention but the attention of a crowd.  This late in Jesus’ ministry everywhere He went there was a crowd.

His fame had spread

… He was the center of all the talk and He had the attention of the people. 

In just a few days when He entered Jesusalem … the crowd would line the road, shout ‘Hosanna’ and throw Palm branches.

T.S.  Zacchaeus was very rich, a dishonest curious man … he was also short.

If he wanted to get eyes on this Man Jesus who was creating such a stir, the best solution was to climb a tree.

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

A sycamore tree was a good choice … similar to a mulberry tree and would have been easy to climb. 

He didn’t need an oak tree, he just needed to see over the crowd.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Jesus stops, looks up and see this rich, short, unpopular, tax collecting rogue of a man and calls him by name and invites Himself to Zacchaeus’ house to be a guest.

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Grumbling … as the crowd saw what Jesus had done …the grumbling started. 

It no doubt started with just a few … it spread throughout the crowd because that is way grumbling works.

OBVIOUSLY disappointed here Jesus goes again … spending time with the likes of tax collectors and sinners!

They were “displeased”

The pious religious types

… the neighborhood busy bodies,

… even people like you and me

… wagging their heads and exercising their tongues

why Jesus would want to spend his time with a dishonest rogue the likes of Zacchaeus.

It is interesting to me that Jesus took the road through Jericho for apparently only one reason, to spend some time with Zacchaeus.

Here begins the story of that simple yet intentional encounter.

Here the curtains are closed … we don’t know how long … we don’t know for sure what they talked about … we know what leads up to the discussion, we will see what follows but we don’t know what Jesus said to Zacchaeus that day … BUT we can speculate

Kingdom talk. 

A talk that centered on Zacchaeus’ spiritual needs.

A talk about the biggest need of all mankind.

The need of a renovated / transformed heart.

As Zacchaeus’ spiritual dimension had been formed by the world he lived in, it was about to be transformed by his encounter with Jesus.

T.S.  Once the private discussion is over … curtain is again drawn back

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Zacchaeus now acts on the belief in the words spoken into his life by Jesus

Zacchaeus stands before Jesus and in the presence of those that followed and makes a two part declaration.

  1. I will give half of my wealth to the poor.
  2. If I have cheated people on their taxes, I will pay them back four time as much.

In their private visit, Zacchaeus had encountered the love of God and once that happens a person is NEVER the same.

He had been driven by a desire … by greed … the want to get more … and came out of their talk overcome with a compassion to give.

Whatever Jesus told him, Zacchaeus trusted Jesus for his future and his life was transformed.

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Jesus declared that Zacchaeus had been a lost soul.  Jesus came to seek him out.

He was lost not because he was destined to end up in the wrong place … he was going to end up in the wrong place he was lost.

He had lived his life for himself … and been quite successful at it!

When he was done talking with Jesus his new desire was not for self but for a life permeated with the knowledge of God … a life lived in God’s presence.

The result was radical change.

T.S. When Jesus comes into a life … things are never the same again.

When Zacchaeus climbed that tree, he had NO idea what was about to happen. 

Some of you today may be like Zacchaeus.  You are here today to get a glimpse of Jesus.  You may be skeptical of His claims, skeptical of Christians, you have come to see who it is people are talking about and what this whole church thing has to do with life.

  • Well let me tell you it has everything to do with living your life.

Decades ago,  I picked up a copy of the NT and began to read about Jesus to see while people were so excited by Him. 

I read it to see what I could learn about Jesus.

I went to a church to hear about Him.

Like Zacchaeus … my life was never the same.  God set me on a new path and transformed my life …

… AND I don’t regret it one bit!


Like Zacchaeus my priorities in life had to be reshuffled.

  • I needed to learn to give
  • I needed to make restitution. (may have been one of the hardest things I have ever done).

I needed to go to people I had sinned against and ask their forgiveness and confess my sins against them.

When salvation comes into a home or a life things change … once you encounter the love of God … things are never the same.

Once Jesus finished His time with Zacchaeus He went on down the road to Jerusalem – to the cross and ultimately His resurrection! 


May we pursue you , Jesus, even as Zacchaeus did so that we may be caught.

We press in so that we may know your heart.

We stay close so that we may be like you.

Loving Lord, grant us …

Purity of heart,

Humility of soul,

Integrity of life,

Love for all.    Amen

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