Luke 19:1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus was on his way to the end of his life on earth. He had waited in the north of Galilee for the right time. Jesus seemed to increase his teaching as he traveled toward Jerusalem. Much of the Gospels are a record of the last days of Jesus’ life. Three times Jesus had told his disciples that he would be handed over to the Gentiles, mocked and shamefully treated, beaten and crucified. And he added that he would rise again on the third day. They didn’t understand! The scene that Luke, the Beloved Physician, lays before us is illustrative of the heart of Jesus on his way to the cross.
Time will not allow us to look at all the possible healings and teachings on that journey. Jesus gave them several parables including the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. He also told the story of the dishonest manager and the rich man and Lazarus. Along with the teaching…
Jesus healed along the way. We will look at two examples. First Luke 17:11-19. On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
This is an extraordinary event. Jesus healed 10 men of leprosy. Leprosy is an extremely wicked illness. The skin literally rots on the person’s body. Feeling goes out of the extremities so that the people who have this disease will not notice the rats eating their fingers and toes while they sleep.
The disease is contagious and therefore those who have it were separated from society and not allowed to live near healthy people. As time went by whole colonies of people would band together. The one common factor was the disease. So that among these 10 men one could be a Samaritan.
The Israelites went to the priest as they were instructed by Jesus but the Samaritan turned and came back to Jesus thanking him. That was one example of Jesus healing along the way.
Also Luke 18:35-43. As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Along with the Israelite lepers Jesus had healed a despised Samaritan. And then, as he came near to Jericho, a blind man heard him passing by and cried out to him, “Son of David have mercy on me!” Jesus politely asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” That question was not hard to answer! This man knew where to go for help. He believed that Jesus could give him sight. Jesus commended him by saying, “your faith has made you well.” Immediately, the man could see and he followed Jesus as he went on into the city of Jericho. Matthew adds to this account that on the way out of Jericho Jesus healed two more blind men. It was an exciting trip. Everywhere he went…
The crowds were clamoring to see him. There are many examples of the crowds that gathered around him. In fact, a large company of tax collectors and sinners followed him. Let’s look at Luke 5:27-32. After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Crowds were sometimes a problem to Jesus. A problem that he turned into an opportunity. One time the crowds gathered round him on the sea shore and he had to get into a boat, push away from shore a little ways, in order to teach them. At one point he was going to heal a young girl as the crowds pressed in around him. One of the people who was in that crowd took hold of the hem of his garment and was healed without saying a word. Crowds were an interesting problem for Jesus.
A wealthy tax collector was in this crowd. Jesus often dealt with the wealthy. Lets look in Luke 18:18-23. And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
Just before Jesus came to Jericho and healed the blind man he had met this “ruler”. The man called Jesus “good”. Jesus asked why he called him “good”. Did he mean to say that Jesus was God? Because, “No one is good except God alone.” Jesus challenged the man’s commitment. Did he keep the Commandments? At least all those Commandments that reflect the relationships between people. He firmly asserted that he had kept these all his life. Then Jesus added to his responsibility by instructing him to sell all that he had, give the money to the poor and follow him. The man went away sad because extreme riches had a higher claim on his life than God did.
As Jesus came into Jericho that day he saw another rich man who was ready to “put it down” to follow Jesus. We used to sing a little chorus about, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree. For the Lord he wanted to see”. As we sang this little chorus we would hold her hands out indicating that the “wee little man” was extremely small. I suspect that Zacchaeus was perhaps shorter than 5 feet since that was about the average height of the average man at that time in history. He certainly wasn’t as small as our hands indicated as we sang the chorus. I can just picture Zacchaeus bouncing around in the crowd asking to be let in to see Jesus. The crowd, who thoroughly hated him, refused to give him room. Then, he saw the sycamore tree and rushed ahead of Jesus to climb up onto a limb so he could see this man from Galilee.
Back in 1985, Cherlyn and I, along with Aree, came into Jericho and our guide pointed out the sycamore tree. The one thing for sure is that this was not “the” sycamore tree as they do not live that long. However, for the sake of us pilgrims, it was a sycamore tree that may have grown from seed that came from a tree, that came from a tree, that came from a tree, etc. that was the tree that Zacchaeus went up. Jesus was not taken by surprise nor was he shocked at the actions of this little man. Instead…
Jesus invited himself into that man’s life. Jesus was prepared to pause along the way to Jerusalem. Let’s read Luke 13:31-33. At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’
Notice that it was the Pharisees who had warned about Herod wanting to kill him. This is not the same Herod who wanted him dead at the time of his birth. It would have been his son.
Jesus had a plan, and a time, to get to Jerusalem. Upon arriving in Jericho he was only about 15 miles from his destination. He had time, just as he had planned, to visit with the “wee little man” and his friends, as well as his enemies. I really would like to have a narrative of Jesus’ conversation with Zacchaeus and his dinner guests. Whatever he said…
The crowds did not approve. This had been a perpetual problem for Jesus’ public relations. Let’s look at Luke 15:1-2. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus associated himself with the people who needed him most. And he still does. Zacchaeus’…
Repentance led to restoration. Jesus had made a statement earlier that certainly applied in this case Matthew 11:28-30. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The entire scope of conversion is found in these three verses. Those who will come to him recognizing their great need will receive from him spiritual rest. When they come with the proper heart attitude they will not only come to Jesus but they will take his yoke upon them and learn from him. Real repentance always leads to a changed life. Make no mistake — it is never the other way around!
Zacchaeus was a rich man but his statement of faith seems to imply that he was not dishonest in his work for the Romans. He was able to give away half of his resources to the poor and still be able to restore, four times, anything he might have defrauded anyone of. If there were very many that he had cheated he could not have done that. I suspect that he had cheated no one. His great crime was that he collaborated with the Romans. No doubt, he was a physical descendent of Abraham. Having come to Jesus, he became…
A son of Abraham. Paul explains something about it in Galatians 3:7-9. Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Jesus had been confronted by a group of the Jews who claimed to be “offspring of Abraham” (John 8:31-41). Jesus then said. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.”
Now we see Paul explaining who are sons of Abraham. It is those who come by faith who are the real sons of Abraham.
Jesus concluded his time with Zacchaeus by speaking about…
Seeking and saving the lost. Let’s go back to his discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
God showed his love for the world in the greatest “show and tell” the world has ever seen. God’s love is demonstrated in the fact that he gave his only Son so that the sins of the world could be atoned and those who would put their faith in him could have eternal life.
God does not have to condemn mankind we are born condemned! Then, in our human nature, we sin and fall short of God’s glory! The tragedy of it all is that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead and we are saved. I hope you, each and every one, have made a confession. Or, if you have not done so before, you will confess him now as Lord.
This little story is illustrative of the compassion that Jesus had for all classes. Both the poor and the rich were equally treated by him. Jesus recognized that all had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. He knew that the wages of sin is death. He also knew that in a few days he would pay the price of that sin. I can imagine the disciples looking on in amazement as Jesus called a despised, wealthy, Roman collaborator to his side. There are people all around us today who need to hear the call of Jesus. They will only hear if someone tells them. Will you be one to proclaim the good news? Or are you to be one who will receive the good news and therefore become a child of Abraham by faith?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.