1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Lk. 19:1-9
And now, finally, we get to Zacchaeus. Notice scripture tells us that Zacchaeus was “the chief among the publicans…” Now, there is a difference between the words “the” and “a”. The Bible does not say that Zacchaeus was a chief among the publicans; no, it says he was the chief. That tells us that he was the top executive among the publicans. In modern times, we would have referred to him as the chairman, the managing director, or the CEO.
You probably are wondering who the “publicans” were. These were the revenue guys. They were the tax collectors. In a sense, these guys control the economy of the land. They are therefore very powerful. Zacchaeus was the CEO of the Roman revenue machinery. By any standards, therefore, he was an extremely powerful man.
The Bible also says that Zacchaeus “was rich”. I certainly haven’t heard of a CEO who is not rich. It is a natural virtue of their position. I don’t know about other countries, but in our country, Tanzania, these revenue guys are the highest paid of any sector within the government. That does not mean that these people necessarily amass all their wealth in legitimate ways. Some don’t, as Zacchaeus owns up in verse 8. But, whether by hook or by crook, Zacchaeus was an extremely rich man.
And now – wonders! – we see this Zacchaeus running. I haven’t heard of a CEO running, unless it is a form of exercise prescribed to him by his personal physician. I very much doubt that even the president of the U.S.A. would cause any corporate executive to run for any reason whatsoever. Such a man or woman has people under him who will run if some running needs to be done. But Zacchaeus ran, and his running had even nothing to do with his occupation. Zacchaeus ran because he wanted to see Jesus!
Then, the Bible says, Zacchaeus found out he would not be able to see Jesus on account of the crowds and because he was short in stature, so he climbed atop a tree. The chief of the publicans climbed atop a tree to see Jesus!
The founding father of our nation, “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere, was a great man by any standards. During his burial, the crowds were so huge that some people had to climb atop trees to see his casket passing by. Needless to say, and with all due respect both to the Word of God and to the men who climbed up the trees, as the Bible says, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” climbed up those trees.
But Zacchaeus did..
Now, lest we get carried away by the physical aspect of this story, let us realize that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus for a completely different reason than a physical one. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus because something burned in his heart. He had a hunger and thirst in him that was not physical. There was something troubling him on the inside and he somehow knew – or hoped – that Jesus could meet his need.
And Jesus, when He had arrived at the place where Zacchaeus was, the Bible tells us that
“… he looked up, and saw him”.
When the Bible says that Jesus “saw him”, it is not talking in the natural. It is saying that Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the Spirit. He saw right into Zacchaeus’ heart and He saw the hunger there. And right away Jesus knew He had a work to do. How so wonderful! When God meets a willing and ready heart, He ceases all His programs and focuses all His attention on that particular heart. The Bible says:
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9)
Jesus therefore looked up and told Zacchaeus,
“Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”
Some people thought that Jesus wanted to go and have a nice meal at rich Zacchaeus’ house. But Jesus had never had a food agenda. He was after Zacchaeus’ soul.
Upon meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus discovered he had found the one thing that could assuage the hunger in his heart. He had found true riches. So much so that he was ready to sacrifice all his earthly possessions. Having made up his mind, he stood up and declared:
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
Some things are not written in the Bible, but I believe Jesus must have been wiping the tears from His eyes upon hearing this man’s words. Unlike the rich young ruler that we read of in Luke chapter 18, Zacchaeus had given up all his worldly possessions to the end that he might gain Christ, that he might gain life, and eternal riches.
At which Jesus declared:
“This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”
By lowering himself and casting away his pride, rich and powerful Zacchaeus had “cast his bread upon the waters” and now he had finally found it (Eccl. 11:1). There is a price to pay for our salvation. The price begins with a humble heart. We cannot bribe God with any amount of money, or any amount of singing or ministry. God looks upon the heart, the humble heart. For the humble man or woman, God will stop everything and do a work in that man or woman.
And, pray, need we state the end product of a heart upon which the Lord Jesus Christ has worked?