Although Zacchaeus stood only shoulder-high among most of the Jews in Jericho where he lived, he held a very important position. He was a chief tax collector for the Romans, who ruled his country by force. Publicans, as these tax collectors were called, often charged more taxes than they should and kept the extra for themselves. This practice had caused the people to hate all tax collectors. Zacchaeus had become very rich cheating his countrymen this way.
Perhaps, as Zacchaeus walked by the Jordan River one day, he stopped to listen to John the Baptist preach about Jesus. He may have heard John tell the tax collectors to be honest and collect only what was due. Zacchaeus must have thought a lot about John’s words.
One day, when Zacchaeus was on his way to work, he found the streets of Jericho crowded with people. He could hardly move along. “Jesus is coming!” he heard someone shout. “Coming right through town!”
“I must see Him,” Zacchaeus muttered to himself. He pushed his way through the crowd to get a glimpse of Jesus, but he was so short he couldn’t find a spot where he could see what was happening.
Perhaps he dashed down a side street to get ahead of the crowd, be-cause the Bible tell us, “He ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him for He was going to pass that way.”
Zacchaeus now had a perfect view of the approaching crowd. He could see Jesus calmly walking along in the midst of the noisy mob. He had never seen such a kind face, so full of peace and love.
Jesus could read the thoughts of those in the crowd that day. He knew how the people hated the Romans. He knew how they felt about tax collectors. He realized that most of them were following Him out of curiosity. But He also could tell that there were some who really wanted to live a better life. He knew Zacchaeus had been thinking about John’s teaching and wanted to change.
When Jesus reached the tree where Zacchaeus perched, He stopped and looked up, right into the eyes of Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus,” He called, “make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
What a surprise! Jesus knew his name and wanted to come home with him! Zacchaeus could hardly believe his ears! The little man quickly climbed down from the tree and joyfully led the way to his house. He heard the people murmuring against Jesus as they walked along. “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner,” they grumbled.
Zacchaeus had already decided to start making things right, but of course the people did not know that. He hurned to tell Jesus, “Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
“Look at this publican trying to be-come an honest man,” someone in the crowd sneered.
The hateful looks didn’t go away, but Zacchaeus forgot all about them when he heard Jesus say, “This day is salvation come to this house.” He was experiencing the happiness that comes when Jesus forgives sin. First Zacchaeus had recognized and confessed that he was doing wrong. He believed Jesus was God’s Son and he accepted Jesus’ forgiveness. Then he felt like turning from his wrong-doing and correcting his mistakes as best he could. He accepted Jesus’ salvation and loved Him with all his heart.
These are the same ways we find salvation today. All we have to do is say, “Jesus, I have done wrong and I am sorry. Please forgive me and help me to do better. I believe that You are the Son of God. I love You and I want You to live in my heart. I accept Your love and Your forgiveness and Your salvation.
Then Jesus takes away our sin, cleanses us and gives us His righteousness and salvation.
What was done for Zacchaeus that day in Jericho can be done for each of us today. Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne.”
Will you open the door of your heart to Jesus this very day, seek His forgiveness, and accept His salvation? Then you, too, will feel the joy that was in the heart of Zacchaeus as he welcomed Jesus long ago.
The story of Zacchaeus is only found in Luke’s Gospel. As you read it in the 19th chapter, verses 1 to 10, try to picture in your mind the way it happened. (Luke 19:1-10)
David wrote words in Psalm 51:10 that express what Zacchaeus might have said when he accepted Jesus. This Treasure Chest Verse says,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10