He entered and was passing through Jericho. There was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, and couldn’t because of the crowd, because he was short. He ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” He hurried, came down, and received him joyfully. When they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He has gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner.”
Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.”
Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
The details that God provides us in this story through Luke, causes me to believe that God does have a sense of humor. Here you have a wealthy man that was born short and couldn’t see over the crowds. So, this man, ignoring his appearance, actually climbs a tree next to the path that Jesus was walking on so that he wouldn’t miss Him. When Jesus gets to the tree he stops right there and informs Zacchaeus that He intended to stay at his house that very day.
So you have a picture of a happy little rich man climbing down from a tree as fast as he can next to the road in front of a huge crowd. I am guessing that this looked pretty funny to those who saw it. Obviously, neither Jesus nor Zacchaeus cared at all what it looked like.
I am sure that Zacchaeus was already well aware that he, as a chief tax collector, was considered a “chief of sinners” among the synagogue rulers. It is clear from his actions that he believed that Jesus was for real and different than the Pharisees. The presence of Jesus at his house brought the man to full repentance of his sin. He didn’t just say “I am sorry” but he brought justice to those he wronged and distributed some of his wealth to the poor.
Now, those in the crowd who were self-righteous, failed to see that Jesus was actually saving a sinner rather than becoming one. There is a big difference. It is possible to become a sinner because of who we associate with, but the crowd should have known by now that Jesus was quite different and He wasn’t about to give up any part of His relationship with His Father to party with the tax collectors. He was there to save Zacchaeus.
Notice, also that Jesus brought about justice to those who were abused by Rome. By converting a chief tax collector, some people were about to get a refund. Also, He was feeding the poor at the same time. The complaining section of the crowd judged Jesus far too early to see what He was really doing.
Giving: In this story, we get a view into an appropriate level of giving. Notice that Jesus didn’t require the man to give 100% of all of his wealth to the poor. Zacchaeus actually kept half. Jesus isn’t against saving money. He is against us living selfishly and failing to do the good that He has put into our hearts. He doesn’t expect us to harm ourselves by giving. When you are being pressured to do that, you are probably not hearing from God. Jesus puts within our own hearts the desire to give as He wants us to. If you have made up your mind that you are going to sacrifice joyfully for the Lord, then this is a very good thing.