A Walk through the Book of Luke
Luke 19: 1-10
Zacchaeus, the Tax Collector
Here’s an Old English poem by Francis Quarles that addresses Zacchaeus’ reaction to Jesus calling him down from the tree.
It’s written in Old English, but I believe you’ll understand the gist of it.
Methinks I see, with what a busy haste
Zacchaeus climbed the tree. But oh, how fast,
How full of speed, canst thou imagine, when
Our Savior called; he powdered down again!
He ne’er made trial if the boughs were sound
Or rotten, nor how far ’twas to the ground.
There was no danger feared: at such a call,
He’ll venture nothing that dare fear a fall.
Needs must he down, by such a spirit driven;
Nor could he fall unless he fell to heaven.
Down came Zacchaeus ravished from the tree:
Bird that was shot ne’er dropped so quick as he.
In today’s story, we find Zacchaeus up in the Sycamore tree. Jesus sees him and tells him to come down because He wants to stay at his home.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So, he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
So, Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ home. Then something surprising happens. This wealthy tax collector that the people despised stands up. He tells Jesus, and everyone present that he was giving half his possessions to the poor. He also states that he would reimburse anyone he’s ever cheated (He must have kept some detailed books). Additionally, Zacchaeus announces that he would repay four times the amount of money he had defrauded from people.
Talk about a “Come to Jesus moment!”
Then Jesus announces, “That salvation has come to this house.”
The best way to understand Jesus’ reaction to what Zacchaeus said and did, is to look back at Luke 18:18-29.
The Rich Young Ruler
“A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad because he was very wealthy.
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:18-27
There are notable differences between the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus. First, the rich young ruler was unwilling to give up his money, possessions and give to the poor to follow Jesus.
Zacchaeus’ attitude was the exact opposite of the young rulers.
“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Zacchaeus cleaned up his act, didn’t he? He chose the correct path. He was willing to give up most of his riches, right any wrongs he had done financially, and give to the poor.
Zacchaeus understood what Jesus was all about. He was willing to give up his earthly wealth and give to the poor because his salvation was more important than money.
How about you? How well do you share your riches with others?
Who are you more like Zacchaeus or the rich young ruler?
Before you answer that question, ponder Jesus’ words at the end of today’s reading.
“Today salvation has come to this house because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
We all have a choice. What will yours be?