The Expository Files

Jesus Sought Zacchaeus

Luke 19:1-10

“Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I giver half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’” And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost’” (Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus was the hero of this crowd from Galilee as they were on their way to the Passover. But here He had shocked the disciple’s sensibilities and those of the people of Jericho by inviting Himself to be the guest of Zacchaeus: a chief publican who didn’t have the best reputation. This Zacchaeus desired to see Jesus, and although that’s commendable, the idea of it is surpassed by the fact that Jesus wanted to see him!

Not only did Jesus want to see Zacchaeus, he would stay with him as well; for He said, “I must stay at your house today” (v. 5). Why was Jesus looking for Zacchaeus? because “the Son of Man had come to seek and to save that which was lost” (v.10). The crowd all murmured just moments before; they complained that Jesus was going to be a guest with a man who is a sinner! But who else needs salvation other than a sinner?

“Just who is a good prospect for the gospel of Christ?” I have to admit, I find myself culling some prospects out, thinking, “They won't respond.” Perhaps there is a tendency for all of us to exclude those who don't have the same lifestyle as us, or the same moral standards, but who did Jesus consider to be a good prospect? Perhaps in Zacchaeus, we see that He appealed to those whom we wouldn’t consider as “religious minded people.”

Jesus taught this lesson before, as is recorded in Luke 14:12-14: At that time He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” This passage shows that we should reach beyond those we might usually think of as "good prospects."

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who was hated by his own people for reportedly being a thief and for being allied with the Romans. Yet, Jesus saw potential in this man. "And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must stay at your house" (Luke 19:5). Don’t you think that Jesus’ concern paid off? Zacchaeus repented and followed Jesus!

What do we see when we meet people? Do we look first to see whether they are "like us" before we try to teach them the gospel or invite them to the services of the church? Or do we see a soul that needs salvation? Do we simply see them as they are, with sin and immorality, or do we see what they can become? Do we really have faith in the power of the gospel? It is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

What do you see when you meet someone who is not a Christian? Maybe this is the greater lesson of what is recorded in Luke 19. The interesting thing is that the scriptures don’t reveal much about Zacchaeus’ intentions on that day. It simply says that, “he sought to see who Jesus was” (v.3), not necessarily to listen to His teaching, or obtain anything from Him, but merely to see who he was. "What sort of person was this Jesus, about whom there was so much speculation, and after whom such crowds were following?" Curiosity may have been Zacchaeus’ only motive.

Maybe there is one that is just curious to find out more about Jesus, will you hinder their chances to do so? Let us always be people who are diligently seeking God, and let us never be guilty of standing in the way of others who wish to do the same, but instead; let’s help them to come to know Jesus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:22).

By John Hagenbuch
 From Expository Files 11.1; January, 2004