Zacchaeus is a popular guy in Christian Children's literature. Songs are written about him. His image appears in coloring books, on flannel boards during Sunday school lessons, and he's been portrayed by bathrobe wearing-dishtowel covered dads. Zacchaeus climbed the Sycamore tree to see Jesus. Many went to great lengths to see Jesus during his ministry. But Zacchaeus was blessed to receive Jesus into his own home and finds something far more valuable than power, authority or possessions at dinner.
Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Not only did he make money legitimately by collecting taxes for the Imperial Roman government, but he most likely made money from other tax collectors who worked for him in the region of Jericho. He lived in an extravagant home, ate lavish food and dressed in fine clothing. Everyone knew their tax money went into Zacchaeus' pockets and there was nothing they could do about it. Sometimes we can identify with the people of Jericho. Maybe we're stuck in a situation that seems hopeless. That is until Jesus comes to town.
Jesus had a reputation for hanging around tax-collectors. He even included Levi as one of the 12 disciples. Once again, Jesus relaxes among the wrong people and the crowd outside grumbled about it. Zacchaeus was a public official who had a change of heart. In Judaism, repentance involved restoration and making amends. Zacchaeus was a lavish guy. He was determined to make a public declaration of his inward transformation. Zacchaeus diminished his own cash reserves by half and promise to give back four times the amount he extorted.
Jesus responded to Zacchaeus' extravagant repentance by including him with the true family of Abraham. We can only imagine how this enraged the religious officials who believed they were the rightful descendents of Abraham. Zacchaeus doesn't follow Jesus. He stays in Jericho to live out a new life and re-establish himself as part of the renewed and restored People of God. Zacchaeus did nothing to deserve the lavish gift Jesus offered him. He simply accepted it and decided to live differently from then on.
I found a video from the Skit Guys that may help describe what happened in Zacchaeus' life. My prayer is that you can experience the same thing in your life. Watch here.
"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 19:9-10 NIV