Zacchaeus is described in Luke 19 as “a chief tax collector” who was “wealthy.” Yet, his big job, prestige, and money left him unfulfilled. He was a seeker on a spiritual journey.
Zacchaeus had the world, but still needed Jesus. His salvation story is recorded in Luke 19:1-10 as follows:
“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 being a short man he could not, because of 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 what was lost.’”
Zacchaeus’ story demonstrates these four eternal truths about salvation and the Christian life:
#1 – Jesus Christ can be found by everyone who seeks Him.
Zacchaeus is the only person in the story who “wanted to see who Jesus was” and he quickly found Him (Lessons from Paul’s Conversion). Isaiah 55:6 says “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”
Jesus is never far away from those who are searching for Him.
#2 – The “crowd” will hinder God’s work in your life.
Zacchaeus had to separate from the “crowd” because they were blocking his view of Jesus. He had to climb the tree and get above the others before he could see his Savior.
Zacchaeus, a repenting sinner, took the initiative to have an unobstructed view of Jesus.
Later, the same crowd “began to mutter” about what they had seen. They voiced contempt for both Jesus and Zacchaeus. Do not expect the world to affirm your Savior or your salvation.
The “crowd” saw a “sinner,” but Jesus saw a redeemed saint and friend.
#3 – Only Christians can have fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, and then said “I must stay at your house today.” Jesus called, saved, and then began a personal relationship with Zacchaeus (Who Are You Becoming?).
Salvation in Christ is the antecedent to fellowship with Christ.
#4 - Christians are instruments of God’s noble purposes.
Jesus did not require Zacchaeus to “give half of [his] possessions to the poor,” nor that he “pay back four times” to anyone he had cheated. These good works were the fruit of Zacchaeus’ new life (The Generous Worker). They were self-initiated acts of restoration and grace by a new Christian.
Zacchaeus didn’t do these things to get saved – he did them because he was saved (Peter’s Transformation).
The final verse of the passage is as true for mankind today as it was for Zacchaeus back then. It is a summary the gospel message:
“… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Application: Many people today have the wealth of the world but still need Jesus.