St Cyril of Alexandria describes Zacchaeus who was leader of the tax collectors, as a "man entirely abandoned to greed, [NT Vol. III, p. 290] whose only goal was the increase of his gains. This was the practice of the tax collectors, although Paul calls it idolatry, possibly as being suitable only for those who have no knowledge of God. Since they shamelessly, openly professed this vice, the Lord very justly joined them with the prostitutes, saying to the leaders of the Jews, “The prostitutes and the tax collectors go before you into the kingdom of God.”" Zacchaeus did not continue to be among them, but he was counted worthy of mercy at Christ’s hands. He calls near those who are far away and gives light to those who are in darkness.
What Motivated Zaccheaus?
What struck me first in this account really was that It’s not every day that one of the city’s most prominent and wealthy citizens climbs a tree just to see a traveling preacher. I wondered, why did Zacchaeus want so much to see Jesus that he climbed up a tree? This was hardly a dignified thing for one of the most prominent men of the city of Jericho to do. What motivated Zacchaeus to see Jesus? Well, maybe curiosity. Jesus’ reputation as a teacher who drew crowds or his reputation as a miraculous healer. The question then arrises was Zacchaeus just curious?, wanting to see for himself? or was there some need in his life that drove him up that tree.? Something within him desperately hoped that seeing Jesus would make a difference in his life, something would transform him.
Zaccheus must have really desired to change his life, to repent, to rescue himself from the abandonment to greed, and change his goal in life from the increase of his earthly gains to that of a heavenly inheritance. Maybe he longed for a new and different life, but lacked the power to change. It must have been his longing for change that drove him up the tree that day Jesus passed through Jericho.
The next thing that stands out is the urgency with which Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." Jesus looked at this man who was looking for Him. Jesus had a way of seeing straight to the heart. He could see the sin, but he looked beyond the fault and saw the need. He saw the potential. This little wealthy greedy tax collector could become a great man in the Kingdom of God. Despite the greed that was so apparent in Zacchaeus’ life, Jesus could see his potential for “righteousness”, which means right relationship with God and with other people. And Jesus saw his readiness for salvation. There is nothing more urgent than salvation.
Jesus brings a new power to live in right relationship with God and others right now. Jesus brings wholeness to our brokenness now. Jesus brings new purpose as he invites us to join him in his mission of seeking and saving the lost now.
The ongoing change that Jesus continually brings into our lives affects others around us and brings wholeness to their lives. After Zacchaeus’ declaration of how his life will be different, now that Christ has transformed it, he hears the voice of his master saying to him “Today salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus’ new life will bring new life to everyone in his household — starting today!
Do I need that power to change?
Do you long for change in your life? Does it seem impossible? Do you feel despondent having tried many times and fallen, It’s really interesting that Luke records this story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus just shortly after he had the encounter with another rich man. You can go back just a few verses in your Bible from the Zacchaeus story to Luke 18:18-27. You’ll find this story of the ruler who came to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Luke 18:22) As Jesus watches the back of the rich man walking away sorrowfully he says, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25) Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27.
Then Luke records this story of another rich man, Zacchaeus, who demonstrates what is possible with God! He was freed from greed to live generously; he was delivered from perpetrating injustice to promoting justice; he was lifted from the path that leads to destruction and led on the path of eternal life. What is the difference in these two rich men?
Both men sought Jesus. Both demonstrated the first step toward new life in seeking Christ, however one found salvation the other left sorrowful, the difference between the two was one of application, the first was not willing to commit his life to Christ, was unwilling to follow His commandments and thus was not serious about his need for the power to change. The second man; Zacchaeus, was committed, answered Christ and said to Him “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8) Zacchaeus sought that power in his dedication and acceptance of Jesus as his Saviour, and in his faith in his Saviour. He made Christ a priority in his life, and sought a relationship with Christ so that he can obtain that power that transforms and changes, in faith he followed Christs commandments, in faith he trusted Jesus trusted that God will be there to provide whatever is needed.
Both rich men sought Jesus. Here is the difference: one did the next thing Jesus told him to do; the other did not. One, in faith, made an outrageous response and received outrageous freedom and joy. The other went away stuck and sorrowful.
Will you take that next step today? Today salvation can come to your house!