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  • Christina Stocki with Him

Zacchaeus Meets Jesus : Luke 19:1-10

Updated: Sep 24


The days always run so long with the Roman Empire practically owning my life. Yes, I live in extravagance, but the cost for it all is that it consumes all my thoughts even in my restless sleep; I have little life outside of work.  My kids hardly know me, nor I them. I couldn't tell you their favorite colors nor foods.  I haven't been with cousins or family gatherings in years. In fact, I wouldn't recognize my own brother's kids! With the choices I have made, I am no longer welcomed in the family.   When the emperor granted me the position as Chief  Tax Collector, I was elated and honored. I celebrated the wealth and success that I dreamed of since childhood. I planted myself in the resort city of Jericho with a villa that looks out towards the Jordan River.  It wasn't long when the full weight of my responsibility was pressing and constricting me with great stress. I was in charge of collecting the king's money and there was no room for errors or for soft tax collectors under me not fulfilling their duties.  Monthly quotas not met could mean my life.  It is a constant endeavor that I collect more money than expected to always secure my wealth. Wealth meant success and honor, and that was my end goal.


For years in my youth, I was teased for my short stature and bullied easily with no mercy.  I didn't find it hard to return the aggression on my people in order to collect the taxes. In fact I enjoyed  my status where I was looking down at others from my position, rather than looking physically up at them. Early on in the business,  I found that I was soon hated and alienated  from every class of people, and I was no longer welcomed in the temple. My only friends were fellow tax collectors and that soon changed with my leadership role when I had to pressure them to outperform one another.  Life was lonely at the top;  I was miserable.  The more I owned, the more I had to govern or worry about- the decision making was constant.


A curious thought keeps bobbing up into my consciousness over the last three years - refusing to drift away into inconsequence. I just can't understand how Levi just left all his duties and  became a disciples of the man called Jesus.  A teacher and holy man who turned people toward God upon just one meeting. Didn't he care that his income would dwindle, and he would lose his great home?  I keep hearing tax collectors' discussion over Levi's new life.  He is now greeted with great welcome, surrounded by every class of people with laughter and joy.  A complete turn from his previous lifestyle. The teacher, Jesus, calls him Matthew meaning "a gift from God".  Did Jesus really see this ruthless man Levi as a gift from God? Doesn't Jesus know how he requested more money from people than they needed to grant the government and kept it for himself?  Why was Levi allowed to just get "a pass" for the way he led his life and now accepted by the crowd?  Another issue I kept having to deal with is Levi's influence on other tax collectors. I have lost three exceptional ones who also chose to relinquish their job and follow the teaching of this Jesus.  Who was this Jesus that people are willing to give up their honor and wealth for him?


Walking onto my portico seeking a fresh breeze to clear my thoughts and sooth my angst, I see my servants running out hushing one another from the side entrance of the villa towards the road leading to the gates of  Jericho.  What is happening? Is there a king approaching with pomp and circumstance that I don't know about?  Having a full view of the city, I could see people funneling from all the alleys and by-streets  pouring out from their homes. Quickly, I yell below to a passerby inquiring about the fuss, only to my surprise find that Jesus is entering the town!


Racing to the streets, I'm confronted with mobs with no respect to my status. I can't possibly see over the crowds.  The wall of people is impenetrable, but difficult situations never daunt me. I will achieve my goal. Looking up I plead, "God help me find a way!"  Suddenly, my eyes focus on the strong long limbs of the large sycamore trees lining the Main Street. Children are already up in the branches of a few awaiting a view of Jesus. I scramble up into the branches, working my legs around my long robes that encumber my movement meanwhile being swatted hard in my face by one of my gold medallions that hangs around my neck.  I continue to make my way as far out on the limb as I can. Despite the stares, my thick skin from ignoring taunts serves me once again to achieve my objective. I will see who this Jesus is that has made such an impact on so many. 


The anticipation grows inside me, but I don't fully understand why. At last Jesus is in view. He looked very ordinary- no fine linens or symbols of wealth.  People were reaching their arms out to him, but he was surrounded by his disciples like guards to keep the crowd from stopping him as he journeyed down the road. The crowds were deafening with everyone vying for his attention.  When he was right under my branch, he stopped and looked up at me directly.  Our eyes met, and I felt like I was meeting a brother who genuinely cared about me or as if reuniting with a long lost friend. How silly- he doesn't even know me!  With utter amazement Jesus says loudly above the crowd, " Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down. I must be your guest today."  How did he know my name?!?!


I work my way out of the tree without any dignity. Falling in a heap at his feet with my neck charms in complete disarray and my robes twisted and disheveled, but my face was beaming. I haven't felt a smile reach my face nor my heart in years.  I knew instantly that what I was seeking was not found in wealth and status. I welcomed Jesus gladly with both hands, yet the crowds to my left and right felt differently.   They muttered in confusion, "He has gone to be the guest of the notorious sinner!", so that Jesus would know plainly what type of man he was corresponding with let alone enter his home.


I quickly yell for all to hear, so that I won't have this opportunity passed up, "Look, Sir, I will give half my property to the poor. And if I have swindled anybody out of anything, I will pay him back four times as much."  I said this with a new conviction that I will turn from my ways.


Jesus smiled as if he knew what I would say as he knew my name.  He looked to the crowd and proclaimed a blessing on me by saying, "Salvation has come to this house today! Zacchaeus is a descendant of Abraham and it was the lost that the son of Man came to seek--- and to save."


I thought it was I who was seeking out Jesus, but all along he was seeking me. My life was touched with a love that forgave me and gave me a new lease on life. Jesus saw past who I was to who I could be, and saved me out of a life that was self consuming with the deceptive love of wealth that brought loneliness not fulfillment.


Questions if you are doing this with others:


Do you believe that Jesus knows your name, where you are every moment and the desires of your heart? If so, do you doubt this sometimes and feel like He doesn't hear you?


Can you think of a "Matthew (Levi)" in your life- one who made a complete change in lifestyle after he welcomed Jesus as his personal savior?  Do you think people can see a change in your style due to your value in pleasing God?


Do you think that a person can have a conversion of their character upon meeting (inviting Jesus to be their savior from their sinful ways)  Jesus just one time?  Will the person be a perfect follower after that meeting?


Think of a time that you were cruel to another person and not caring about their welfare or a time that someone was cruel to you.  How can these occurrences like bricks in a wall  impact who the person will become  in the future?  Think about how you impact those around you with how you treat them.


Self reflect and decide whether you are a good role model of grace that Jesus modeled for us in loving people who are hated or hurtful or resented.  How can we help encourage people to live honest and caring lives for others?



Further Thoughts:


This account is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke chapter 19. It is a very special story for we see a man seeking after Jesus with a "childlike" enthusiasm as in scrambling up a tree. For any adult let alone a person of the wealthy status, climbing a tree would be a rare sight to behold for sure. Yet, we discover that Jesus knew who Zacchaeus was all along and sought him out!  Jesus stated, "...it was the lost that the son of Man came to seek--- and to save." A clear depiction of how God is seeking to commune with those who don't know Him, but have childlike desire to meet him.    We may be "up a tree" with issues on our heart, and God is ready to meet us and hold our company. It is our job to welcome and invite Jesus into our lives-our homes and into our business.


Jesus mentions that Zacchaeus was "a son of Abraham" meaning of the Jewish descendants.  People are not "saved from eternal death" by genealogy for Jesus said regarding Zacchaeus that he was "lost" or "wandered away"  from God. Being a tax collector would mean that he was shunned from his own people for tax collectors also known as  publicans  pledged to Rome to raise a certain amount of money and anything over that was for their own personal profit.   The Jews in fact included in the Talmud (The Talmud is the compilation of the historic rabbis "discussing" or "debating" what the Torahmeans.Torah is the Hebrew Bible) a pass to lie to protect oneself or others or to tax collectors" as acceptable behavior and not considered a sin.

This account is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke chapter 19. It is a very special story for we see a man seeking after Jesus with a "childlike" enthusiasm as in scrambling up a tree. For any adult let alone a person of the wealthy status, climbing a tree would be a rare sight to behold for sure. Yet, we discover that Jesus knew who Zacchaeus was all along and sought him out! Jesus stated, "...it was the lost that the son of Man came to seek--- and to save." A clear depiction of how God is seeking to commune with those who don't know Him, but have childlike desire to meet him. We may be "up a tree" with issues on our heart, and God is ready to meet us and hold our company. It is our job to welcome and invite Jesus into our lives-our homes and into our business.


Jesus mentions that Zacchaeus was "a son of Abraham" meaning of the Jewish descendants. People are not "saved from eternal death" by genealogy for Jesus said regarding Zacchaeus that he was "lost" or "wandered away" from God. Being a tax collector would mean that he was shunned from his own people for tax collectors also known as publicans pledged to Rome to raise a certain amount of money and anything over that was for their own personal profit. The Jews in fact included in the Talmud (The Talmud is the compilation of the historic rabbis "discussing" or "debating" what the Torah means.Torah is the Hebrew Bible) a pass to lie to protect oneself or others or to tax collectors" as acceptable behavior and not considered a sin. Being a Chief Tax Collector would mean that he was probably notorious for extorting a great deal from the people and gained his position for his exceeding accomplishments. Being in a large commercial commerce city, he was positioned to collect from many businesses more than most other towns and cities. It is easy to assume that he was lost to the ways of God and probably a cruel person. This story also shows that no one is beyond the help of God to change them to love and care about others as they seek His salvation from a "self centered life".


Zacchaeus had an inward change that held an outward change. His faith filled his heart and it impacted his actions. Following Jesus with only your head knowledge will not affect your heart. When your heart is touched by the love of Jesus and in turn loves God deeply, a person's actions will also display a love and respect for all of God's creation. Every person should be given the chance to receive the touch of kindness and the Good News that you have to offer. We should also make it our aim to have childlike faith (complete trust) to seek His face every morning which will bring about a blessing of communion with Him.


For the eyes of the Lord move over all the earth, so that He may give strength to those whose whole heart is given to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9


For thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out." Ezekiel 34:11


Glory in His holy name, let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek his face always. Psalm 105:3-4


Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20


Zacchaeus began a new life with allegiance to a new king- a heavenly king where all his dealings are now paid in full by the price of the offering of Jesus' death on the cross covering his sins. Zacchaeus' faith and new walk with God was essentially a trade in his bankrupt life for a fulfilled life with Christ which holds priceless riches.

Read the account as it is recorded in the Bible:


https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2019:1-9&version=NIV

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