Luke 19:1-6 “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, who was the chief among the tax collectors, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 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 abide at your house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”
Anytime you have oppressed people you will also have collaborators. A collaborator is a person who cooperates with the enemy in a traitorous way against their own people. During World War 2 there were some Jews who collaborated with the Nazis against their own people. In the infamous Warsaw Ghetto there were Jewish Police who actually helped the Germans deport their fellow Jews to the concentration camps! Those Jewish collaborators were just as guilty as the Nazis and should be just as despised as the Nazis, maybe even more so!
During the time of Jesus the Jews were being oppressed, not by Germans, but by the Romans. And just as there were some Jewish collaborators with the Nazis there were also Jews who collaborated with the Romans; Jews who oppressed their own people for personal gain. Zacchaeus was one of those collaborators.
The Romans collected high taxes from the Jews and one of the ways that they collected those taxes was by sub-contracting the job out to a local Jew who lacked scruples and wasn't sensitive to what his people thought about him. And you need to understand that this was a very, very lucrative deal. You could make a lot of money for collaborating in this way and it was very tempting for someone who was willing to betray his own people and join with their enemy oppressors in order to make a buck! These collaborators got rich off of the poor; they got rich off of the oppression of their own people.
Now, we’re told that Zacchaeus wasn't just an ordinary tax collector we're told that he was a "chief" tax collector. That means he held a high rank and he was in charge of other tax collectors under him. He was the big boss, he was guy at the top of the pyramid scheme, he was the local “Mafia Capo”, and he became rich through extortion, greed, false accusations, threats and robbery. He was high profile and well-known in Jericho...and everybody hated him.
Ironically, the name Zacchaeus means the "pure one". Now, I'm sure that his parents had great things in mind for his life when they gave him a name like “the pure one”. They probably had dreams of him serving God and living a pure, godly life as a devout Jew, but that’s not how he turned out. Whatever plans or hopes his parents had for him were ultimately destroyed because of his love of money.
The Bible tells us that the “love of money is the root of all evil” and it was Zacchaeus’ love of money that made him become a collaborator and it was his love of money that made him willing to endure the shame and hatred of his fellow Jews, maybe even the hatred of his own parents.
Sadly, the "pure one" wasn't pure at all, he was defiled; he was unclean because there wasn't anything more impure for a Jew than to be a Tax Collector for the Romans. The "pure one", Zacchaeus, had become the scum of Jewish society.
It would seem that at this point in Zacchaeus’ life that he's reflected on his bad choices and he must've thought that he was “in too deep” and that he really couldn't stop even if he wanted to. It would be impossible for him to get out of this dirty business that he was in even if he wanted to. He must've thought that he couldn’t EVER be redeemed by God, he couldn’t EVER rejoin his Jewish brothers and sisters because he was just too bad and he had just gone too far into a life of sin.
Listen up, BRATS! It's never too late to be redeemed and forgiven by God! It's never too late as long as you have breath in your lungs! You're never too bad and you can never go so far that God cannot seek, find and save you! You CAN be redeemed!
As Jesus entered into Jericho a huge crowd gathered and that crowd began to swarm Him. We’re told that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, he wanted to see the One that everyone was been talking about, but that huge crowd made that very difficult for him because "he was little"; Zacchaeus was short. In fact, he was so short that he couldn't see Jesus over the huge crowd.
But he really wanted to get a glimpse of this famous Rabbi Jesus, who might even be the Messiah, so we're told that he "ran ahead" of the crowd. He went ahead of the crowd and he climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus as He passed by. Now this must have been a humbling thing for him to do because Mafia Capos, rich businessmen, bank presidents, mayors and city counselors, men of power don't climb trees in order to get a better view, little CHILDREN climb trees, not high profile, prominent men of position.
What this tells us is that Zacchaeus was willing to humble himself just to get a glimpse of the Lord. In Matthew 18 Jesus said "Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
You see, we must come to Jesus like a little child and Zacchaeus was already half way there whether he knew it or not. And "when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him". He was spotted by Jesus!
Not only was he spotted, but Jesus stopped and singled him out and He called Zacchaeus by name to come down out of the tree and come into the crowd of people that Zacchaeus had been extorting from. When Jesus called him to come down, it’s likely that the crowd expected Jesus to justify their anger and hatred of Zacchaeus and say something like this:
"Zacchaeus you’ve brought the anger and hatred of this crowd upon yourself by oppressing your own people and by breaking the Law of Moses! You are a collaborator with the enemy, you’re bleeding your people dry, and therefore you deserve ridicule and anger! You need to stop what you're doing, you need to go to the Temple and be purified by the priests because you've defiled yourself and you've defiled your entire household! NOW GET DOWN OUT OF THAT TREE, repent of your many sins and beg God and these good people for forgiveness!"
Now, of course, had Jesus said something like that the crowd would've cheered, but that's not at all what happened...because Jesus never did what was expected of Him. Instead of rebuking Zacchaeus, Jesus told him to "make haste, and come down; because today I must abide at your house."
What?! Jesus was going to Zacchaeus' house?! Jesus wanted to spend special one on one time with a defiled, unclean Tax Collecting, Collaborating Sinner!? Yes.
Of course Zacchaeus was more than happy to have Jesus over to his house because surely he had ever had a guest like Jesus, in fact, he probably ever had ANYONE over at all besides other tax collectors and sinners because no respectable Jew in Jericho would've ever gone to Zacchaeus' house!
Zacchaeus was content with just getting a glimpse of Jesus from the tree as He passed by, but now Jesus was going to be a special honored guest in his home! This was more than he could have ever hoped for! And Zacchaeus came down from the tree and he joyfully received Jesus!
You see, Jesus called Zacchaeus by name. Jesus knew WHO he was, Jesus knew WHAT he was and Jesus knew WHERE he was....just like he knows who you are, what you are and where you are. Today, the Lord Jesus is calling you to quit hiding and to come to Him just as you are.
The God Who made you, the God Who holds your life in His hand, and the God Who sent His Son to die for and to save sinners…He knows you. He knows you by name, He knows who you are, He knows where you've been and He knows what you've done...He knows it all and He calls you to come to Him anyway.
When the Lord stopped and called Zacchaeus to come down out of that tree, that call changed that Chief Tax Collector's life forever. You see, Zacchaeus wasn't just being called to come down out of the tree, he was being called to come into the Kingdom of God! Zacchaeus thought he was well hidden in the branches and leaves of the sycamore tree, but Christ saw him and called him and Zacchaeus found himself hidden with Christ.
Colossians 3:2-3 says to "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
Come to Him because it's not too late, you haven't gone too far and you're not too bad for Him to forgive you! By the fact that Zacchaeus received Christ so quickly and so joyfully tells me that he really was looking for a way out. Deep down he really did want out of his life of sin. He wanted out, but he felt like he had gone too far and that there was no way out for him and there was no one who could help him get out…that is… until the collaborator collaborated with Christ.
Zacchaeus not only stopped collaborating with the enemy of his people, he also stopped collaborating with the enemy of his soul and he chose to switch sides once again and join himself with Christ. Have you done that yet?
If you find that you've hidden yourself away, content to watch other people from a distance walk with Jesus, then make haste and come out of hiding today and join yourself to Christ!
GO BLESS, BRATS!