One day as Jesus was passing through Jericho, He met a man named Zacchaeus. This encounter is one of the most interesting stories of the Gospels because of the tremendous application to the great majority of people. Scottish pastor and scholar of biblical biographies, George Matheson, described the paradox of this story as uniquely common."Zacchaeus is spectacular because he is not like other characters who encountered Christ. He was not called as the disciples were, nor was Zacchaeus suffering from some kind of affliction. What makes Zacchaeus so special is that he was an average man."
I. Physical identity
Jesus met Zacchaeus while passing through town. Maybe you have met him too . . .
Zacchaeus was short in stature. People recognized him by his size. Maybe you know some people who are identified by some physical characteristic. You make judgments about people because they are tall, pretty, have red or blonde hair, bald, ugly, fat, rich, or poor. The sad reality in our western culture is that we often assign value to a person based on physical appearance.
But Jesus called Zacchaeus by name! Jesus illustrated how we should relate to people and how God relates to us. God knows our name. The Bible says in Numbers 6:25 that God desires His face to shine upon you. A shining face is beautiful description of someone who is happy to see you.
I remember when my children were young watching their response when they saw me after having been in the church nursery. As the pastor, my wife and I had the traditional responsibility to shaking hands as people exited the service, which meant my kids would be the last ones picked up in the nursery. One of the workers would usually escort my child to the sanctuary as we were shaking the last hand. When my little toddler would see daddy at the door, his eyes would light up, and he would run down the aisle with delight to give me a hug. You learn to appreciate those shining faces because teenagers don't run down aisles to give their parents a hug. God is looking for us, waiting for us to turn to Him, so that He can shower His love upon our soul.
Jesus called Zacchaeus by name. He made eye contact, and spoke to him face to face. Jesus communicated to Zacchaeus that he was glad to see him. This was not an interruption in the Messiah's schedule. Jesus always has time for those who seek Him. Small children will often say when they are building with blocks, jumping off the diving board, or some other task,"Look at me!" They want someone whom they love to turn their face to them and see what they have accomplished. Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a look at Jesus, but he also wanted Jesus to look at him. The Savior did look, and He is still looking to show His love to His children.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector. Perhaps you know him as an elected official, football coach, teacher, doctor, dentist, or co-worker. You don't really know the person, but you know what position or title they hold in society. I wander when was the last time someone said,"Zacchaeus how is your mom? I heard she has been in the hospital." Did anyone care that his youngest daughter was battling epilepsy? I am speculating because the Bible doesn't say much about his personal life, but I know there was more to this man than just collecting taxes, which had its own problems. Working as a tax collector could be lucrative, but it certainly wasn't easy. Everyone in town hated you, and you lived under constant stress working for the Romans Empire, which had a reputation of executing the hired help. Leaders in the empire had even killed members of their own family. While others saw just a tax collector, Jesus saw the man behind the position and sought to build a relationship with him by going to Zacchaeus' house for dinner.
II. Spiritual curiosity
Most of the characters in the Bible experience a call from Christ either as a personal invitation or through the public preaching of Jesus. Others sought Jesus because of some affliction. Zacchaeus was different. He was a successful business man. He had worked hard to move up the success ladder and earned the title of chief. He was wealthy. The text seems to indicate that Zacchaeus operated his business with integrity. Notice he said,"If I have cheated." We often assume that he was corrupt just as we say,"All politicians are crooked," or"all lawyers are liars," or "all preachers care about is money."
Zacchaeus does not appear to have any observable need, but he is curious about Jesus. Why? The Bible says God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:10). God has placed in the soul of every human being a desire to connect to the Creator. Some fight it, ignore it, and deny it, but the Scripture is clear. Human beings are spiritual beings and no amount of worldly success or possessions can satisfy the deepest longing of the soul to know God.
An application we must make as a church and as individual followers of Christ is to keep that need at the forefront of all we do. Lost people don't need our music, our wisdom, our nice facilities, or our great sermons. They need Jesus! Music, facilities, and preaching are wonderful tools if they help people connect with Christ. You may recall the Steve Green song that asked the penetrating question,"When will we realize that people need the Lord?" Zacchaeus needed Jesus, and so does a lost and dying world.
III. Supernatural density
We have examined Zacchaeus' physical identity, spiritual curiosity, and now we will consider his supernatural destiny. A person's destiny is more than an end result or achieving a goal. Destiny is driving force that shapes and defines a person's life. The story of Zacchaeus concludes with his life being distinctly different after meeting Jesus.
Jesus makes the bold declaration,"Salvation has come to your house!" Zach got saved! He was born again! We must be careful to understand that Zacchaeus did not purchase his salvation by giving money to the poor. His actions just reveal a life transformed by an encounter with Christ. After experiencing the love of Christ, he became more concerned about others than splurging on selfish desires.
Another interesting part of this story is that, Zacchaeus did not change jobs. He was a tax collector before he met Christ, and he continued collecting taxes after he met Christ. His job was the same, but destiny was different. He now used his job as an opportunity to give glory to God. You do not have to become a vocational minister to follow Jesus with you whole heart. The kingdom of God needs Christ-followers in the market place shining the light of the gospel.
Zacchaeus' destiny included his salvation, his vocation, and his determination, which serves as a legacy of inspiration to all who hear his story. He overcame several obstacles to encounter Christ. Zacchaeus had physical limitations; he was short. His peers criticized him, and the crowds blocked his access to Jesus. Many in the crowd did not even know Zacchaeus was in the tree. Sometimes the offensive actions of others stand in the way of the gospel, but other times it can be the painful lack of recognition. Some people struggle with being overlooked or ignored. They feel invisible wandering if anyone knows they exist. Zacchaeus was financially successful, which the Bible says makes it difficult for one to see his need for Christ. Even with all the obstacles, Zacchaeus could not ignore the longing in his soul that drove him into the presence of Christ.
Perhaps you have heard the saying,"To reach the fruit of a tree, you must go out on a limb." That is what Zacchaeus did. The salvation he received is still available today. Follow his example by not allowing anything to prevent you from receiving all that God desires for your life.