When Jesus Runs After Zacchaeus
I have read the account of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus so many times. But one time, it hit me in a brand new way. And I just can’t help but share my study of Luke 19:1-10.
1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, where he will be condemned by the religious leaders and be crucified. He passed through a city called Jericho. Zacchaeus lived there. He was a chief tax collector. Tax collectors were required by the Roman government to collect money from the Jews. It doesn’t matter how much they collect as long as they give what is due the government. The extra money, it’s theirs. So they extort money from the people. This made them thieves.
They were also considered traitors of their nation since they work for the Romans. And they were branded as notorious sinners, despised and hated. Zacchaeus was chief tax collector. Other tax collectors were under him. And this job made him filthy rich.
3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
He wanted to see Jesus. Maybe he has heard of Him teaching people, healing the sick, and performing miracles. More importantly, maybe he has heard that Jesus was a friend to sinners, even to tax collectors like him. Jesus got his attention. But because of the crowd and his height, he couldn’t get a glimpse of Jesus. So he looked for a way, climbed a tree, and saw Jesus.
5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Then Jesus told him to come down because he wanted to stay at his house. And he was full of joy. Jesus, perfect and sinless, had come to visit him, wretched and despicable. He was probably at shock that Jesus had noticed him, but he was prepared.
7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ “
Zacchaeus wasn’t the only one shocked. The people there were shocked as well. They couldn’t believe what they saw. And they couldn’t understand why Jesus had come to Zacchaeus’ home.
8But 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.”
But since Jesus had come to him, there was a transformation in him. He repented. But how do we know it’s for real?
We know it’s genuine because, first, he was willing to make restitution. And second, he was willing to give his money to the poor. Why was he willing to give it away? It’s because he had been found by Jesus, the all-satisfying God; the living water and the bread of life. Money used to be his security and idol. He thought it would satisfy the deep longings of his heart. Jesus alone can truly satisfy, and that was in the case of Zacchaeus.
I don’t know about you. I don’t know where you are right now. Maybe you have been looking security and satisfaction in many places—money, fame, relationships, boyfriend, girlfriend, friends, achievements, so on and so forth. All these things are temporal. They will never satisfy the deepest longing of your heart. Only Jesus does!
9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
Zacchaeus had been forgiven by Jesus and he will go to heaven. Why? It’s because he was a son of Abraham, meaning, he had placed his faith in Jesus. That was all he needs to do to gain salvation. So what about his restitution? Or the money for the poor? These were the fruits of his salvation, not the means. Faith alone saves!
Sinless Jesus + Sinful Zacchaeus = Grace
But before we go on to the last verse, I want to return to verse 4:
4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
It’s easy to get lost in this verse. We can easily say that it was Zacchaeus who exerted effort so that Jesus would notice him, that he was the one coming after Jesus. If this is the case, then everything, including his salvation, will be about him.
But this is the truth: Jesus was the one who’s after him. Jesus didn’t just passed through Jericho without a purpose. He went there with Zacchaeus in mind. He knew the name of Zacchaeus and it shows he was after the sinner. He loved him. He was ready to forgive him. He was running after him! This leads us to the last verse:
10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
This, my friends, is what we call grace. It is grace when God reaches to sinful and hopeless people like Zacchaeus, and ultimately me and you. It is grace when undeserving sinners like us are granted forgiveness and salvation by God at the high price of Jesus’ life.
Why am I talking about grace? Simple! It’s because everyone—you and me, believers in Jesus or otherwise—needs grace.
I need grace because I am not perfect. I still commit mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. As I was studying this text, I was lovingly corrected by a friend. It was a reminder that I will always be in need of God’s amazing grace.
I don’t know about you. I don’t know where you are finding security and satisfaction. And I don’t know what mistakes and sins you have committed in the past. But I want to say that Jesus loves you. He is ready to forgive you. He wants to grace you. He wants to grant you an abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. All He asks is that you turn away from false security and from sinful living and place your faith in Him, then find true satisfaction in Him. He is running after you!
Will you run away from him, or will you gladly receive Him in your life?