33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.
Zacchaeus, one of the most hated and ostracized men in Jericho, desperately wanted to see Jesus. Stories about the poor, humble son of a carpenter must have touched his heart deeply because he was ready to change his life radically.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.
The diminutive Zacchaeus perched like a lonely bird on a housetop (Psalm 102:7) and scanned the mob for his savior.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
Surprise! Zacchaeus was found by the one he was looking for and invited to be his host.
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
Like Levi the tax collector, Zacchaeus promptly followed Jesus and received him into his home (Luke 5:27-32). A large gathering of tax collectors had dined with Jesus at Levi’s house in Capernaum. News of this astounding event had likely spread from Galilee to Jericho, preparing Zacchaeus to receive Jesus. What sort of wonder-working rabbi ate with tax collectors (Luke 7:34)? Up the tree he shinnied and down he dropped to see the man face to face. His heart was filled with joy and gratitude.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
Tax collectors were branded as outcasts in society for they served as henchmen for the Romans. “The Romans sold the task of collecting the taxes in any particular area to the highest bidder. The person appointed did not receive any salary for his work; he simply collected as much money as he could, and he kept for himself what was left over after he had paid the agreed sum to the Romans.”1
Wealth was guaranteed the tax collector at the price of exclusion from the friendship of his fellow countrymen. Thus tax collectors banded together and formed their own society. Jesus, the “friend of tax collectors,” offered hope and a new path out of their abominable life.
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”
Zacchaeus became a new man. Years of accumulating wealth at the expense of his neighbors left him spiritually poor, empty and alone. He found his real treasure in Jesus of Nazareth and let go of false wealth to follow him. Fourfold restitution echoed the Law and the Prophets: a stolen sheep or lamb must be replaced with four others (Exodus 21:37; 2 Samuel 12:6). Zacchaeus found the Lamb of God. He no longer wished to horde the lamb of mammon.
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
Jesus declared Zacchaeus, the chief lackey of the Romans, a true son of Abraham, a recognition that would have outraged his Jewish brethren. No longer an outsider, Jesus invited Zacchaeus into his own Father’s house.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
1 New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, edited by G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, R.T. France, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 1010.