“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”” – Luke 19: 1-10.
I have come to learn a lot about this passage. Within these 10 verses there is a lot going on. First and foremost, we need to know Zacchaeus. What do we know about him? Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. He was one of the top guys in the Roman community. In fact, his name was far from Zacchaeus. His name most likely was Zacchiah. He received the name Zacchaeus from his Roman friends in the business. The more he helped his Roman friends, the higher up on the government chain Zacchiah became. How do we know his name was not Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus is not a Jewish name but a Roman name. The only problem with that is he was a Jewish man. So how exactly did a Jewish man receive a Roman name? Think about it
Anyway, Zacchaeus was a short man and was very rich. He was rich because he was paid handsomely from the Roman government for doing his job. He heard Jesus was in town. You almost wonder if Zacchaeus was tired of being hated by the people in the community. For whatever reason, Zacchaeus walks into the main area to see Jesus. Jesus, being so influential, had a large crowd around him, so Zacchaeus had to climb a sycamore tree in order to see him.
The part that amazes me the most is that Jesus saw Zacchaeus and wanted to stay at his house. In fact, Jesus says He must stay there. That is mind blowing to me that Jesus would want to stay at a chief tax collector’s house. He had a purpose though. His purpose was to talk to Zacchaeus about the way in which he was living.
After Zacchaeus and Jesus spent some time together, Zacchaeus asks for forgiveness. It is interesting to me how the Bible says we are to ask for forgiveness. It is not a simple “please forgive me” statement. There is a lot more involved in the process, in accordance to the OT tradition and law. Zacchaeus says he will give up to half of his stuff to the poor and 4 times what he had stolen to others. Where do these numbers come from? Is it simply just numbers Zacchaeus came up with? No. In fact, Zacchaeus had specific plans.
Exodus 22: 1, 4 give us Zacchaeus’ response:
“If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
“If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—he must pay back double.
So. The money that Zacchaeus had but no longer has, he has to give back to the people four times the amount of money he had stolen. The rest of the money Zacchaeus had, he had to give back double. Zacchaeus went from being ridiculously rich to being almost dirt poor. Even though Zacchaeus lost almost everything, he gained salvation through his repentance.
Comparing this story with the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus got it right. As the rich young ruler left, Zacchaeus, a child of Abraham was welcomed into the family of God. This is what I have gotten from these 10 verses. I hope you will read this story afresh and gain the same understanding I have gotten from this passage. It is totally an amazing story. God bless.