Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, which means he likely was one of the least popular citizens of Jericho. Jewish people in the first century AD despised tax collectors. They not only did the work of the hated Roman Empire but also overcharged their fellow Jews and pocketed the extra money. That’s why Luke describes Zacchaeus as “rich” (Luke 19:2). He likely built his wealth from the funds he stole from the people in his community.
When he heard that Jesus would be passing through his city, Zacchaeus had an overwhelming desire to see him. Unfortunately, his small stature made it difficult for him to peer over the crowds that had gathered for glimpse of the Rabbi who had made such a name for himself throughout Israel.
So Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree, which not only gave him chance to see Jesus but also gave Jesus a chance to see him. Imagine the emotions Zacchaeus experienced when Lord looked up, called him by name, and told him he would be visiting his house that very day.
Murmurs ran through the crowd, many of whom likely had been victims of Zacchaeus’s schemes and extortion. Why would Jesus choose to honor a despicable excuse for human like Zacchaeus by staying at his house? Why would he befriend a sinful man when there were so many “good” people with whom he could spend time?
If anyone had been paying attention to Zacchaeus’s response, he or she might have figured out the answer. The greedy, extorting tax collector was rocked to the core by Jesus’ gracious gesture. He felt the full weight of the wrongs he’d committed and an overwhelming desire to repent and make things right.
Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus to his home right away. Then he pledged to give one-half of everything he owned to the poor and to repay the people he’d cheated four times the amount he took.
In Zacchaeus’s reactions, we see the truth of Jesus’ words in Mark 2:17; “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners,” Zacchaeus received salvation that day, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house. . . For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
The Bible doesn’t specifically mention Zacchaeus again, but we can be certain that Zacchaeus made good on his promise to repay those he cheated and give generously to those in need.
LUKE 19:5 – “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house.”