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(Luke 19:1-10)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But 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.’ Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The first question you should ask yourself when reading Scripture is why God gave us these words. Zacchaeus is a very important story because he is a perfect example of a sinful person who was changed by Jesus Christ’s compassion for sinners. Luke 19 describes Zacchaeus as a tax collector in the City of Jericho. His reputation was terrible. He was known as a corrupt tax collector who collected more than he should have collected.  In the eyes of the community, Zacchaeus was hated. One question we should ask ourselves is whether there is more to the fact that he had to climb a tree to see Jesus. For this, let’s look at the chapter in Luke just before this parable.

(Luke 18:11) – “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

Our world is pretty good at hatred. Hating tax collectors was an easy thing to do. Roman taxes were excessive, and the Jewish people were not happy about that situation.  Besides the corruption rampant in their trade, the taxes went to enrich the emperor and there was no real benefit bestowed back to the people who paid them. Jesus, Himself, compared tax collectors to pagans, as written in Mathew 18:17, “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Based on this, the crowd’s perspective of Zacchaeus was really just the societal norm about tax collectors.  Zacchaeus was hated because he was a thief. Standing at ground level, we are enveloped by the crowd. As the crowd saw Zacchaeus’ sin, we see others’ mistakes and sins. Humans are pretty good at spotting faults in others and spawning hatred toward them. Just watch the news media. Satan is a divider in chief. We are quick to judge others. Unfortunately, as part of the crowd, we often forget to look at ourselves. As the Apostle Paul states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). How then, do we lift ourselves to see better, and see our life as our Savior sees us? Climb a tree!

There was a cherry tree that my grandfather had planted in the backyard of his home. Located in the inner city of Cleveland. The tree seemed out of place. I never knew my grandfather. He had escaped from his home country of Lithuania in the early 1900s. Russia had invaded his homeland and forced him into the Russian military as a cavalry officer. The term was to be 20 years of service. His hope for freedom came when he escaped to the United States. He died long before I was born. As a young boy, I would spend time at his home with my grandmother. One comforting memory is learning to climb into the branches of that cherry tree. Of course, sampling the fruits was one reward. I believe that my grandfather would be pleased to know that his tree cradled me in its branches. There is much to be said about leaving the ground. Your troubles seem to leave you. Dreaming can become easier. Your perspective changes and you see God’s fruit much clearer and closer to you. Often, we must plant trees for the next generation to climb. Thank you to all of those ancestors who took the time to plant their trees of faith for me to embrace.

Zacchaeus knew about Jesus. He was excited that He was coming to Jericho.  Because he was very short, and could not see beyond the crowd, he climbed a sycamore tree. We have that same problem.  We are often excited about Jesus, especially when we hear the stories of His forgiveness and healing. But what do we do to get out of the crowd? Zacchaeus was trying to find meaning in his life and he was eager to know the truth about life. But when Zacchaeus was in the crowd, they only saw his sins. Oh yes, he only saw their hatred too. We can reflect a lot on the perspective of Zacchaeus. We are all too short to see over the crowd.  In this busy world full of noise in every area of life, we tend to want to find meaning in our lives to fill in the gaps that we are experiencing. Unless we try to “climb trees” to extend our eyes’ reach toward a quieter yet better future, our attitudes only reflect the judgmental attitudes of those around us. We just hate back! What we need is to place our eyes on the fruit, Jesus!

Don’t be surprised when you finally climb your tree that Jesus already knows you. Jesus already saw Zacchaeus and knew Zacchaeus even before he ever climbed the tree. Once the connection was made, things moved quickly. Here is what you should focus on (the cherries in the tree) in Luke’s story.

  • Jesus asked to come into Zacchaeus’ home, to stay in his house. Jesus did not care about how the crowd reacted.
  • Zacchaeus responded and opened his doors right away. This is also an attitude that tells us that Zacchaeus was a man ready to be saved and to serve. He opened his doors for Christ and was willing to listen to His advice.
  • What caught the attention of Jesus was Zacchaeus’ passion to be seen. We must try to show ourselves to Jesus even if we think Jesus doesn’t see us. Trust me, Jesus sees you!
  • Zacchaeus recognized his sinfulness. He repented and changed his life. His repentance included restitution of monies stolen by him.

Was it worth it? In Luke 3:12-13, “Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them.” Yes, it is that simple! Each of us is asked to recognize that we have sinned and repent of our sins and then do our best not to sin. Jesus just wants to come into our house (hearts). That is what salvation is all about!


  • Where is your high and quiet place? Where do you climb to find Jesus?
    • Ideas to Explore: Television, the Internet, employment, home life, and families rarely can offer a high and quiet place to think about our faith. Where is yours and how often do you go there?
  • Why is it so hard to see our faults?
    • Ideas to Explore: Lack of humility. Engrained sinfulness. Stubbornness. What are your blinders?
  • Why do you think that repentance is part of salvation?
    • Ideas to Explore: Repentance breaks the bindings of sinful behavior. Fear of God. Proves we are learning God’s Truth. Sharpens our discernment.
  • How do you think the crowd responded to the new Zacchaeus?
    • Ideas to Explore: Brought others to Jesus? Was a visible testimony of the power of faith in Christ. What can your testimony do for others?
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    NIV New International Version Translations