Luke 19:2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
There’s a good chance that as the crowd passed by Zacchaeus, someone made a joke. After all, it’s not every day that you see someone sitting in a tree, much less someone like Zacchaeus. The Bible tells us three significant things about him:
1) He was a ‘tax collector’ which meant that almost everyone hated him
2) He was a ‘chief’ tax collector which meant that he was someone very important
3) He was ‘rich’ which meant that he was probably dressed in expensive clothing
Zacchaeus was the last man anyone would ever expect to see sitting in a tree. Yet there he was, perched on a limb like a squirrel eating an acorn. No doubt some saw this as an opportunity to get back at him. “Look!” someone probably said. “There sits Zacchaeus in a tree. I told you that he was a nut.” Perhaps someone else said, “I hope he falls and breaks his neck.” No doubt both comments caused many in the crowd to laugh with scorn at the man they all hated.
How did Jesus react to Zacchaeus? Did He join the laughter and make fun of him? The Bible says – “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.’” Rather than mocking Zacchaeus, the Lord requested the opportunity to be a guest in his home.
The Bible says that many in the crowd could not understand why Jesus would associate with someone like Zacchaeus. “And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’” (Luke 19:7) Zacchaeus was a crook and everyone knew it. How could a righteous man like Jesus ever associate with a sinner like Zacchaeus?
Was Jesus unaware of Zacchaeus’ sinfulness? Did He not know about the times this tax collector had taken advantage of the poor and robbed them? Was the Lord aware of the wild parties Zacchaeus often threw for his friends? Jesus knew more than anyone else how sinful Zacchaeus really was. Yet the Lord also knew that Zacchaeus was someone who was searching for the truth. After all, people don’t go to all the trouble to climb a tree for no reason at all.
The Bible says that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. What was it about Jesus that so intrigued him? Was it that Jesus had the power to heal the sick and raise the dead, or was it that Jesus had the power to change men’s lives? I believe that deep down inside, Zacchaeus was longing for something or someone who could help him escape the kind of life he had been living. Therefore, when he heard that Jesus was about to pass through Jericho, he was not about to let anything keep him from this opportunity to find some answers. He was willing to do anything, even climb a tree and allow himself to become the object of everyone’s ridicule.