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Luke 19:1-10

The great Charles Spurgeon founded a college for men preparing for ministry that he called The Pastor's College. One of the famous features of the college was the experience on Friday afternoons of going to the question oak – a large oak tree on Spurgeon's estate where Spurgeon would meet with the young preachers and allow them to ask him questions about the Bible and ministry. Then, after the question session, Mr. Spurgeon would call on one of the students to deliver an extemporaneous sermon. Spurgeon called on a young man to give a message on Zacchaeus. The young man had three points and not much else. He said, “Zacchaeus was of little stature; so am I. Zacchaeus was up a tree; so am I. Zacchaeus came down; so will I.”

This is one of the best-known encounters that Jesus had to be found anywhere in the Gospels. One reason may be because of the little song about Zacchaeus that we learned early in Sunday School.

I don't even remember learning the song, I just learned it and the words go something like this:

Zacchaeus was a wee little men; a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree,

for the Lord he wanted to see, and as the Savior passed that way. He looked up in the tree, and

He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I'm going to your house today, for I'm going to your house today.”

That little song tells so clearly what happened that day. I want us to look at this man, Zacchaeus.

I. He Was a Despised Man 19:1-2

The name Zacchaeus means “pure or innocent,” but he was a long way from pure or innocent. He was a cheat. In fact, he had a license to cheat from the Roman government. Today, he would be a top IRS man.

He was a publican – worse than that he was a chief publican or tax collector.

The great robbers in that day were not those who attacked while you were on the highway, like the thieves in the story of the Good Samaritan, but the tax collectors, known as the publicans. Jewish tax collectors were considered as traitors because they worked for the Roman government. The Roman government required a certain per capita from the people. They farmed out the business of collecting taxes to Jewish publicans. The chief publicans had to pay the Roman government the required tax, but they could keep for themselves as much as they could squeeze out of the people – though extortion, threats, blackmail, putting pressure on folks.

Tax collectors are so despised by the Jews that even the Jewish Talmud allowed the Jews to lie to three groups. They could lie to a murderer, a thief, and a tax collector.


From a tax collecting perspective, Zacchaeus had it made. Taxes were collected at three places inland – Capernaum, Jericho, and Jerusalem – and he had one of the big three.

All of the publicans had a passion for money. They loved money better than the respect of their countrymen...better than they loved their own soul...better than they loved God.

There's nothing wrong with having money as long as the money doesn't have you.

In Luke 18 the Rich Young Ruler rejected Jesus because he loved his money more than he loved God. See Luke 18:24-25.

Why is it hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God? Because for many who are rich, riches tend to absorb their attention and riches give a false security and they give a sense of independence that is false and unreal.

No decent person would associate with a publican.

But although Zacchaeus was rich and successful, he was poor. He had obtained much, but it didn't satisfy. It left him empty. He was disappointed, restless and thirsty for God.

II. He Was a Desirous Man 19:3-5

Something was causing a stir in Jericho. Zacchaeus closes his tax booth and goes to see what all the stir is about. He is told that Jesus is coming down the street.

He has heard of Jesus. In Luke 5 when Jesus called Matthew, he made Jesus a feast and invited the other publicans to come. I wonder if Matthew asked the Lord to speak to him.

“He wanted to see Jesus who He was.” Why? Curiosity!

1. He had seen the change in Matthew's life since he started following Jesus and he wondered if Jesus could help him.

2. He was tired of being hated and hassled and alone. He was dissatisfied.

3. Something was stirring in his heart and he was drawn to Jesus.

He wanted to see Jesus, but because the crowd was so great and he was so short, he couldn't see.

If this story is ever made into a movie, I think Danny DeVito ought to play the Z-man. He's short and has shifty eyes and a swagger walk.

But since he was so hated, the people in front of him made sure he could not see between them or pass in front of them.

• He looked down the road that Jesus was on and saw a sycamore tree with its limbs low to the ground.


• Watch his passion: He runs to climb the tree. He didn't want the crowd to see him climb the tree; nor did he want Jesus to know that he was up the tree. After all, he had his dignity!

Here he was at the tree. And it was a tree with a great view. He wasn't going to miss this opportunity!

• What a sight it must have been. It's not easy to climb a tree with a robe on! Ladies, how would you like to climb a tree with a long dress on?

• It was hard for him. How long has it been since you tried to climb a tree? It's not that hard for a kid, but when you get as old as I am, it gets a little tougher, and Zacchaeus was an older man.

• I can see him, like a bird, perched on a limb.

III. He Was a Discovered Man 19:5-7

Jesus stopped under the tree and looked up at Zacchaeus. All eyes followed the eyes of Jesus as He looked up that tree and saw Zacchaeus perched on one of the limbs.

I can imagine the laughter as the people look up and see this little short Jew up the tree, trying to hide from everyone.

Then Jesus speaks to him and calls him by name. I don't think Zacchaeus could have been any more surprised if that sycamore tree itself had spoken to him. When Jesus spotted him, I think Zacchaeus braced himself for ridicule.

• It was one of those turning point moments. Zacchaeus had been seeking Jesus, but from this point on, Jesus is seeking Zacchaeus.

• Jesus looked up in that tree as though He had been looking for him and said, “Make haste and come down.”

• Jesus called Zacchaeus down from that tree, but Jesus Himself would be hung on a tree in just a few days. You see, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die on the cross. This is one of the last men that Jesus would call to Himself before His death.

Zacchaeus must have thought:

1. He knows where I am

- In Luke 19:10 the word “lost” does not mean misplaced, but out of place and because some-

thing is out of place it is useless; of no value.

- I have a watch that is lost – not because I misplaced it. I know where it is, but it is lost to me

because it is of no value. It doesn't run – it is out of place; not doing what it was intended to


- The same is true of every lost person. God knows where they are, but they are not in the

place that they are intended to be.

2. He knows who I am

- How did He know Zacchaeus' name? Maybe the same way He knew Nathaniel's name a few

years earlier when he was sitting under a sycamore fig tree.


- Whether you're UNDER a fig tree or IN a fig tree or up a creek without a paddle, Jesus still

spots us.

3. He knows what I am...and He still want me.

Jesus cared for him in spite of his sorted and soiled past.

IV. He Was a Delivered Man 19:5, 8-9

Jesus was the first decent person who had been in Zacchaeus' house in years.

This is the only time in the Gospels that Jesus invited Himself to someone's house.

Jesus said, “Make haste and come down” and he did. Jesus is never more honored than when we respond to Him quickly.

Revelation 3:20 – Have you ever gone to someone's house and knocked...and knocked...and knocked and no one came to the door? You knew they were home, but they would not respond to your knock.

Jesus didn't have to keep knocking with Zacchaeus.

When given the opportunity, he came to Jesus. He didn't delay a moment. What would he gain by delaying? He made haste and came down. I wish everyone would respond to God's invitation like that.

What did Jesus talk to Zacchaeus about? I'm not sure, but it must have included something about repentance and faith because his life was changed.

How do I know that?

1. Acceptance by God gave him what his riches could not – wholeness and satisfaction.

2. Compassion – Before he cheated the poor; now he wants to give to the poor – up to half of

what he owns. Money no longer has him.

3. Honesty – There was nothing honest about him before. Jesus changed all of that.

4. Responsibility – He is going to right some wrongs. He is going to restore fourfold the amount

that he swindled from folks.

He didn't receive salvation because he gave to the poor and made restitution, but these things are evidences of true repentance.

Let me tell you how I know this man was saved – 19:9

You've just witnessed a miracle – a camel passing through the eye of a needle! Luke 18:25

This little man never stood taller than when he bowed and gave his heart to Jesus!

Tradition says that Zacchaeus bought the plot of land where that tree was planted. He would go often to that tree for it was the special place where he met Jesus.

Do you have a special tree...a special place...that you can go back to where you met Jesus? Thank God...I Do!