The story of Zacchaeus

Luke 19:1-10

The evangelical story of Zacchaeus is a story of a man who, through repentance, was reborn and newly born into life eternal

Zacchaeus was the leader of the tax collectors (Luke 19:2). The tax collectors were, for the Jews of that day, the most hated and despised kind of people on the earth. They were the ones who collected taxes for the authorities of the occupiers, the Romans. They were traitors and servants of the powerful. For the Roman authorities it made no difference how they extorted the tax from the impoverished population. All that mattered to them was that the money came pouring in. As unimportant as it was for the Romans, for the Jews it was a very painful matter, because the tax collectors added their own taxes on top of the tax money by which they added to their own wealth. Zacchaeus himself was very rich. (Luke 19:2) The evangelist emphasizes this fact in order to show that Zacchaeus was no better or different than the other tax collectors

However, during his encounter with Christ Zacchaeus changes radically. In one moment he leaves behind all his worries, his taxes and the tax collectors who work for him, in order to see Christ, “but could not, because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.” (Luke 19:5) Therefore he “climbed up into a sycamore tree” (Luke 19:4) for Christ was going to pass there. “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’” (Luke 19:5

Truly Christ did an honour to Zacchaeus’ home. And all who saw that “complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7

Christ could have gone to anyone else’s home, He had plenty of homes to choose from. After all, the multitudes were all around Him. In that multitude there must have been men more righteous and more reputable than Zacchaeus. But the Lord saw the dramatic changes in Zacchaeus’ soul and decided to help him and save what had been lost (Luke 19:10) No one in that crowd knew that, at the moment of repentance, this was no longer the old Zacchaeus that they knew, who extorted their money from them to the last coin and drained their life’s blood. The old Zacchaeus was dead for sin, and was born into repentance and a new life

His personal transformation was a very difficult one. He who had mercilessly extorted money from others was now ready to give everything back and live in poverty while walking the thorny path of repentance. He makes a public promise to Christ: “Look Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8) Christ knew that Zacchaeus really meant this and so He affirmed that indeed, salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house on that day. (Luke 19:9

On that day Zacchaeus made peace with God and with his people. He was now a son of Abraham, “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), a true repentant who had come back from the death of sin to a new life

The evangelical story about the repentant tax collector is a bright and joyful narrative. It invites us to reflect and act. It awakens and strengthens our hope that we, too, can find a place in the bosom of Abraham, among the chosen people through repentance. We have all been called to inner change and repentance and to stop living like the ungodly in their unwise ways. We are called to cast away our old way of life which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of the mind. (Ephesians 4:22:23

“Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-23) “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself and the wicked one does not touch him.” (1 John 5:18) says St. John the Theologian. This is how we Christians ought to be – we must differ from others both in our lives and in our deeds. For, according to the apostle, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) This is an honor and a responsibility for which we will have to give an account

Zaccheus and his rebirth are a challenge to us to begin our own transformation. For if he received salvation with God’s help and through repentance, why would we, too, not receive salvation if we repent and place our trust in God’s help.