Summary: This morning we’re focusing on a high-ranking IRS man named Zacchaeus who cheated not on his return, but on everyone else’s. He had figured out a way to skim some money off the top and squeeze the last drop from people’s wallets. Jesus not only changed h
Jericho was a great place to be for Zacchaeus because there were a lot of people coming in and out of the city on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jericho was considered the “tax capital” of Palestine, the center of a vast trade network that extended from Damascus to Egypt. Zack was in charge of one of the three tax offices in the entire country, and may have had the best job of them all. Not surprisingly, the last part of verse 2 tells us that he was wealthy.
But he was a renegade in the eyes of the religious people. He would have been thought of as fondly as a high-level drug dealer is today. In fact, in the minds of people, tax collectors were often linked with murderers, adulterers, robbers, and other “sinners.”
Tax collectors were not new to Jesus. Early on in His ministry, Jesus had attracted, and worse yet (in the eyes of the Pharisees), received them warmly. In Luke 5:30, Jesus was accused by the religious leaders for eating and drinking with “tax collectors and sinners.” These two terms were almost synonymous to the Pharisees. There was hardly a life form more offensive than these traitors.
In verse 3 we notice that while Zack is very wealthy and successful by the world’s standards, he knew something was missing. Even people today, if they are honest, will eventually admit that there’s more to life than just trying to make money and obtain possessions.
Notice that it doesn’t say that Zack just wanted to see Jesus. No. He wanted to see who Jesus was. He wanted to figure out what it was that made Jesus different from everyone else. He was drawn to this man who had just given sight to the blind beggar on the outskirts of Jericho. Now this healer was walking through his town. He may not have fully understood what was going on in his heart, but Zack had a desperate need to get to Jesus. He probably couldn’t even explain what drew him to see who Jesus was.
Perhaps that’s how some of you are feeling this morning. You’re drawn to Jesus. You’re intrigued by who He is and you want to get to know more about Him. I can remember that happening to me shortly before I became a Christian. I was curious about Jesus and loved to hear about the stories that we’re focusing on in this series.
Zack had at least two problems that day. The first was that he was a short man. I picture him bouncing up and down on his toes, like tigger, trying to see above the taller guys in front of him. With all the crowds pressing in, there was no way for him to get close enough to Jesus. In a large crowd like this I wonder if some unhappy taxpayers took out their frustrations with Zack by giving him an accidental elbow or a shove from the back.
His second problem was spiritual his sins were keeping him from Jesus. Isaiah 59:2 say that “our iniquities have separated us from God.” Not only was Zack of short stature, he, like us, was not able to measure up to God’s standards. He came up far short in a spiritual sense of ever entering into a relationship with God. He was short on integrity and tall on sin.