Summary: Each of us is born with a preordained purpose and destiny. NOTHING on this planet happens by chance. Zacchaeus' life is a CLEAR example of this. HE drifted from God's plan of salvation, but was brought back by God to fulfill his destiny...his purpose.
….so when Jesus got there, He looked up and said: “Zacchaeus hurry down! I want to stay with you today.” 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.”
Zacchaeus was born from Jewish parents OVER two thousand years ago in a flourishing town called Jericho. This specific town was located strategically, with roads going from Jericho to Jordan in the east, Damascus in the north and Egypt in the south. From Jericho's balsam trees a famous balm was produced, so it became a very rich district.
Living in this rich district, Zacchaeus developed the burning desire to become rich. He did not care WHAT he had to do to fulfill his dream. Eventually he offered his services to the Romans, and worked himself up to chief tax collector. During this period the Romans were the enemy of the Jews, because they ruled over them an iron fist and burdened them with heavy taxes.
Zacchaeus did NOT receive payment for his services to the Romans. He however had the option to add HIS portion of his reward to the taxes the Jews had to pay; thereby burdening his people financially even more. The more taxes he gathered, the larger HIS share of income was. Eventually he became VERY wealthy, an important man, but ALSO despised and rejected by his own people, the Jews. They felt very strongly about the fact that he betrayed them and sold them out to the Romans.
Zacchaeus became SO wealthy that he could employ his OWN tax collectors to collect taxes for him. Although he was now associated with some of the richest men in his region, instead of feeling contented and happy, he felt lonely, miserable and troubled. The fact that he was stealing from his OWN people, started giving him sleepless nights….his conscious was playing up to him. He became completely isolated from them. He might just as well have been a senator in the much hated Roman senate. How he yearned for his people to accept him….to acknowledge him as one of their own. THIS however would NOT be forth coming, as the rift between him and them was too great….they have turned their backs on him, and looked upon him as an enemy.
He often heard people talking about Jesus. How He raised the dead, healed the sick and dined with sinners. Some said that Jesus taught people to love their enemies and to forgive them. The more he listened to these stories, the greater the need became in him to meet this man called Jesus. It was as if he was driven by a force much greater then himself. I speculate that he TRIED to reach Jesus at one time or the other before, but due to the fact that he was a very short person and the Master ALWAYS had a LARGE following, he could NOT meet OR see him. This however did NOT put him off. He became desperate to meet the Lord, even if he could just see him from a distance. It became his mission to meet Him.
Being a wealthy and an important person in his community, he was well connected with people. It was some of these VERY people who told him that Jesus would later during the day pass through his town at a given point. THIS prospect exited Zacchaeus BEYOND words, and he decided that he just HAD to see Jesus. He ran to a sycamore (fig-mulberry) tree that would hover over the Lord when he passed by, and waited upon His arrival. The Bible does NOT say how LONG he waited. NOBODY knew that he was sitting in the tree.
When Jesus and His large following eventually passed underneath the tree, a STRANGE thing happened….the Lord stopped, looked up into the tree and said: “Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with YOU today.” In disbelieve he might even have said to himself: “Jesus knows my name, although we have NEVER met and are strangers to each other. How DOES He know my name….WHO told Him about me?” Nevertheless, Luke says he HURRIED down from the tree to invite Jesus into his home and into his life.
Zacchaeus was one of THOSE chosen by God to be saved, BEFORE the creation of the world. His name was written in the Lamb's book of life. Meeting Jesus was his destiny. The Lord visited Jericho on THAT given day to find HIM. Zacchaeus knew he was NOT pure and righteous. He was probably ONE of the greatest sinners in the entire wealthy Jericho district, but the Bible says where sin abounded, grace did much MORE abound (Romans 5:20). The mission of Jesus was NOT to seek those who were holy and self-righteous, but to seek the lost.… NOT to find the healthy but the sick, that He could heal them. Jesus ALONE is the Savior; the ONLY Savior, who came to save those who needed salvation. Zacchaeus was a sinner by birth, by nature, and by practice, who could NOT save himself, so God sent the Savior to seek and save him. Although Zacchaeus NEVER met Jesus before, the Lord KNEW where to find HIM…in a tree in Jericho. In Luke 15 we read about the joy of finding the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. When one sinner repents there is celebration, not only on earth, but also in heaven.