Zacchaeus was a wee little man
and a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see
And when 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!"
Did you sing that song in Vacation Bible School or Sunday School? I did.
The song tells the story of a little man who wanted to catch a glimpse of the Miracle-working Rabbi and a Sovereign Savior who invited Himself to dinner.
The truth is, Zacchaeus was a ruthless, cold-blooded, hard-hearted “Chief Tax Collector” (Luke 19:2) in first-century Jericho. Because Israel was occupied under Roman rule, every Israelite paid taxes, tolls, tariffs, and tributes to the evil empire.
To collect these taxes, the Romans contracted with individuals, who paid for the right to assess and collect taxes from their neighbors. Once a tax collector owned the franchise, he could levy excessive sums. Any amount over that required by Rome, went immediately into the Tax Collector’s pocket.
Zacchaeus wasn’t an ordinary Tax Collector. He was a Chief. His cruel and callous ways had been noticed by the Romans and they had elevated him to his supervisory position, and to an even more lucrative position. As a result, “he was rich” (Luke 19:2), powerful, and hated by the citizens of Jericho, his hometown.
When Jesus was on his way to the final Passover Celebration in Jerusalem, he had travelled south from Galilee, along the Jordan River to Jericho. From Jericho, Jesus and His entourage turned west for the last leg of the trip. He stopped in Jericho long enough to heal a blind man named Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52).
As the omniscient Jesus made his way through town, He knew that a Divine appointment lay ahead. At the appointed place and time, Jesus stopped in the shade of a sprawling Sycamore. There, hidden in the leaves, was a man dressed in fine garments. Though they’d never met, Jesus addressed him by name. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).
The Bible doesn’t give us many details about Zacchaeus’s conversion experience. The taxman invited Jesus to his lavish home, and from that moment, he was never the same. He was transformed. Reborn. Regenerated.
Did Zacchaeus do anything to deserve God’s grace? Nope! Neither did I. Neither did you.
Grace is never earned or bought. It’s never deserved. That’s why it’s so amazing.