July 08, 2020 – Wednesday
Luke 19:1-4 NIV
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.
2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.
4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
Jericho is thought to be literally one of the oldest cities in the world. It is the location of an amazing miracle in the Old Testament. It was protected by a great surrounding wall, thick or wide enough at the top that chariot races could take place. It was this wall that collapsed when Joshua followed God’s directions. The directions included six days of seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually Joshua 5:13. However two verse later we read On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. At Joshua’s direction (v20) the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.
Given the background of Jericho, it is natural to ask why was Jesus passing through this city on His way to Jerusalem? After all, nothing happens by chance when it comes to Jesus. We can reasonably assume any and all recorded events in His life have a purpose. So why go through Jericho? There were other routes He could have chosen to Jerusalem, but He chose to go through Jericho.
The only incident recorded in His travel through Jericho is the story of Zacchaeus, the short wealthy chief tax collector. Could His purpose have been to make sure Zacchaeus would meet up with Him? Some commentators believe it to be so and scripture seems to reflect this as well. After all the name Zacchaeus means ‘pure one’ although he was certainly not pure. First of all tax collectors were hated by Jews and Zacchaeus was not just a tax collector, but he was a chief tax collector.
They weren’t hated only for being a tax collector for the hated Romans, but also for cheating those they levied taxes upon. Guzik tells us The tax collector made his profit on whatever extra he could get away with charging his client. A tax collector was highly motivated to make the taxes as high as possible. This is backed up in Luke 3:13 by what John the Baptist told the tax collectors who came to be baptized and asked what they needed to do to get right with God; John’s reply, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to.”
This tax collector, a chief tax collector, a wealthy tax collector wanted to see Jesus, but was so short he could not see Him over the crowd. So he ran ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to make sure he would see Him. He did not care how silly he might look. His need to see Jesus was so great he gave up any pretense of dignity in order to see Jesus. Maclaren says, I wish there were more of us who did not mind being laughed at if only what we did helped us to see Jesus.
Jesus called Zacchaeus down to stay at his house which angered many who called Zacchaeus a sinner. This resulted in Zacchaeus saying to Jesus in verse 8, 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. Note: the concept of paying back four times what was stolen or cheated out of likely comes from Exodus 22:1 Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
However, what Jesus said after Zacchaeus made his offer is the most telling in verse 9 and 10, Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Thus the question for us – the lost – is how desperate are we need to see Jesus in our lives? Are we desperate enough to give up any false dignity we might have to seek His salvation, confess our sins, and be saved?