Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart:
Luke 19:1-10 (ESV)
Jesus and Zacchaeus
19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus is the story of a man who went from “all out” to “all in” in a single day. He was a chief tax collector, which meant that he was very rich and very bad. If we told the story in today’s terms, we might call him a drug kingpin–someone who oversees a bunch of bad guys, and collects all their profits. Astonishingly, the Holy Spirit picked him, and stirred his heart to want to “see who Jesus was.” (19:3). Being too short on account of the crowds, he climbs a tree. This is important—it is actually the beginning of repentance, because he is willing to look goofy to the large crowd of neighbors. He is beginning to value seeing Jesus more than looking dignified. Then, instead of scolding him for his wickedness, Jesus overwhelms him with grace, by telling him he would join him for dinner. In Bible times, having a meal with someone was extremely affirming; it shows that Jesus love him, in spite of his sin. Once Zacchaeus experienced this undeserved loved, his heart melted, and he became a new man. At that moment, he committed his life to doing good for others, especially the poor. This is a great example of how only grace leads to real heart change.