Zacchaeus: Encountering Jesus

Zacchaeus’ persistence in the face of huge and seemingly insurmountable obstacles to his desire for an up-close and personal encounter with Jesus eventually paid off. Having refused to give up on his quest to see Jesus despite the obstacles he faced, Zacchaeus took matters into his own hands by running ahead of the crowd and elevating himself to a favourable vantage point on a Sycamore tree where he could now see Jesus – And when Jesus came to the place (where Zacchaeus had positioned himself), he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5

Jesus did not only identify, single out and directly and personally address Zacchaeus but sought a more intimate encounter with him such that even Zacchaeus was totally unprepared for. What an outcome! Jesus’ self-invite to Zacchaeus’ house came out of nowhere and was wholly unexpected taking everyone by surprise – even Zacchaeus himself. In fact, we see later that the crowd actually found it offensive and objectionable that Jesus should associate with the “low-life” they considered Zacchaeus to be. But even though it came as a surprise to him too, Zacchaeus did not hesitate or vacillate but received the Lord joyfully! This was more than he’d dreamed or bargained for, but he was never going to miss this opportunity to entertain the Saviour in his home.

However, Jesus did not only invite himself but insisted, almost demanded, on being a guest in Zacchaeus house with an added sense of urgency. Zacchaeus responds to this sense of urgency in Jesus’s self-invite to his home with equal vigour hurrying to climb down from the tree to joyfully receive Christ in his home. Zacchaeus’ response to the Lord’s call on his life was swift and enthusiastic. He did not drag his feet or stop to consider what others might think or say but embraced Christ’s call wholeheartedly responding to it without delay. There was no time to waste or deliberate in. He went all in and received Jesus in his home ever so joyfully.

So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. Luke 19:6   

Once he did that, what would follow or the result of receiving Jesus into his life wholeheartedly as he did was only a matter of course. As Zacchaeus received the Lord in his house, the crowd were unhappy and busy commentating negatively while he was busy receiving his salvation. He did not care what they thought or said anymore – after all they’d already lambasted him as a traitor, sinner and robber. As far as they were concerned, he was not even fit to be considered for salvation – And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Luke 19:7 They failed to realise that it was the fallen and the broken who needed salvation and not the upright and the whole.

Those who failed to see their brokenness but considered themselves upright and fully deserving of salvation failed to receive it but he who was desperately aware of his need of it was awarded it freely.

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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. Luke 19:8 – 9

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on

A wholehearted and sincere response to Christ will always result in genuine and profound transformation. Wholeheartedness and diligence in seeking the Lord are keys to successfully finding Him and that in a big, big way.

This is what happened to Zacchaeus, this big-time tax collector, big-time sinner who, until that point did not, even in his wildest dreams, ever think he would entertain the Saviour in his home. Zacchaeus was not half hearted about the call of the Lord in his life but wholehearted giving it all up. He went all in – he did not restrict the Lord to a few areas of his life but allowed Him full access to all of them. It was no-holds-barred.

What followed was a powerful transformation.

Zacchaeus transformation was radical and comprehensive. It was a total change of heart and ways not limited or restricted to what we would normally categorise as “spiritual”. His entire life was turned upside down as a result of his encounter with Jesus. His transformation was an about turn of every area of his life. There was no area of his life that was untouchable or out of bounds to Christ and the force of the encounter with Him. You see, Christ’s transformation will always result in the transformation of the whole person, transformation that impacts and influences every area of a person’s life.

As followers of Christ, is our response to his call upon our lives wholehearted allowing him full access to all areas of our lives?

Every area of Zacchaeus’ life was affected and transformed by his encounter with Jesus.

Is that the same with us or do we limit and restrict how far or where we allow Jesus into our lives?

For Zacchaeus everything was laid on the altar.

In fact, the spiritual transformation was the cause and driver of the transformation in all other areas of his life. As spiritual individuals we often (wrongly) put God in a box and limit His working and activity in our lives to the spiritual only. Our encounters with Him are meant to yield transformation of our entire lives as their outcome.

In conclusion, for the kind of transformation Zacchaeus experienced, two basic requirements need to be fulfilled.

First, a desire for transformation – that which drove Zacchaeus to seek out Jesus, not avoid or evade Him. Zacchaeus did not distance but positioned himself in proximity to the Lord. At the end of the day, that was all he could do and could ever be expected from him – to correctly position himself. What would happen thereafter was no more in his hands but where or how he positioned himself was absolutely his initiative and responsibility.

Second, Zacchaeus came to The Lord as he was – no pretence or simulation – allowing the transforming power of the Lord to take effect in his life.

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