(Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 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.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
Only the Gospel of Luke tells us of Zacchaeus. Luke is a historian, documenting the rise of Christianity. He searched out stories, asked questions of those who knew Jesus and incorporated already written works into his own.
He was interested in getting to the truth about Jesus and his interactions with others. He asked about and recorded parables Jesus told, to include in his manuscript.
So the story of Zacchaeus intrigues me, because Luke included it. Which tells me there was a lasting impact in Jesus’ encounter with this little tax collector. Zacchaeus was a changed man, not just on the day he met Jesus, but after. Where once he cheated taxpayers, with his newfound title, “Child of Abraham,” his future years were lived with honesty and integrity. Stories of his generosity and how he came to be generous were known in Jericho.
Whoever told Luke the story, had the view of one who knew the before and the after version of Zacchaeus. Encountering Jesus can do that. Jesus can turn a heart around, a life around. Jesus can create before and after moments. To meet Christ puts life into perspective, rearranges values and sets us on a life changing, life-giving path.
When the crowd questions why Jesus would spend time with a sinner like Zacchaeus, he responded, “The son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Which is good news for anyone who has ever lost their way.