The text for this lesson is Luke 19:1–10
- Zacchaeus joyfully responded to His Savior’s invitation, showing the Word of God at work in him. We keep God’s name holy and glorify Him as we live according to His Word, letting His light shine through us.
- Law: I take what does not belong to me because I think that it will either help me or make me happy, but breaking God’s Law always makes me miserable.
- Gospel: Jesus frees me from my misery through the forgiveness of sins. Thus freed, I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to live according to God’s Word and bear fruits of repentance, not to earn forgiveness, but as a response to salvation.
- Jesus is on His way up to Jerusalem. He just told His disciples for the third time that He must go to Jerusalem to fulfill all that the prophets foretold—to die and to rise again. He is passing through city after city teaching and working miracles. These are His final days before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Scripture records Jericho as His last stop before reaching Bethany, outside of Jerusalem.
As He was entering Jericho, He healed a blind beggar (Luke 18:42). While in Jericho, at Zacchaeus’s house, Jesus told the people the parable about the ten minas (Luke 19:11–27). On His way out of town, He healed two blind men (Matthew 20:29–34), one of whom was Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46–52).
Jericho was not Jesus’ destination. He was only passing through. However, while He did, He worked at least two miracles, changed a man’s life, and told a parable to the people. By an intentional visit to a tax collector’s house, He demonstrated God’s desire to save the lost.
Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and desired to see Him. By this time, Jesus was so popular that people crowded around to see Him and to listen to His teachings. Many approached Him to receive healing. Zacchaeus, being too short to see over the crowds, ran ahead and climbed up in a tree near where Jesus would pass by.
Out of all the people who were around Him, Jesus sought out Zacchaeus for lodging that night. This request to stay at his house was a tremendous honor, and if Zacchaeus was not already motivated to repent and bear fruits of repentance, then he certainly became so upon Jesus’ visit with him in his house.
Consider the disparaging reaction of the crowd to Zacchaeus’s reaction to the request. Zacchaeus receives Jesus joyfully. The crowd grumbles. The crowd still does not understand that Jesus does not pay attention to what people expect of Him. He works for the lost, the miserable, the lonely, the poor, and the needy. Jesus is the Physician who comes to heal the sick. He is the Shepherd who searches out the lost sheep while leaving the ninety-nine.
Jesus’ merciful action prompted Zacchaeus to repent of his sins and make restitution for his wrongs. Tax collectors were notorious thieves in first-century Judea. They were Jewish people under the service of the Roman government. Tax collectors were seen as traitors. The Romans used them to keep an accurate record of the people (Luke 2:1) and to collect money (Matthew 9:9). They were supposed to collect a certain amount for the Roman government, but if they collected more, then they got to keep it themselves. Everyone knew that they collected more than they were supposed to, but as the tax collectors were under the protection of the Roman army, no one could refuse to pay upon penalty of punishment. Eight times in the Gospels, the reproachful phrase “tax collectors and sinners” shows how negatively people thought of tax collectors.
After Zacchaeus’s promise to give half of his wealth to the poor and to give back even more than he had stolen from the people, Jesus confirms what had happened to Zacchaeus’s heart. He says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus, for Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
God’s name is kept holy when His Word is taught in truth and purity and when children of God also live holy lives according to it. Faith and actions go hand in hand. When we believe that Jesus has forgiven our sins, our faith is seen in action and God’s name is kept holy among us. But false teaching leads to living contrary to God’s Word. We ask Him to protect us from this.