Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem just prior to His triumphant entry and His crucifixion. Jericho was a stopping place for weary travelers. The city was a tropical paradise and rightly called “the city of palm trees.” It was located on a main thoroughfare to Jerusalem and was therefore the center of an exceptionally productive district. The traffic in and out of Jericho brought wealth and thus the revenue for tax collectors, the occupation of the man in our story, Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus’ name meant “pure,” an ironic name for a tax collector. Zacchaeus was not the individual who collected the actual taxes, he was a chief tax collector who contracted the work to others who then collected taxes for the Romans in this district. During this time there were several different types of taxes imposed by Rome and the Jews paid 30-40% of their income for taxes and religious dues. The tax collectors were allowed to gather more than the government required and then they would pocket the excess amounts. They were despised by their fellow Jews, simply classified as “sinners.”
Undoubtedly Zacchaeus had heard of this great man, Jesus, who had performed many miracles. We do not know how God had been preparing Zacchaeus for meeting Jesus. Perhaps he was one of the guests when Jesus dined at Matthew’s house, a fellow tax collector. . . or perhaps Matthew had told Zacchaeus about Jesus or was praying for him to meet Jesus. . . or perhaps Zacchaeus had realized that the money he had accumulated didn’t bring fulfillment, but rather it had brought an emptiness, feeling like he always had to have more – no matter how much he had, it was never enough. Or perhaps Zacchaeus sought out Jesus as a result of the rejection and scorn that brings isolation, loneliness and shame. . . or perhaps he had a sense of frustration and disappointment in life. . . or perhaps he was questioning what he was getting out of life. . . or perhaps it was out of the stress of managing an out of control business and out of control people. . . or perhaps he had a desire for Truth. . . or perhaps Zaccahaeus simply had the desire for immortality.
Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Who is your Zacchaeus? Who around you is seeking out Jesus?