When you were a child, did you sing this song in Sunday school? I never went to Sunday school regularly so I didn’t know this song at all.
It’s a catchy tune, and children seem to love it.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, A wee little man was he,
He climbed up in a sycamore tree For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Saviour passed that way, He looked up in the tree,
And He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, For I’m going to your house today, For I’m going to your house today.”
Folk tells me they loved that song and found the thought of a wee little man amusing.
We loved it, in part, because the wee little man–small like us–was the hero of the story.
They sang about the “wee little man,” we held our thumb and forefinger about an inch apart to show how small he was.
it is an amusing, happy story:
- Amusing, because it involves a short but rich man climbing a tree to see Jesus.
- Happy, because it shows Jesus welcoming this man whom nobody else liked. It says that Jesus saved him–brought salvation to his house–restored him to be a son of Abraham.
- And it is also a happy story because of the last verse. In the last verse of the story, Jesus talks about you and me. Listen to what he says:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (v. 10).
That’s you. That’s me. We were lost. Jesus came to save us.
Of course, in this story, Jesus was referring to Zacchaeus, who was lost. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and was probably dishonest. People hated him.
If we needed reasons to hate Zacchaeus, we could surely find them. Zacchaeus had probably gotten rich by overcharging poor people.
But God didn’t want to damn Zacchaeus to hell. God wanted to SAVE him! That is the happiest part of this story. Zacchaeus didn’t deserve to be saved, but God WANTED to save him. We know that because of something that Jesus said. When Jesus spotted Zacchaeus up in the sycamore tree, he said:
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (v. 5).
For Jesus to single out Zacchaeus conferred great honour on Zacchaeus. Jesus was popular. People loved him. People wanted to hear him–to touch him–to get near enough to him so that even his shadow would touch them.
Jesus was a great celebrity. For him to go to Zacchaeus’ home was like having the King come to lunch. It was hard to imagine such an honour. It would have been especially hard for Zacchaeus to imagine that Jesus would come to his house because everyone knew that Zacchaeus was a sinner.
If Jesus were going to honour someone with a visit, surely, he would honour a saint! But no! Jesus decided to honour this sinner! Amazing!
Jesus Fulfils His Ministry
Jesus explained his visit this way. He said, “Zacchaeus…, today I MUST stay at your house.”
This little word, “must,” is important. In the original Greek, the word is dei (pronounced day-ee). Dei suggests a Godly duty. When Jesus says that he MUST stay at Zacchaeus’ house today, he means that God has called him to do this.
It was God’s providence when that Jesus spotted Zacchaeus sitting up in the sycamore tree. Just as Zacchaeus was trying to see Jesus, Jesus was trying to see Zacchaeus. Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus, because he had a God-given duty to seek him and to save him.
The crowd didn’t get it. They grumbled, “He has gone into stay with a man who is a sinner” (v. 7).
But Zacchaeus got it! When he realized what Jesus was doing for him, he welcomed Jesus with JOY!
The Greek translation says that Lazarus welcomed Jesus with JOY! Zacchaeus could hardly imagine that Jesus would honour him by visiting his house, and his heart was full of JOY!
And then Zacchaeus, in his great JOY, said:
“Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.” (v. 8).
We are in chapter 19 of Luke. In chapter 18, Luke talked about Jesus’ encounter with another rich man–a rich man who refused Jesus–a rich man who loved his money more than he loved Jesus–a rich man who went away sad when Jesus told him to give his money to the poor.
Now Luke tells us this story about Zacchaeus, another rich man–but one who loves Jesus–a man who in his JOY at meeting Jesus decides to do something that Jesus has not even asked.
- He VOLUNTEERS to give half of his money to the poor, because he loves Jesus more than he loves money.
- He loves Jesus because of the JOY that Jesus has given him by singling him out–because of the JOY that Jesus has given him by coming to his house–because of the JOY that Jesus has given him by loving him.
Then Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house” (v. 9). TODAY! Not tomorrow! Not next week! Not in the eternal hereafter! But TODAY! It has already happened. Zacchaeus has been saved–restored as a son of Abraham–restored as a child of God.
Today salvation has come
And it isn’t just Zacchaeus who was saved. Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.” He means that Zacchaeus’ family has been saved too.
Jesus even lays the groundwork for the salvation of the community. They will see that Zacchaeus means business. They will see him give money to the poor. They will see him make restitution. They will see him begin to treat them fairly. They will begin to trust him. This rich and powerful man will become an honoured, beloved member of the community.
Who knows what wonderful things he will do! That is part of what Jesus means when he says, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
And then, in the last verse, Jesus explains. He says, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” That’s Jesus’ job! That’s Jesus’ calling!
- The Lord started seeking to save us before the creation of the world (See John 1:1-18)
- the Lord has been seeking us since BEFORE the day that he separated the waters from the dry land–since BEFORE the day that he set the sun in the sky.
- The Lord has been seeking us since BEFORE the beginning of time.
- He has been seeking to move us from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of JOY!
And Jesus has been seeking you!
The Lord needs to seek out to save the lost–and you were lost–so he is seeking you. He is seeking to move you from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of JOY! So, respond to him with joy.
Lord Jesus, this is my simple prayer to you. I know that I am a sinner and that I often fall short of the glory of God. No longer will I close the door when I hear You knocking. By faith, I gratefully receive Your gift of salvation. I’m ready to trust You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to Earth. I believe You are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank You for Your forgiveness of sins and for giving me the gift of eternal life. I invite Jesus to come into my heart and be my Savior. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
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