The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 goes: “Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they [self-righteous unbelievers, probably Pharisees] saw it, they all murmured, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.'” Looking closely:
Zacchaeus is so very typical of the lost. The lost are those who are yet in their sins, lost from the fold of safety and salvation.
1) Zacchaeus was lost even though he had a good name. Zacchaeus means “the righteous one.” It may have been a noble gesture for his parents to bestow such a honorable name to him, but they could not bestow righteousness itself. He was, like every other member of humanity, from the womb a sinner (Psalm 51:5; 58:3), and therefore “a man who is a sinner” (v.7).
2) Zacchaeus was lost even though he had a high position. He was “a chief tax collector” (v.2). Palestine had three tax districts, with offices at Caesarea, Capernaum, and Jericho. The Jericho office was important because it was at the heart of a very important trade route from Egypt to Damascus, and because its region abounded with balsam balm. The taxes on this balm and the goods which traversed this route generated much income for the Roman government. Zacchaeus was the head of the tax office which collected this revenue. He therefore had a very high rank. But high office does not commend one to God. Zacchaeus was therefore as much “a sinner” as the lowest ranking person.
3) Zacchaeus was lost even though he was “rich” (v.2). Riches do not commend one to God. Zacchaeus was therefore as lost as the poorest person. And riches usually stand in the way of one coming to God. This is illustrated in the rich young ruler who refused to follow Christ because “he was very rich” (Luke 18:23).
4) Zacchaeus was doomed to remain lost because he was not even aware that he was lost. One will never seek the Lord until he realizes his need of the Lord. Zacchaeus “sought to see who Jesus was” (v.3) apart from realizing whom he himself was. He therefore desired to see Jesus only because he was curious about Jesus, not because he realized his need of Jesus.
5) Zacchaeus was doomed to remain lost because “he was of short stature” (v.3). This is true not only physically, but also spiritually. Zacchaeus was “a sinner,” and therefore did not measure up to the standard of righteousness God requires.
6) Zacchaeus was doomed to remain lost because others prevented him from coming to Christ. He was prevented from seeing Jesus “because of the crowd” (v.3). He was prevented from coming to Jesus because he was, like every other member of mankind yet in sins, a captive of the devil performing the will of his master and incapable of releasing his own bonds (2 Timothy 2:25).
7) Zacchaeus was therefore up a tree (v.4). This was true not only with regard to the sycamore tree which he climbed, but also with regard to the fact that he was lost and helpless.
It should seem that Zaccheus was under soul-distress but a little while; perhaps not so long: for, as one observes, sometimes the Lord Jesus delights to deliver speedily. God is a sovereign agent, and works upon his children in their effectual calling, according to the counsel of his eternal will. Jesus Christ came to seek the lost. The lost will not seek Him, so He seeks them! Jesus knew where it was! He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus’. Jesus knew whom He was seeking, and even his name. He sought the lost man Zacchaeus, and therefore said of him, “Today salvation has come to this house”. This account is concluded with one of the purposes of Jesus Christ in coming to earth (v.10):
“THE SON OF MAN HAS COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST.”