Who Was Zacchaeus in the Bible?

Jesus already knew that Zacchaeus needed to invite him to stay, not just in his home, but in his heart. After all, Jesus came to the world to save us from our sins so we could stay with Him forever.

Christianity.com Contributing Writer
Published Mar 23, 2021
Who Was Zacchaeus in the Bible?

Zacchaeus is a very important character in the Bible because he is a concrete example of a sinful man who was changed by Jesus Christ’s compassion over sinners. Luke 19 describes Zacchaeus as a tax collector in the City of Jericho.

He was known as a corrupt tax collector who collected more than he should have collected.  Because of this, he had a negative reputation in the community.

When Jesus was passing through the City of Jericho, Zacchaeus became very excited to see Him. However, since he was very short, he could not see Jesus from the crowd.

To solve this, he climbed a sycamore tree to get a better view of Jesus. Jesus saw this and called at Zacchaeus to come down from the tree. Jesus then added that He intended to stay at Zacchaeus’ house to which Zacchaeus happily accepted.

However, this did not please the crowd and made them question Jesus’ decision of associating Himself with a sinful man like Zacchaeus.

Nevertheless, Jesus stilled pursued staying at Zacchaeus’ house and, as a result, changed the course of Zacchaeus’ life.

Zacchaeus’ story is a very inspiring story to everyone both young and old. Based on the story about him in the Bible, there are three perspectives about Zacchaeus that could help us understand him.

1. Zacchaeus: From the Perspective of the Crowd

If we look at Luke 18:11 as written, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector,’” Zacchaeus, as a tax collector, was thought of as a sinful and greedy man by the Pharisee.

Historically, collecting taxes was a career that had a negative reputation. People hated tax collectors because they asked for money from people and also, they were known to ask for more than they should.

Roman taxes were very excessive, and the Jewish people were not happy about that situation especially since they were the oppressed and paying taxes for a nation that was not their own.

In the Bible, Jesus also compared tax collectors to pagans, as written in Mathew 18:17, “If they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Based on this, the crowd’s perspective of Zacchaeus was really just the societal norm about tax collectors and the fact that tax collectors used their position of power for the benefit of themselves and rendered people powerless in their situations.

This is where the crowd was coming from. Zacchaeus was sinful because he was basically a huge thief. With the excessive taxes that were being imposed from their hard-earned money, it is not surprising that the Jewish people had a strong stance against those that collected them.

But just as the crowd saw Zacchaeus’ sin, we tend to see others’ mistakes and sins especially if they are more obvious. We are quick to judge others but forget to look at our inner selves if we too are sinful.

2. Zacchaeus: From the Perspective of Zacchaeus Himself

Zacchaeus knew about Jesus the whole time and was excited to finally see him. Because he was very short, he tried to find other ways in order to finally see Jesus. He did this by climbing a sycamore tree.

Based on this story, we can easily see Zacchaeus’ character. He was a go-getter and possibly one of the characteristics and attitudes a tax collector should have because their job entailed asking and, sometimes, taking money from others.

Additionally, we can see that Zacchaeus was trying to find meaning in his life through Jesus. He was eager to know the truth about life.

Being a tax collector was not an easy job for him because of the nature of his business and because of how the crowd perceived him and for this reason, he climbed the tree to see Jesus and find the meaning in life.

When Jesus told Zacchaeus that He was to stay at his house, Zacchaeus became very happy and opened his doors right away. This is also an attitude that tells us that Zacchaeus was a man ready to be saved and to serve. He opened his doors for Christ and was willing to listen to His advice.

We can reflect a lot on the perspective of Zacchaeus. In this busy world full of noise in every area of life, we tend to want to find meaning in our lives to fill in the gap that we are experiencing. We try to “climb trees” to extend our eyes’ reach of a quieter yet better tomorrow.

Jesus is our better present and future. There is no need for us to climb a tree to be seen by Jesus. In fact, Jesus already saw Zacchaeus and knew Zacchaeus even before he climbed the tree.

But what really caught the attention of Jesus was Zacchaeus’ passion to be seen. It is important that we try to show ourselves to Jesus even if we know that He already sees us.

It is important that we acknowledge Him at all times. And finally, it is important that we show repentance for the sins that we commit.

After all, it is written in Luke 3:12-13, “Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them.”

3. Zacchaeus: From the Perspective of Jesus

Jesus decided to come to the house of Zacchaeus even if though he was a sinner, a tax collector that everyone despised. Jesus did not care about how the crowd reacted. Instead, He continued on and stayed at his house.

How Jesus obligated Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5-6, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly,” is an example of how Jesus obligates us to focus on Him during the times that we need Him the most.

His words “I must stay at your house,” were not a request, but more of a command that He needed to be invited and to stay with Zacchaeus.

Jesus already knew that Zacchaeus needed to invite him to stay, not just in his home, but in his heart. After all, Jesus came to the world to save us from our sins so we could stay with Him forever.

Our Takeaway

Zacchaeus was portrayed in the Bible as a sinful tax collector and despised by the crowd. He was also portrayed as someone who, despite his height and inability to see Jesus, found his way by climbing a sycamore tree.

And finally, he was the person that Jesus saw and demanded to stay in his house.

We are Zacchaeus and yet, we are also the crowd. There are moments in our lives when we can tend to be judgmental by stereotyping people based on worldly criteria.

And yet, there are moments in our lives when we know we have sinned, and we need to repent our sins by talking to Jesus. Jesus must come to our house.

He must come to every house whether it’s the sinful tax collector, Zacchaeus, or the judgmental crowd. He is the only person that sees us and our true nature.

For further reading:

Why Do We Ask God to ‘Create in Me a Clean Heart’?

How Did Jesus Bring People Together More Than Ever Before?

Why Do We Forget to Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner?

How Do We Know What Truth Is?

What Does it Mean That Today Is the Day of Salvation?

What Is the Importance of ‘As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord’?

Why Jesus Never Said, ‘You Get What You Deserve’

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/rudall30 

Glory Dy has been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.

This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

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