To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Mac 6:18-31; Lk 19:1-10
The story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke and is the last encounter of Jesus with outcasts before he enters Jerusalem. It takes place when Jesus is passing through Jericho and on his way to Jerusalem.
Zacchaeus is the name of the tax collector who Luke informs us is “rich” (19:2). He desires to see Jesus, but there are obstacles to his desire. The first is the crowd and the second is his own short stature. These are interconnected. If there were no crowd, his short stature would not have mattered and if he were tall the crowd would not have mattered.
Zacchaeus does not allow these to hinder him and does what no grown man at his time would do: he runs. Worse: he climbs a tree. Through this Luke indicates that Zacchaeus was willing to face ridicule and being mocked by the crowd in order to do what he had set about to do. He gives up his self-importance and dignity, because all that matters to him is to see and encounter Jesus.
When Jesus comes to the place where Zacchaeus he asks him to hurry and come down. Zacchaeus obeys instantly. The reaction of the crowd is to grumble that Jesus would go to the house of a sinner. Zacchaeus on the other hand responds with generosity and uses the visit of Jesus to redeem himself. Jesus responds by confirming Zacchaeus’ status as a “son of Abraham”, not because he was born one, but because of his repentance. In the last verse of the story, Jesus pronounces salvation on the house of Zacchaeus and reaffirms his own mission as Son of man: to seek and save the lost.
The desire of Zacchaeus to see Jesus is a genuine one. He shows it is genuine by his willingness to overcome any obstacles that come in the way of his seeing. He is willing to persevere and do all that is required of him. His perseverance is rewarded by his meeting Jesus and being transformed by him.