The Godfather Out on a Limb
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:1-10 (New Living Translation, NLT)
This was no chance meeting between Jesus and Zacchaeus. The Lord strategically set up this encounter in order to reach Zacchaeus, a truly corrupt and wicked tax collector. The Passion Translation (TPT) calls him a crook. He was a chief tax collector, meaning he was s supervisor over other tax collectors. Essentially, he led a huge tax collecting racket which earned him much money and made the people fear and hate him. The men who reported to him collected more tax from the people than was due to the Roman government, keeping the extra. The scripture says he was very rich, which is not surprising since he was what we might call the boss over the Jericho organized crime ring of that day. We might even consider him the godfather of tax collection. He was despised by the people for a reason.
The encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus was purposed ahead of time. Jesus was not from Jericho, yet He knew Zacchaeus’ name. How? This was a word of knowledge given to Jesus. And understand this-Jesus did not accidentally look up into the tree and happen to catch a glimpse of Zacchaeus. He knew that Zacchaeus was a part of His ministry assignment for the day, and the Holy Spirit had already shown Jesus where to find him. How do we know it was not an accident? The Word tells us that Jesus did only what His Father showed Him to do, including looking up into the tree and going to dine with Zacchaeus.
So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 5:19 (New Living Translation, NLT)
Here’s another thing to think about. Names are important to God. He does not mention names in scripture without a reason, including Zacchaeus’ name. Zacchaeus means pure. How ironic. In the eyes of the world, he was the most impure man around. However, God saw what he would be in Christ. Zacchaeus may have been a filthy, dirty, low-down sinner, but God looked beyond that to what He could make him. Zacchaeus’ name was a prophetic statement of what he would become- pure. Every time someone called his name, they were proclaiming the cleansing that would be coming to his life through Jesus. When the divine appointment between Zacchaeus and Jesus took place, Zacchaeus repented of his evil ways and made restitution, finally becoming what his name proclaimed him to be.
There are a couple things we can take away from this. First, we need to remember that God sees more in us than we do. He sees what we are in Jesus. We are accepted in the Beloved. Second, we cannot count anyone out or judge someone as being beyond help. Those people whom we would consider notoriously wicked and evil are not beyond the reach of God. We need to spend less time criticizing them and spend more time interceding for them. We need to decree divine appointments for these people so, like Zacchaeus, they can have a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
As the body of Christ, we are Jesus to the lost. Let’s look at people through the Lord’s eyes, seeing the value in every person, and leading them to repentance through love and compassion.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10 (New Living Translation, NLT)