Luke 19:1-6

Luke 19:1 (KJB)
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

Since Jericho had a warm climate, it was a favorite winter retreat for the aristocracy. The city’s strategic location at the ford of the of the Jordan River enabled it to control the eastern trade routes. It was also a popular spot to stay before one ascended up out of the Jordan Valley on the way to Jerusalem. It was noted for its balsam gardens and palm groves which were given to Cleopatra by Antony. The balsam trade was important because it yielded heavy taxes.

Luke 19:2 (KJB)
And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

At Jericho there was a man named Zacchaeus. The name means “pure, justified, or innocent.” Kind of an oxymoron in this case. He was a publican, one which collected taxes but he held a higher office as “chief” among the publicans. He would be considered a Commissioner of taxes. Since he had many tax collectors working for him, he was rich. The normal routine would be like the Mafia. Those on the lower rung had to kick up a certain percentage of their take to the boss and no doubt Zacchaeus received a good income from his subordinates. Rome had no problem with this as long as they received the amount they set forth.

Luke 19:3 (KJB)
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

Zacchaeus was a short man and since the crowd was big, he could not see over them and it is doubtful that anyone would let him through, especially if they knew who he was. He had made several attempts to see Jesus but failed. At first, it seemed Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus as a curiosity seeker and had no idea what awaited him. He may have been made fun of because of his height and maybe that is why he took the job as chief publican because it would be a good way to get even with his detractors.

Luke 19:4 (KJB)
And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

Since Zacchaeus had made repeated attempts to see Jesus and all failed, he knew what street Jesus was going to walk down on and he immediately knew there was a tree he could climb to see Jesus. The sycamore tree’s branches spread out about 60 to 80 feet (18-24 M). It also had a short trunk which would have made it easier for him to climb it. It seemed that maybe he was in pretty good shape to be able to run and then climb a tree, even if it was not that high. He really must have wanted to see who Jesus was since he held a high position in the community and then climbed a tree like a child would. The tree gave him the height that he needed to be able to see Jesus, and for Jesus to see him. One of my friends told me that “Zacchaeus went out on a limb to see Jesus.” How much are we willing to go out on a limb for Jesus?

Luke 19:5 (KJB)
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

Jesus had passed directly under the tree where Zacchaeus had climbed and then He looked up and saw him in the tree. Then Jesus addresses him by name. (John 10:3 KJV) To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. Since Jesus addressed him by name, based on John 10:3, it seems that Zacchaeus became a believer at that time. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He always received an invitation to stay at someone’s home. This is the only instance in Scripture where Jesus invited Himself. He tells Zacchaeus to make haste and come down from the tree because He must stay at his house. The fact that Jesus had to abide at his house was for some reason within God’s will. The verb behind the word “must” in the Greek was often used by Jesus to refer to things which must come to pass in accordance with God’s will.

Luke 19:6 (KJB)
And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

Zacchaeus had responded to the commands of Jesus and in haste came down from the tree and received Him at his house joyfully. The word “joyfully” can also be understood as “rejoicing” since it is in the present tense. There must have been a tremendous time of rejoicing in that house when Jesus entered. Maybe this was the first time that Zacchaeus ever received a visit from one who was a Rabbi since he was hated for being a tax collector.