Episode NT23 – Zacchaeus

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Luke chapter 19 verses 1 to 10


Zacchaeus was a short man, short in height and short of friends! To say he was unpopular would be an understatement because most people hated Zacchaeus. You see Zacchaeus was a tax collector – he had paid the Romans to get the job of collecting taxes from his own people, the Jews. He then gave those taxes to the Romans who used them to stay in charge!

What’s more, as Zacchaeus had paid for the job of collecting taxes and the Romans didn’t pay him anything to do the job, he had to collect extra taxes from all the people so that he had enough to live on himself – and in fact, over the years, he’d grown quite rich!

If they had any choice in the matter, no ordinary Jew would have anything to do with the likes of tax collectors unless they absolutely had to! You see, because they worked for the Romans, tax collectors were considered to be traitors!

Oh, Zacchaeus did have some friends, but they were either tax collectors like himself or else one of the many other outcasts there were in Israel at that time. (P) But even among this group of outcasts the stories about Jesus had started to circulate. Some were saying that Jesus was the friend of tax collectors! Zacchaeus listened to these stories with great interest and decided that, should Jesus come to Jericho, the city where he lived, he’d make sure to see him.

One day sometime later, Zacchaeus heard an excited voice shouting outside. Stopping what he was doing, he listened.

‘Hey, David!’ said the voice, ‘Have you heard? Jesus is heading into town. We’re just off to see him. Why don’t you come with us?’ After that, the voice lowered and Zacchaeus heard hurried footsteps as they rushed off to see Jesus.

This was his chance! As quickly as he could, Zacchaeus got up and hurried off to see Jesus. But as he came closer to where Jesus was, he found a massive crowd of people, all wanting to see Jesus for themselves! Jesus was surrounded by 100’s and 100’s of people! (PAUSE)

Zacchaeus didn’t even bother to try and push his way through the crowd. He knew that when the people realised it was him trying to push past them, they’d never let him through. But he wasn’t going to be put off. He’d promised himself he’d see Jesus and he was determined to make it happen!

As he stood there wondering what to do, suddenly a thought sprang into Zacchaeus’ mind. There was only one road through the city and Jesus would be travelling along it, so Zacchaeus ran ahead to see if there was some place he could stand that would give him a good view of Jesus. But there was nothing! What was he going to do?

Resting by a large sycamore tree, Zacchaeus thought through his options. He couldn’t push his way through to Jesus; the people wouldn’t stand for that, and, there was nowhere along the road where he could get a good view. Zacchaeus banged the back of head softly against the tree as he tried to work out what he could do, then he stopped, and looked up. The tree! Jesus would be passing right under this very tree!

As quickly as he could, for he hadn’t done this since he was a lad; Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree hoping the leafy branches would shield him from disapproving eyes. And then he waited as the crowd slowly made its way along the road.

As the massive crowd started to pass under the tree, they didn’t notice the little man hidden in the branches looking down. (P) There was no mistaking Jesus, Zacchaeus could tell exactly who He was – right in the middle of the crowd with people coming up to Him to talk or just look at Him!

It wasn’t the perfect way to see Jesus, but it was the best Zacchaeus could manage. Then, as Jesus moved directly underneath where he was hiding, to his surprise, Jesus stopped! Zacchaeus hadn’t expected this. Then suddenly, Jesus looked right up to where he was hiding and shouted, ‘Zacchaeus!’ Zacchaeus nearly fell out of the tree with shock! ‘Zacchaeus,’ Jesus continued. ‘Quickly, come down because I must stay in your home today.’

Jesus wanted to stay in his home? Zacchaeus couldn’t believe it – Jesus wanted to meet him! No one like Jesus had ever come to his house before. As quickly as he could, ignoring the disapproving stares from the crowd, Zacchaeus scrambled down from the sycamore tree and, with great excitement, took Jesus to his home!

However, the crowd weren’t so happy! ‘Doesn’t Jesus know who He’s dealing with?’ some of them grumbled. ‘That’s Zacchaeus – the tax collector! What possible reason could Jesus have for wanting to meet with that horrible little man?’

But something happened to Zacchaeus as he met with Jesus because as they sat in his house Zacchaeus suddenly stood up in front of Jesus and said, ‘Lord, I will give half of my wealth to the poor. And Lord, if I’ve overcharged anyone on their taxes, then I will pay them back four times as much as I’ve overcharged!’

Jesus smiled at Zacchaeus and looking round the room He said, ‘Today, salvation has come to this house, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. You see, that’s why I, the Son of Man, have come, to seek out and save those who are lost.’