4 November 2007

Luke 19:1-10

"When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today'. So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him". (v.5-6)


In Jesus' day, tax collectors were not just unpopular, they were despised and shunned. Because they worked for the Romans, who were occupying the country, they were seen as collaborators with the enemy.

In addition, the Romans were not very particular about the methods used by those who collected taxes on their behalf. Many tax collectors resorted to methods which were forbidden under Jewish law. Intimidation, extortion and violence were commonplace.

So, although most tax collectors became rich it was at the cost of becoming outcasts in their own society. Ordinary people avoided them and they were not very welcome on social occasions, not even at worship. Some tax collectors coped with this, but others struggled with their exclusion.

By the way in which he tells the story, Luke intends us to notice what Jesus didn't say or do, as well as what he did. People would have expected a religious teacher such as Jesus to demand repentance from Zacchaeus before he would enter the house. However, Jesus did not do that. By simply asking to be his guest, Jesus sent out a clear signal that he accepted Zacchaeus just as he was.

In turn, Jesus' willingness to do this caused people in the crowd to criticise him for what they saw as his moral laxity. In this story, Jesus confounds the expectations of conventionally religious people about who is acceptable to God.

Stories with this message are a regular feature of Luke's Gospel.

To Ponder

Why do you think Zacchaeus was so keen to see Jesus?

What do you think caused Zacchaeus to repent and offer to make restitution to those he had defrauded?

Is restitution sometimes appropriate today when someone has wronged another person? If so, under what circumstances?

Bible notes author

Revd Michael Townsend

Michael Townsend is a Methodist minister. He has served in a variety of posts and is currently Superintendent of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Circuit.