Luke 19:1-10

The Simple Hope of the Gospel
Luke 19:1-10
Intro: This text contains what many consider the “key verse” of Luke’s Gospel.

This event can be divided into roughly equal halves. The first half (vv.1-6) is set on the road and told from Zacchaeus’ perspective. The second half (vv.7-10) happens at the home of Zacchaeus and is told from Jesus’ perspective. 

In the streets of Jericho any number of the following groups of people would be found: pilgrims from Galilee, priests who were stationed there, traders from all lands who had come to buy/sell, robbers hiding in the bush, Roman soldiers, courtiers and busy tax collectors. 

Luke 19:1 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

The imagery here is that the NT Joshua is doing what the OT Joshua did – taking Jericho for God’s glory.

Jesus met the blind beggar as he entered Jericho (18:35), and as He was passing through Jericho, He meets an outcast of a very different sort. 

Consider the connections: One man was blind, while the other had his sight, but they both wanted to see Jesus. One man was a poor beggar, while the other was filthy rich, but they both needed something money cannot buy. 

Luke 19:2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.

Jew, chief tax collector, rich

What do we know about Jewish men in Luke?

They are fiercely jealous and protective of their culture/nation, all of which feels threatened by Rome.

“Zacchaeus” = “pure, righteous” – this fellow has all the marks of someone who is neither.

What do we know about tax collectors in Luke?

Tax collectors are presented positively in the 3rd Gospel. Heaven smiles on them.

Jesus declares one to be justified, or saved, in His parable of the Pharisee/tax collector (18:9-14) – therefore we might expect the same blessing to happen to Zacchaeus.

Christ also chose a tax collector to be one of His apostles (Levi/Matthew, 5:27-30). We also might expect Zacchaeus to become a disciple of the Lord.

What do we know about the rich in Luke?

The rich are presented negatively in the 3rd Gospel. Heaven frowns on them.

In 12:16-20, a rich farmer built barns he would never use since his life was unexpectedly taken by God, showing him to be a fool.

In 16:19-31, a rich man lives in luxury, oblivious to the plight of the suffering around him. His godlessness paves the way to hell for him after his death.

In 18:18-23, a rich ruler’s spiritual hope is choked out by his possessions. He says he wants eternal life, but walks away from the Lord. The conditions of the Gospel were too difficult for him.

Luke does not designate wealth as a categorical evil, but it nevertheless posed a danger to discipleship that cannot be minimized.

In 7:34, Luke calls Jesus “a friend of tax collectors and sinners,” but he has not yet depicted Him as a “friend of the rich.”

As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus oversaw the entire customs franchise there. He was the head of the Jericho tax cartel.

As a general rule, tax collectors were swindlers and cheats, therefore they were regarded as traitors to their own people.

Zacchaeus is both a tax collector and he is rich, so we are not quite sure how he will fare with Jesus.

Luke 19:3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 
Luke 19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  

Why did this busy, powerful man want to see Jesus of Nazareth? Maybe he had heard how sympathetic Christ has been towards tax collectors and other outsiders. Maybe he had heard of the miracles and hoped to see one himself. 

Whatever the reason, his curiosity reminds us that some of the individuals who are secretly interested in Jesus are people we would never expect to be interested in Him at all.

If we offered to discuss spiritual things with them, if we invited them to church, they would gladly visit. 

They are looking for Jesus already – sitting in their own sycamore trees, so to speak. If we can remove obvious barriers, then why wouldn’t we?

Zacchaeus faced two barriers:
(a)    crowd
(b)    stature 

“short stature” – dual implication…physical and social – Zacchaeus may not have been tall in stature, but his biggest problem was that he was short on godliness. 

In Roman antiquity, to be short was to be lesser in every way. Mikael Parsons notes that Zacchaeus was “a traitorous, small-minded, greedy, physically deformed tax collector sprinting in an ungainly manner ahead of the crowd.”

“he sought to see who Jesus was” – 2 men in Luke “sought to see” Jesus, but with very different approaches and results.

Earlier, Herod Antipas the ruling tetrarch, “sought to see Him” (9:9) but he stayed in his comfortable palace, making no effort.

Here, Zacchaeus takes every initiative available to him, even risking the shame of a supposed nobleman running in public and climbing into a tree.

As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus was a man to be feared. But alone in the crowd, he was only a man of “short stature.”

As chief tax collector, he looked down on the people in the crowd, but once in it, he could not see “because of the crowd.”

Zacchaeus is determined, which is a trait to be admired. He does not allow “what other people think” to keep him from seeing Jesus.

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

This is the only instance in the Gospels where Jesus invited Himself into someone’s home. A self-invitation was abnormal in Judaism. It was highly irregular and bordered on improper in that culture.

Yet it follows Jesus’ mission perfectly. Recall His instructions to the 72 disciples He sent out to evangelize in ch.10.

Luke 10:5 But whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house.”
Luke 10:6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.

Matthew Henry – Jesus brings His own welcome; He opens the heart and inclines it to receive Him.

When Jesus says, “make haste and come down,” we learn something of the urgency of the call of God. It must not be put off to a future time. It must be acted upon “today.”

When God calls a sinner by the Holy Spirit, He does everything inside us that needs to be done for us to be saved. He convinces us that we are sinners. He teaches us who Jesus is. He prepares our minds and our hearts to receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

By the preaching of the Gospel, Jesus stops us in the middle of life’s busy road and calls us to faith and repentance.

He enters our homes to change our hearts.

Zacchaeus is a man of power, wealth, and influence. But Jesus does not appeal to his titles. Instead, the Lord calls him by name.

Luke 19:6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.

Do not delay! There is a time and place for curiosity, for sitting up in the tree and looking at Jesus. But there is also a more urgent time for getting down from the tree and welcoming Christ with open arms.

What an unusual response for a tax collector toward a Jewish rabbi! Zacchaeus heard Jesus’ surprising invitation not as a judgment but as an occasion for joy!

The mood on the street does not match the festivity in the house!

Luke 19:7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus’ invitation to stay with Zacchaeus produces two radically different responses – praise from the tax collector himself and protest from the townspeople.

The self-righteousness of the Pharisees is not firmly entrenched in the population at large.

“complained” = “murmured, muttered” 

Luke 5:30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Up to this point has only been something the teachers of the law did. Now “they all” murmur their criticism of Jesus accepting sinful men.

In the parable of the lost sheep, 99 sheep were safe, and one was lost. In the Zacchaeus story, one is safe and “ninety-nine,” as it were, are lost.

“be a guest of” = verb form of the same word used at Jesus’ birth (“to lodge”)

Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The “guest room” denied to Jesus at His birth is now found in the home of a sinful tax collector.

Moreover, the hostility of the crowd has shifted from Zacchaeus to Jesus. By showing mercy to the tax collector, Jesus has taken the scorn and hatred directed to tax collectors upon Himself.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…

“sinner” – the people presume Zacchaeus to be a sinner because he takes goods from the Jewish people and gives them to Rome.

Observe the impact of the grace of Jesus…

Luke 19:8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

When Zacchaeus heard everyone muttering that he was a sinner, he realized they were right. So he stood before Jesus and whoever else and made it official. He confessed all the selfishness, greed, extortion, theft and fraud.

Because of the welcoming presence and influence of the Lord Jesus, Zacchaeus is prepared to rearrange his finances.

“I am now ready to give…”

This pledge is not made as a precondition for Jesus to receive Zacchaeus into heaven’s family – it is the result of it.

Jesus takes up residence, and His grace transforms the sinner into someone new. 

God’s law required the wrongdoer to: (a) confess the sin committed (b) offer full restitution of the wrong (c) add 20% to the price

Num 5:7 then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged.

Only in the case of livestock was a premium required: 5 oxen for the loss of 1, 4 sheep for the loss of 1 (Ex 22:1).

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

What does it mean to be a son of Abraham?

Later, Apostle Paul will outline two types of sons of Abraham, “children of the flesh,” (physical descendants) and “children of the promise,” (anyone who believes the Gospel – adoption, Rom 9:6-8).

Zacchaeus is both – a physical son of Abraham (Jewish) and now a spiritual son of Abraham by faith.

Gal 3:6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Gal 3:7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

He reminds us of John the Baptist’s warning not to presume on sonship to Abraham.

Luke 3:8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

To continue the direct connection of that episode to the Zacchaeus story…

Luke 3:12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
Luke 3:13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”

What can an evil spirit do to a saint?

Luke 13:16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?

Earlier we noted that anyone who reads the Gospels knows that Jesus is a friend to the poor and oppressed, and now the story of the saving of Zacchaeus testifies that Jesus is also a friend to the rich – even rich oppressors – if they repent.

Although identified as a rich man, Zacchaeus is not condemned! Bowing low, he slid through the eye of the needle.

Grace is forever scandalous because it is forever undeserved.

Grace is a scandal because it insists on including those whom we wish to exclude.

The story ends not with Zacchaeus seeking Jesus, but with Jesus seeking him.

Luke 19:10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus’ visit in Zacchaeus’ house was not a delay or a detour on His journey to Jerusalem. It was the very purpose of such a journey.


1.    You must want it.
2.    God must tell you.

What does it mean to trust in God by faith?

illus: John Paton, pioneer missionary to the New Hebrides islands (Scottish name for band of islands in South Pacific now known as Vanuatu), found that natives with whom he was working had no written language. He began to learn their language and develop an alphabet so that he could translate the Bible for them. Soon he discovered that they had no word for “faith,” which presented a major barrier in translating the Bible! How can you translate the Scriptures without a word for that most important concept? One day he went on a hunt with some of the natives, and they killed a large deer. After the initial emotion of the kill wore off, they were faced with carrying this large animal back down the mountain. They tied its legs together and supported it with a pole, but the journey was still taxing and quite difficult. When they finally reached the veranda at the missionary’s house, they secured the deer and one of the native men flopped down onto one of the deck chairs exhausted from the trek. “Man, it is good to stretch yourself out here and rest,” he declared. Paton immediately jumped to his feet to find a pen/paper to record the phrase, “stretch yourself out here and rest.” In his final translation of the NT, this was the phrase he used to translate the idea of faith – because exercising faith is nothing more than stretching out and resting on the Lord Jesus.