Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And 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 and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
So what was it? Was he merely “passing through” Jericho, or did he intend all along to eventually hang at Zacchaeus’ place? If Luke’s larger account is at all chronological, Jesus has already underscored God’s approval of a humbled, repentant “tax-harvester” (i.e., collector, cf. Luke 18:9f). Man sees the outward appearance; God sees the heart.
Curious but wanting to keep his distance, Zacchaeus finds a sycamore-limb perch to steal a look. His Savior—soon to be Lord— owns a different agenda. “I must TODAY stay at your house,” Jesus surprises. Luke’s reporting notes divine necessity in Jesus’ declaration. Not satisfied with a wave from afar, Jesus wants time with us in whatever we call home. His goals are clear. Extend grace. Establish relationship. Change quietly, from the inside out. Transform into living like sons of Abraham, who was God’s wonderful friend (cf. James 2:23b).