Before we really dig much more into our actual story here of Zacchaeus, we are going to briefly discuss some of the background of the story. We are also going to go backwards to another story.
Jesus, at some point before his encounter with Zacchaeus, had begun his final journey to Jerusalem. He, of course, knew why he was going there. It was on this final journey that Jesus began to attempt to teach his disciples about what was to happen to Him while He was there for the final time.
If readers are interested in the actual geography of this final journey, a really good map is included below.
Some of the events which occurred previously in the journey are key to later events, so let’s recap them really quickly if we may. Our actual story has it’s roots in the events recounted in the ending section of Luke Chapter 9, when the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus, and he and His entourage then turned East, left Galilee, and began the southward trip to Jerusalem. Here we see in
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;
It was while Jesus was in that area beyond the Jordan, that he had the encounter that provides such critical background to our actual story of Zacchaeus, and that is His encounter with the rich young ruler.
For today’s post, I am simply going to include both accounts from Scripture, for reading and study. Just read…think. I hope some things about these two stories will jump right out as quite evident. If not, don’t worry, because we will go there next.
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of little stature.And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 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. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Here we have two stories, clearly linked by time and geography. We have two very different men. We have to very different results. Just a casual look at the ending of each of these stories might seem ….odd.
The rich young ruler, the “good” man, went away sad
Zacchaeus, the “bad” man, rejoiced.
Isn’t that interesting?