A chief tax collector and wealthy, Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus but he was a man of “short stature.”
This was nothing new. He had been a boy of short stature, pushed around by the bigger boys. This made him want to be BIG. Money could do that, so he took the most lucrative profession—collecting taxes for Rome. He did well at it and became a leader of tax collectors building both a large house and a large contingent of enemies.

Jesus was coming.
His hometown of Jericho buzzed with excitement at the prospect of Jesus coming their way. Everyone had heard about the Prophet from Galilee, the miracle worker from the north. Everyone had either opinions of or expectations of what an encounter with Jesus might mean. Zaccheus knew there was no cure for being short, so why did he want to see Jesus?

  • Perhaps wealth was a disappointment and he knew there must be more to life than money.
  • It may be that power over a regiment of tax collectors—not the most pleasant of men, crooks every one—did not make him feel big. Something was missing.

His BIG childhood dreams had come true, but Zaccheus still felt small.

One more tree
Zaccheus had been climbing trees all his life. As a boy, it was an escape from his tormentors. Perched high in a tree, he could watch the bigger boys play cruel games and hate them from a safe distance. As a young man, there was the tree of wealth. He started at the bottom but made it to the top. Methods did not matter; wealth was the prize. A leader of crooks, Zaccheus was a crook, too. When the crowd blocked his line of sight, he found a handy sycamore tree and put his boyhood skill to work. It was just one more tree to climb.

Zaccheus met Jesus.
Jesus saw him in the sycamore and invited himself to his house for dinner. When Jesus came to dinner, two things happened:

  1. Jesus’ critics (those guys who thought they were BIG) got upset, and
  2. Zaccheus saw true greatness for the first time.

What did he see?

  • Jesus was more powerful than the Romans, but He was gentle.
  • He had more authority than the Jewish leaders, but He was humble.
  • He exercised more wisdom than the teachers, but He was easy to talk to.
  • Jesus had more true wealth, measured in peace, than any rich man he had known, but He was honest.

Zaccheus re-assessed his holdings. In a flash, he saw that there would never be enough money to make him BIG. He wanted the greatness he saw in Jesus and his money was in the way.

  • He gave half of it away. One by one the dirty deals, the weighted scales, and the faulty assessments came to his mind.
  • The other half of his money would make things right to four times over.

He devised a plan that would plunge him back into poverty, but he would never be a small man again.

Zaccheus, the Climber
“Successful” people are climbers. They climb organizational ladders, mountains of opposition, and trees of opportunity to get what they want. When they get it, if it is not God’s plan for them, all they can see from those heights is despair. If, through the witness and worship of believers, Jesus passes their way, they can climb one last hill—the hill of faith in Christ—and  find life’s true meaning.

Luke: 19:1-10
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 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.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Lord Jesus, life is full of obstacles that I must overcome. Some of them are hindrances like the multitude of tall people between Zaccheus and You. Sometimes the obstacles are opportunities, trees of promise, beckoning me to take the challenge of the climb. I want to live by faith today, making the most of every obstacle and opportunity. I will keep my eyes on You and position myself to see You more clearly so I can hear Your words and know Your healing touch. Thank You for this day! Amen.

Jesus Is Passing this Way

Words: Fanny J. Crosby; Music: W. H. Doane

1. Is there a heart that is waiting, Longing for pardon today?
Hear the glad message proclaiming, Jesus is passing this way.

Jesus is passing this way, This way, today;
Jesus is passing this way, Is passing this way today.

2. Is there a heart that has wandered? Come with thy burden today;
Mercy is tenderly pleading, Jesus is passing this way.


3. Is there a heart that is broken? Weary and sighing for rest?
Come to the arms of the Savior, Pillow thy head on His breast.


4. Come to thy only Redeemer, Come to His infinite love;
Come to the gate that is leading Homeward to mansions above.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

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