Study 4 ZACCHAEUS THE PUBLICAN
TEN NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Luke 19:1-10)
This account is of a well-known, wealthy publican climbing a tree to get a look at Jesus! Read it through and try to enter into Zacchaeus’ feelings as he sought to see Jesus, risking the scorn and criticism of the crowd, and as Jesus stopped to tell him He wanted to go home to his house. The whole exciting incident is an illustration of Luke 19:10, and there are three great attractions about it:
- 1. It is the record of a sudden conversion. Some people do not believe in sudden conversion, but certainly here was one! When Zacchaeus climbed up the tree he was lost; when he came down he was saved – as quickly as that!
- 2. It is the record of the conversion of an unlikely man. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, a Jew working for the Roman government. He defrauded the people and had no conscience about it. We are apt to write-off some people as being too difficult for the Lord to save. Thank God, no-one is beyond His grace, and we should not despair of the salvation of anyone.
- 3. His conversion was thorough, with no half-measures. Immediately the Lord met with him he showed he wanted to be 100% His follower and His disciple.
How did the miracle happen? This study could be entitled, “How to be saved and know it!” But how can someone be saved and know it? We must answer that question from the incident, not only discovering how to be saved, but how to talk to someone else who is seeking, and directing that person to Christ:
1. You must mean business and seek the Lord with determination
Was Zacchaeus simply curious to see who Jesus was? Surely not! – look at verses 2 and 3. A well-known man doesn’t climb a tree just to satisfy an idle curiosity. Evidently Zacchaeus was dissatisfied and hungry, longing for something which he thought Christ could supply. He was very earnest because “he wanted to see who Jesus was”; but he didn’t realise that Jesus was seeking him. We have a seeking Saviour and a seeking sinner, and the two are bound to meet. This was Zacchaeus’ only opportunity to meet Christ – look up Isaiah 55:6. What a good thing he was so determined and prompt in his action!
2. You must overcome some obstacles
Look at verses 2-4 and consider the valid reasons that Zacchaeus could have given for not seeking Christ: “I am a chief tax collector. What will others say? I am too well-known; besides the crowd is too great and I’m so short. What will the family say, the neighbours…?” But Zacchaeus overcame his pride, his greatest hindrance; and if you are not saved you will have to overcome certain obstacles before you can come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
3. You must receive the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour
Zacchaeus must have been shocked when Jesus stopped at his very tree and asked to go to his home (verses 5-6). Most people hated the man but here was Someone who loved him. Does it surprise you that Zacchaeus came down out of that tree quickly and received the Lord Jesus so joyfully? How different from the rich young ruler in Mark 10:22; and Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:24). A Christian, a believer, is someone who has received the Lord Jesus (John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27; Revelation 3:20); no-one is a Christian who has not received Him. If you would be saved you must receive, accept and welcome Him into your heart and life. This is a very personal matter, as verse 6 indicates – “He (Zacchaeus) welcomed him (Jesus) gladly.”
4. You must expect and be ready for criticism and opposition
The opposition was directed against the Lord (verse 7) but Zacchaeus was at the centre of it. The people “muttered” but Zacchaeus took his stand with Christ, although it meant being a target for the criticism and misunderstanding of the crowd. It’s not possible to become a real Christian without experiencing some measure of persecution and opposition; look up and compare Matthew 5:10-12; John 16:33; Philippians 1:29. Are you prepared for this? See Luke 14:26-27.
5. You must confess the Lord before others
We see in verse 8 that Zacchaeus did not go and hide. He had no intention of being a secret disciple. He at once identified himself with the Lord whom he now acknowledged openly as his Saviour and friend. Look up to see what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, and compare Romans 10:9-10. If you are going to be a real Christian and have the assurance of salvation, open confession of your personal faith in Christ is absolutely essential.
6. You must be willing to obey the Lord
Notice in verse 8 exactly what Zacchaeus said: firstly, that he would make restitution. He was saying, ‘Now that I’m saved there are things I must put right.’ But secondly, Zacchaeus said that he was going to share some of his possessions with those whose need was far greater than his own. He was now living under a new Master, no longer serving and pleasing himself (John 13:13). In being a disciple of the Lord Jesus his whole desire was to serve and please Him. Are you willing to go that far to be completely the Lord’s?
7. You must rely upon Christ’s word for the assurance that you are saved
Look at verse 9. As soon as Jesus said that, Zacchaeus knew that he was saved. That is the only way to get assurance of salvation – to rest upon the Word of Christ, as the paralytic man did (Mark 2:5) and as the dying thief did (Luke 23:42-43). Now look up John 5:24.