Zacchaeus in the Bible: Meaning and Importance of His Story (2024)

Zacchaeus is a very important character in the Bible because he is a concrete example of a sinful man who was changed by Jesus Christ’s compassion over sinners. Luke 19 describes Zacchaeus as a tax collector in the City of Jericho.

He was known as a corrupt tax collector who collected more than he should have collected. Because of this, he had a negative reputation in the community.

When Jesus was passing through the City of Jericho, Zacchaeus became very excited to see Him. However, since he was very short, he could not see Jesus from the crowd.

To solve this, he climbed a sycamore tree to get a better view of Jesus. Jesus saw this and called at Zacchaeus to come down from the tree. Jesus then added that He intended to stay at Zacchaeus’ house to which Zacchaeus happily accepted.

However, this did not please the crowd and made them question Jesus’ decision of associating Himself with a sinful man like Zacchaeus.

Nevertheless, Jesus stilled pursued staying at Zacchaeus’ house and, as a result, changed the course of Zacchaeus’ life.

Zacchaeus’ story is a very inspiring story to everyone both young and old. Based on the story about him in the Bible, there are three perspectives about Zacchaeus that could help us understand him.

1. Zacchaeus: From the Perspective of the Crowd

If we look at Luke 18:11 as written, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector,’” Zacchaeus, as a tax collector, was thought of as a sinful and greedy man by the Pharisee.

Historically, collecting taxes was a career that had a negative reputation. People hated tax collectors because they asked for money from people and also, they were known to ask for more than they should.

Roman taxes were very excessive, and the Jewish people were not happy about that situation especially since they were the oppressed and paying taxes for a nation that was not their own.

In the Bible, Jesus also compared tax collectors to pagans, as written in Mathew 18:17, “If they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Based on this, the crowd’s perspective of Zacchaeus was really just the societal norm about tax collectors and the fact that tax collectors used their position of power for the benefit of themselves and rendered people powerless in their situations.

This is where the crowd was coming from. Zacchaeus was sinful because he was basically a huge thief. With the excessive taxes that were being imposed from their hard-earned money, it is not surprising that the Jewish people had a strong stance against those that collected them.

But just as the crowd saw Zacchaeus’ sin, we tend to see others’ mistakes and sins especially if they are more obvious. We are quick to judge others but forget to look at our inner selves if we too are sinful.

2. Zacchaeus: From the Perspective of Zacchaeus Himself

Zacchaeus knew about Jesus the whole time and was excited to finally see him. Because he was very short, he tried to find other ways in order to finally see Jesus. He did this by climbing a sycamore tree.

Based on this story, we can easily see Zacchaeus’ character. He was a go-getter and possibly one of the characteristics and attitudes a tax collector should have because their job entailed asking and, sometimes, taking money from others.

Additionally, we can see that Zacchaeus was trying to find meaning in his life through Jesus. He was eager to know the truth about life.

Being a tax collector was not an easy job for him because of the nature of his business and because of how the crowd perceived him and for this reason, he climbed the tree to see Jesus and find the meaning in life.

When Jesus told Zacchaeus that He was to stay at his house, Zacchaeus became very happy and opened his doors right away. This is also an attitude that tells us that Zacchaeus was a man ready to be saved and to serve. He opened his doors for Christ and was willing to listen to His advice.

We can reflect a lot on the perspective of Zacchaeus. In this busy world full of noise in every area of life, we tend to want to find meaning in our lives to fill in the gap that we are experiencing. We try to “climb trees” to extend our eyes’ reach of a quieter yet better tomorrow.

Jesus is our better present and future. There is no need for us to climb a tree to be seen by Jesus. In fact, Jesus already saw Zacchaeus and knew Zacchaeus even before he climbed the tree.


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But what really caught the attention of Jesus was Zacchaeus’ passion to be seen. It is important that we try to show ourselves to Jesus even if we know that He already sees us.

It is important that we acknowledge Him at all times. And finally, it is important that we show repentance for the sins that we commit.

After all, it is written in Luke 3:12-13, “Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them.”

3. Zacchaeus: From the Perspective of Jesus

Jesus decided to come to the house of Zacchaeus even if though he was a sinner, a tax collector that everyone despised. Jesus did not care about how the crowd reacted. Instead, He continued on and stayed at his house.

How Jesus obligated Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5-6, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly,” is an example of how Jesus obligates us to focus on Him during the times that we need Him the most.

His words “I muststay at your house,” were not a request, but more of a command that He needed to be invited and to stay with Zacchaeus.

Jesus already knew that Zacchaeus needed to invite him to stay, not just in his home, but in his heart. After all, Jesus came to the world to save us from our sins so we could stay with Him forever.

Our Takeaway

Zacchaeus was portrayed in the Bible as a sinful tax collector and despised by the crowd. He was also portrayed as someone who, despite his height and inability to see Jesus, found his way by climbing a sycamore tree.

And finally, he was the person that Jesus saw and demanded to stay in his house.

We are Zacchaeus and yet, we are also the crowd. There are moments in our lives when we can tend to be judgmental by stereotyping people based on worldly criteria.

And yet, there are moments in our lives when we know we have sinned, and we need to repent our sins by talking to Jesus. Jesus must come to our house.

He must come to every house whether it’s the sinful tax collector, Zacchaeus, or the judgmental crowd. He is the only person that sees us and our true nature.

For further reading:

Why Do We Ask God to ‘Create in Me a Clean Heart’?

How Did Jesus Bring People Together More Than Ever Before?

Why Do We Forget to Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner?

How Do We Know What Truth Is?

What Does it Mean That Today Is the Day of Salvation?

What Is the Importance of ‘As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord’?

Why Jesus Never Said, ‘You Get What You Deserve’

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/rudall30

Glory Dyhas been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.

This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

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Zacchaeus in the Bible: Meaning and Importance of His Story (2024)


What is the significance of the story of Zacchaeus? ›

The story of Zacchaeus became a popular teaching lesson in early Christianity. He exemplified the idea that a sinner (even a tax collector) could turn (repent) and change his life through the preaching of Jesus.

What are the lessons learned from the story of Zacchaeus? ›

During the meal, Zacchaeus got up and announced that he would give half of his wealth to the poor and make restitution to anyone whom he had cheated. Zacchaeus discovered one of the central principles of achieving and maintaining balance in his work. He altered the focus of his work from himself to others.

What is the significance of the sycamore tree in the story of Zacchaeus? ›

The symbolism of a Sycamore tree suggests the tree of regeneration and transformation, the tree for the true status and stature as a member of the Body of Christ. Jesus on his way to Jericho saw Zacchaeus sitting in a sycamore tree and understood the symbolism.

What is the significance of Zacchaeus being short? ›

Interpreters rarely attend to Zacchaeus's shortness, often thinking “short in stature” refers to youthfulness. Even when acknowl- edged, his shortness is spiritualized and understood with reference to his humility.

What is the theme of the story of Zacchaeus? ›

In the Bible, Zacchaeus was the top tax collector in Jericho. He is best known for his faith, which he expressed by climbing a sycamore tree to see Jesus, as well as his charity, which he showed by giving half of everything he owned. He was an example of Jesus' personal, earthly mission to offer salvation to the lost.

What are some interesting facts about Zacchaeus in the Bible? ›

He is known primarily for his faith in climbing a sycamore tree to see Jesus and also his generosity in giving away half of all he possessed. A descendant of Abraham, he was an example of Jesus's personal, earthly mission to bring salvation to the lost.

How did Zacchaeus change his life? ›

Zacchaeus showed he was willing to change by offering half of his belongings to the poor and paying back four times as much to anyone he had cheated. This amount was what the Old Testament. law demanded as a repayment for dishonesty.

What is the simple story of Zacchaeus? ›

A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

What did Jesus mean when he said that salvation came to the life of Zacchaeus? ›

He recognises his change of heart and he assures him of his place in the kingdom: “Today salvation has come to this house.” While everyone else considered Zacchaeus a traitor to his people, Jesus sets him before the crowd as an example of what looks like to be a true son of Abraham.

What is the spiritual significance of the sycamore tree? ›

In Native American culture, it is considered a tree of protection against negative energies and malevolent spirits. In Celtic culture, thesycamore is considered a symbol of wisdom, knowledge and spiritual guidance. The maple leaves are believed to represent knowledge and wisdom gained over time.

What is so important about the sycamore tree? ›

In Celtic mythology, the sycamore was associated with the world tree, a sacred tree that connects heaven, earth, and the underworld. The Celts believed that the sycamore was a home to fairies and other spirits, and they often planted sycamore trees near their homes for protection.

What is the lesson of the sycamore tree? ›

The sycamore tree teaches an important lesson: Clinging on too long to some things can potentially be dangerous. In fact, there are several historical examples that show what can happen when we hold on too long.

What lesson can we learn from the story of Zacchaeus? ›

Zacchaeus teaches us that when you make a solid effort to experience Jesus, you are rewarded. It means seeking him with all your heart and doing everything he would have you do! 2. Don't make a judgment based on appearance.

What is the problem in the story of Zacchaeus? ›

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who was hated by the Jews because he cheated them out of their money to keep some of it for himself. When Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus was eager to see him. Meeting Jesus changed his life! As you listen to this episode, think about how meeting and knowing God has changed your life.

What is Zacchaeus seeking for? ›

Now let's look at Zacchaeus found. Luke 19:3-5: “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.

Why did Zacchaeus want to see Jesus so badly? ›

Having discovered that Jesus loves people just as they are, and longs to bring them into His family, they may be very keen to see Him. Finally, he may have wanted to see Jesus because of a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Though wealthy and secure, Zacchaeus may have known there was something missing.

What effect did Jesus have on Zacchaeus? ›

His encounter with Jesus was transformative; it gave him a new commitment to economic justice. Zacchaeus volunteered to give half of his wealth to the poor and to pay back anyone he had defrauded four times the amount he took unfairly.

Why did Jesus heal the blind man in stages? ›

Many biblical commentators see here a parallel with the blind man's healing. If they're correct, Mark would then be implying that the disciples need a “second touch” from Jesus (through his continued ministry and teaching among them) so that they might see more clearly who he is and why he came.

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