To The Wanting Heart, Jesus Says, Come Down

Bible Book: Luke  19 : 1-10
Subject: Salvation; Christ, Invitation of
Series: Invitations of Christ

As Luke 19 begins, the Bible tells us that “Jesus entered and passed through Jericho” (Luke 19:1). So in an introductory way, we see (1) The Place Involved In This Account

Jesus has come to Jericho, and as Matthew Henry reminds us, “This city was built under a curse, yet Christ honoured it with His presence, for the gospel takes away the curse.”

(Cf. Joshua 6:26, 1 Kings 16:34)

In the next verse, the Bible introduces us to a man who is only mentioned in this one chapter, a man by the name of Zacchaeus. So in an introductory way, we also see (2) The Person Involved In This Account

The name “Zacchaeus” means “pure.” But as J. T. Woodhouse said, “A man may have … a good name and a bad reputation.” (From The Biblical Illustrator)

And as a publican, a bad reputation is exactly what Zacchaeus had. Now after his conversion, Zacchaeus may have become a very important follower of Jesus. In fact, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was “mentioned in (an ancient document called) the Clementine Homilies as having been a companion of Peter and appointed bishop of Caesarea.”

(Colin M. Kerr from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

According to Clement of Alexandria, in his book Stromata, Zacchaeus was surnamed Matthias by the apostles, and took the place of Judas Iscariot after Jesus’ ascension (Cf. Acts 1:23-26). (From Wikipedia)

He may have become a man with a great testimony, but as a publican in Israel he had a bad reputation.

You see, publican’s were those who collected taxes from a town or a village or a district, and thus undertook to pay to the supreme government a certain amount. In order to collect the taxes, the publicans employed subordinates who, for their own ends, were often guilty of extortion. In New Testament times these taxes were paid to the Romans, and hence were regarded by the Jews as a very heavy burden, and hence also the collectors of taxes, who were frequently Jews, were hated, and were usually spoken of in very (contemptible) terms.

(From Easton’s Bible Dictionary)

Because the Jews felt that Jewish publicans had betrayed their own country by collecting taxes for Rome, these publicans were viewed as being no better than common sinners. And Jesus was accused of being “a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34). And even here in this chapter, the people were upset because Jesus went to the home of this publican, “And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:7).

As tax-collectors, publicans were about as popular then as I.R.S. agents are today. The following stories could all be modified to apply to the publican of Jesus’ day…

What’s the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only the skin.

What’s the difference between an I.R.S. agent and a mosquito? One is a bloodsucking parasite, the other is an insect.

A couple of weeks after hearing a sermon on lying and cheating, a man wrote a letter to the I.R.S. that said, “I have been unable to sleep, knowing that I have cheated on my income tax. I under-stated my taxable income, and have enclosed a check for $150.00. P. S. If I still can’t sleep, I will send the rest.”

A businessman on his deathbed called his friend and said, “Bill, I want you to promise me that when I die you will have my remains cremated.” And his friend said, “What do you want me to do with your ashes?” The businessman said, “Just put them in an envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service and write on the envelope, “Now you have everything.”

One of my earliest memories of childhood is of learning and singing the song…

Zacchaeus was a wee little man

And a wee little man was he

He climbed up in a sycamore tree

For the Lord he wanted to see

And as the Savior passed that way

He looked up in that tree

And He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down!

For I’m going to your house today

For I’m going to your house to stay”

The substance of this Bible story represents more than just material for a children’s song though. It is an invitation to come to Christ.

Last week, we looked at the invitation that Jesus extended to Lazarus, a man with a worn-out heart, a man who had actually died. But to the worn-out heart, Jesus was able to say, “Come Forth!”

This morning, we’re talking about a man who wanted something. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. He wanted it so much that he was willing to climb a tree in order to get a glimpse. But to this wanting heart, up on his sycamore perch, Jesus said, “Come Down!”

In the story of this invitation, there are three main things from this passage that I want us to focus upon…

1. The Efforts Of A Man

2. The Elements Of A Miracle

3. The Explanation Of A Mission

First of all…

I. We Find The Efforts Of A Man In This Passage

(Luke 19:1-4)

A. Let’s Notice How His Social Efforts Are Manifested

(Luke 19:2) And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

1. He Had Become A Man Of Position

chief among the publicans – Greek 754. architelones, ar-khee-tel-o'-nace; from G746 and G5057; a principal tax-gatherer:--chief among the publicans.

2. He Had Become A Man Of Prosperity

rich – Greek 4145. plousios, ploo'-see-os; from G4149; wealthy; fig. abounding with:--rich.

4149. ploutos, ploo'-tos; from the base of G4130; wealth (as fulness), i.e. (lit.) money, possessions, or (fig.) abundance, richness, (spec.) valuable bestowment:--riches.

B. Let’s Notice How His Spiritual Efforts Are Manifested

1. We See His Failed Attempts To See Jesus

(Luke 19:3) And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

sought – Greek 2212. zeteo, dzay-teh'-o; to seek; in some cases it means to worship (God). Also rendered as --be (go) about, desire, endeavor, enquire (for), require, seek (after, for, means).

He was trying to see Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus. He was looking to see Jesus.

see – Greek 1492. eido, i'-do; a prim. verb; used only in certain past tenses, the others being borrowed from the equiv. G3700 and G3708; prop. to see (lit. or fig.); by impl. (in the perf. only) to know:--be aware, behold, X can (+ not tell), consider, (have) known (-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand, wist, wot.

who he was – the “who” is an interrogative pronoun, and Zacchaeus was interrogating or questioning in his heart who Jesus was.

press – Greek 3793. ochlos, okh'-los; from a der. of G2192 (mean. a vehicle); a throng (as borne along); by impl. the rabble; by extens. a class of people; fig. a riot:--company, multitude, number (of people), people, press.

little – Greek 3398. mikros, mik-ros'; includ. the comp. mikroteros, mik-rot'-er-os; appar. a prim. word; small (in size, quantity, number or (fig.) dignity):--least, less, small.

stature – Greek 2244. helikia, hay-lik-ee'-ah; from the same as G2245; maturity (in years or size):--age, stature.

He had come up short physically, but more importantly he had come up short spiritually.

(Romans 3:23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

(Luke 12:25) And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?

2. We See His Fervent Attempts To See Jesus

(Luke 19:4) And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

ran – Greek 4390. protrecho, prot-rekh'-o; from G4253 and G5143 (includ. its alt.); to run forward, i.e. outstrip, precede:--outrun, run before. It has the idea that he ran ahead of everybody else.

climbed – Greek 305. anabaino, an-ab-ah'ee-no; from G303 (up) and the base of G939 (the foot); to go up (lit. or fig.):--arise, ascend (up), climb (go, grow, rise, spring) up, come (up). He was getting a foot up on the tree.

II. We Find The Elements Of A Miracle In This Passage

(Luke 19:5-8)

A. Notice The Miraculous Encounter With Christ

1. Jesus Considered Zacchaeus

(Luke 19:5) 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.

came – Greek NT:2064 erchomai, to come; properly, universally, to come from one place into another, and used both of persons arriving; to appear, make one’s appearance, come before the public. (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

place – Greek 5117. topos, top'-os; appar. a prim. word; a spot (general in space, but limited by occupancy), i.e. location (as a position, home, tract, etc.); fig. condition, opportunity.

Jesus came to the specific place and location where Zacchaeus was, and He saw it as a place of opportunity.

looked up – Greek 308. anablepo, an-ab-lep'-o; to look up.

saw – Greek 1492. eido, i'-do; to see; by implication to know: --be aware, behold, consider, (have) known (-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, understand, wist, wot.

2. Jesus Called Zacchaeus

(Luke 19:5) 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.

make haste – Greek 4692. speudo, spyoo'-do; prob. strengthened from G4228 (pous – a foot); to “speed”, i.e. urge on (diligently or earnestly); --(make, with) haste unto.

come down – Greek 2597. katabaino, kat-ab-ah'ee-no; from G2596 (down) and the base of G939 (to walk; a pace; the foot); to descend (lit. or fig.):--come (get, go, step) down, descend, fall (down).

To me, the instruction suggests that Zacchaeus follow a course of humility and come down from his place of exaltation. The way up is the way down.

The sycomore produces small, rounded figs, about an inch long, which grow upon tortuous, leafless twigs springing from the trunk or the older branches; they are more or less tasteless. It would appear that in ancient times some treatment was adopted, such as piercing the apex of the fruit to hasten the ripening. Amos was a “gatherer of sycomore fruit” or figs (Amos 7:14). The tree not uncommonly attains a height of 50 ft., with an enormous trunk; in many parts, especially where, as near the coast, the tree grows out of sandy soil, the branching roots stand out of the ground for some distance. (International Standard Bible Encylopaedia)

Jesus came along that day and picked some fruit out of a sycamore tree. (vs. 5)

A writer named W. Anderson said…

Zacchaeus was upon one of the many branches of the sycamore; and you, my unsaved friend, are upon one of the many branches of the great, mighty-spreading, world-embracing tree of human corruption, and I call upon you in the name of my Master to “come down.” (From The Biblical Illustrator)

John Calvin said…

We know how hateful, nay, how detestable the name of publican at that time was; and we shall find that this is shortly afterwards mentioned by Luke. It is therefore astonishing kindness in the Son of God to approach a man, from whom the great body of men recoil. (From Calvin’s Commentaries)

Craig Keener wrote…

No matter how high their status, people did not normally invite themselves to someone else’s home. Pious Jews would also be loath to enter the home of a tax gatherer or to eat of his food … Jewish people normally considered the ability to call the name of someone one had never met — as Jesus does here with Zacchaeus — to be the sort of thing that only a prophet could do. (IVP Bible Background Commentary)

B. Notice The Miraculous Effects Of Conversion

1. The Lord Was Eagerly Received

(Luke 19:6) And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

made haste – Greek 4692. speudo, spyoo'-do; prob. strengthened from G4228 (pous – a foot); to “speed”, i.e. urge on (diligently or earnestly); --(make, with) haste unto.

came down – Greek 2597. katabaino, kat-ab-ah'ee-no; from G2596 (down) and the base of G939 (to walk; a pace; the foot); to descend (lit. or fig.):--come (get, go, step) down, descend, fall (down).

received – Greek 5264. hupodechomai, hoop-od-ekh'-om-ahee; to admit under one’s roof, i.e. entertain hospitably.

joyfully – Greek 5463. chairo, khah'ee-ro; to be “cheer”ful, i.e. calmly happy or well off; be well; with gladness or rejoicing.

Adam Clarke said…

With this invitation, our blessed Lord conveyed heavenly influence to his heart; hence, he was disposed to pay the most implicit and cheerful obedience to the call, and thus he received not the grace of God in vain. … How often does Christ make the proposal of lodging, not only in our house, but in our heart, without its being accepted!

Matthew Henry said…

He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully; and his receiving him into his house was an indication and token of his receiving him into his heart.

2. His Life Was Entirely Revolutionized

(Luke 19:8) 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.

a. He Was Willing To Give In A Charitable Way

Albert Barnes said of this phrase the half of my goods I give to the poor …

This was not a proclamation of his “own” righteousness, nor the “ground” (basis) of his righteousness (and salvation), but it was the “evidence” of the sincerity of his repentance. (From Barnes’ Notes)

b. He Was Willing To Give In A Corrective Way

Adam Clarke said of this phrase I restore him fourfold …

This restitution the Roman laws obliged the tax-gatherers to make, when it was proved they had abused their power by oppressing the people. But here was no such proof: the man, to show the sincerity of his conversion, does it of his own accord.

The bottom line is that this was a man who had been transformed. All his life he had been getting, but his encounter with Christ had caused him to start giving. And truly, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

III. We Find The Explanation Of A Mission In This Passage

(Luke 19:9-10)

For Zacchaeus to grasp hold of who Jesus really was, was “Mission: Impossible”; but for Jesus, it was “Mission: Possible!”

A. Notice The Demonstration Of Jesus’ Mission

(Luke 19:9) And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

1. Zacchaeus Had The Experience Of Salvation

this day – Greek 4594. semeron, say'-mer-on; on the (i.e. this) day (or night current or just passed); gen. now (i.e. at present, hither-to):--this (to-) day.

Cf. (2 Corinthians 6:2) (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

salvation – Greek 4991. soteria, so-tay-ree'-ah; rescue or safety; deliverance, preservation: -- health, save, saving.

2. Zacchaeus Had The Evidence Of Sonship

[Forsomuch] Because. For he has given “evidence” that he is a new man, and is disposed to forsake his sins and receive the gospel. (From Barnes’ Notes)

a. He Was A Son Of Abraham By Birth

But as Matthew Henry said…

When Zaccheus becomes a convert, he will be, more than he had been, a blessing to his house. He will bring the means of grace and salvation to his house, for he is a son of Abraham indeed now.

Not just a son according to the flesh, but according to faith.

b. He Was Now A Son Of Abraham By Belief

(Romans 4:13,16) For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith ... {16} Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.

He is not just renewed in Judaism; he is renewed in Jesus!

This day is salvation come to this house (vs. 9). Jesus says, “Mission accomplished!”

B. Notice The Details Of Jesus’ Mission

(Luke 19:10) For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

1. He Came To Seek

seek – Greek 2212. zeteo; to seek, desire, endeavor, enquire (for); to go about, to seek after or for. (Same word as “sought” in verse 3.)

Jesus’ seeking was stronger than Zacchaeus’ seeking.

2. He Came To Save

save – Greek 4982. sozo, sode'-zo; from a primary root word sos (indicating “safe”); to save, i.e. deliver or protect. Also rendered as heal, preserve, be (make) whole.


E. K. Bailey was the founder and senior pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and he went to be with the Lord on October 30, 2003. In his great sermon on the “Testimony Of A Tax Collector,” Dr. Bailey said…

I’ve always wondered what drove Zacchaeus to climb that tree; what was his motivation, what compelled him to climb that tree? For it is exceedingly unusual, imaginatively unlikely, and totally uncanny to see a well-dressed, well-educated, well-established, wealthy man at midday, publicly but shamelessly climbling a tree, crawling out on its branches, and hanging on a limb. What led him to ignore embarrassment, disregard shame, reject ridicule, and do something as uncharacteristic as climbing a tree for all to see?

Dr. Bailey goes on to weave an imaginary account of Zacchaeus going to collect taxes at various homes both before and after the individuals encountered Jesus. And he suggests that Zacchaeus had seen the effect that Jesus had on the lives of needy people. So he wanted to see this man named Jesus.

I don’t know what had initiated his seeking Jesus and what took him up the sycamore tree that day. But I know who invited him to “Come down!”

Just as Christ invited Lazarus to “Come forth” from a tomb of death, just as He invited Zacchaeus to “Come down,” He has invited us to come!

We began with one familiar song. Let’s conclude with another…

“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Bear the news to every land, Climb the steeps and cross the waves:

Onward! - ‘tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

I don’t know if the rest of Jericho could have sung this song that day, but one fellow could. What about you?