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This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

Zacchaeus by Niels Larsen Stevns

Zacchaeus (Greek Ζακχαῖος, "Zakchaios" Hebrew זכי, which means pure [1]), according to chapter 19 of the gospel of Luke, was a superintendent of customs; a chief tax-gatherer (Latin: publicanus) at Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). Tax collectors were hated by many of their fellow Jews, who saw them as traitors for working for the Roman Empire.

Because the lucrative production and export of balsam was centered in Jericho, his position would have carried both importance and wealth[2][3]. In the account, he arrived before the crowd who were later to meet with Jesus, who was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Described as a short man, the Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore fig tree so that he might be able to see Jesus. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up into the branches, addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house. The crowd was shocked that Christ would sully himself by being a guest of a tax collector.

Moved by the audacity of Jesus's unconditional love and acceptance, Zacchaeus publicly repented of acts of corruption and vowed to make restitution for them, and held a feast at his house.

Later traditions

Zacchaeus' sycamore fig in Jericho.

At Er-riha (Jericho) there is a large, venerable looking square tower, which by tradition is named the House of Zacchaeus.

According to Clement of Alexandria, in his book Stromata, Zaccheus was surnamed Matthias by the apostles, and took the place of Judas Iscariot after Jesus's ascension. The later Apostolic Constitutions identify "Zacchaeus the Publican" as the first bishop of Caesarea (7.46).

Medieval legend identified Zacchaeus with Saint Amadour, and held him to be the founder of the French sanctuary, Rocamadour.

Liturgical practices

In Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches of Slavic tradition, the Gospel account of Zacchaeus is read on the last Sunday preceding the liturgical preparation for Great Lent, for which reason that Sunday is known as "Zacchaeus Sunday." It is the very first commemoration of a new Paschal cycle. The account was chosen to open the Lenten season because of two exegetical aspects: Jesus' call to Zacchaeus to come down from the tree (symbolizing the divine call to humility), and Zacchaeus' subsequent repentance.

In the Eastern churches of Greek/Byzantine tradition, Zacchaeus Sunday may fall earlier than the Sunday before the Pre-Lenten season.

Spiritual lessons

The story of Zacchaeus is used by some to illustrate [4] the saying of Jesus: "Blessed are the pure of heart, For they shall see God" Matthew 5:8. Zacchaeus whose name means pure, climbed up a tree, which represents the cross, and by being symbolically crucified with Christ, was able to see God (He who has seen Jesus has seen God John 14:9)

The sycamore tree, climbed by Zacchaeus, was considered "unclean" because it bore a fruit that was fed to pigs[5]. In the culture of the time it was humiliating for Zacchaeus to climb that tree. To see Jesus, Zacchaeus' pride had to be crucified. In Romans, Paul wrote "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Romans 6:6

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Lord, Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything I will pay back four times the amount.” Luke 19:8 Why fourfold ? Why not just pay back what he took? Exodus chapter 22 prescribes the restitution required when responsible for loss of another's property. Exodus 22:1-15 Restitution ranges from straight replacement for negligence, increasing up to two, four or five times replacement for various thefts. King David applied this rule when he said, "And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity."2Samuel 12:6 Rather than asking how little he could do to correct his past wrongs, Zacchaeus chose a generous restitution. He placed himself on guilty side of the spectrum of Exodus 22. Now he was living in maximum obedience to God. There was no law that required giving half of everything to the poor, but Zacchaeus chose that as well. Zacchaeus demonstrated Jesus' command, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Matthew 16:24 Mark 8:34 Luke 9:23


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Zacchaeus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Strongs Lexicon on the Blue Letter Bible website
  2. Morris, Leon. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, page 297. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988.
  3. Stier, Rudolf Ewald. The Words of the Lord Jesus. Trans. William Burt Pope. Page 314. Sheldon & co., 1859.
  4. Pastor Doug Bachelor, Study on the Wisdom of Jesus' teachings
  5. Light Through An Eastern Window, K.C. Pillai

See also