7. JESUS MEETS THE HEAD OF A TAX OFFICE Luke 19:1-10
Background: “A publican” means a tax collector. At the time of Jesus, the tax collectors in Israel were famous for their dishonesty. Firstly, they were in the service of the occupying power (the Romans), and secondly, they pocketed some of the tax money for themselves. No wonder they were usually rich. In verse 7 we can see how unpopular Zacchaeus was in his hometown.
Verses 1-2 and 7. Jesus is known to have visited Jericho only this one time, one week before his death.
How did it perhaps affect young Zacchaeus that he was shorter than other boys?
Why had Zacchaeus chosen the profession of a tax collector in the first place?
Zacchaeus had surely been taught as a boy in his synagogue the commandment “Thou shalt not steal”! What made him ignore that commandment? (How might tax collectors have defended their behaviour for example when they were confiscating the last sheep from a poor family?)
Zacchaeus had become the head of the Jericho tax office. What is required a man to get such a position in an important town of an occupied country?
How might Zacchaeus have reacted to being despised by everybody in Jericho (7)?
Zacchaeus was probably closer to fifty, because it always takes time to become a boss. This means that he had teen-age children. What might his children have thought of their father’s job?
People often rethink their values in their fifties. At this point, what do you think Zacchaeus wanted from the rest of his life?
Verses 3-4. In general, tax collectors had nothing to do with religious people and vice versa. After becoming a publican, Zacchaeus probably stopped going to synagogue or the temple of Jerusalem.
Think of different reasons why Zacchaeus was so desperate to see Jesus?
A self-respecting man never runs in Middle Eastern cultures. What does it show about Zacchaeus that he behaved as unconventionally as is described in verses 3-4?
A fig tree can grow as large as an oak. In your opinion, did the tax collector of Jericho hope to be seen in the tree or did he hope that no one would notice him there? Give your reasons.
This was Jesus’ first visit to Jericho. What did Zacchaeus think when he suddenly heard his name from the mouth of Jesus who stopped under the tree?
Eating together was a sign of friendship for the Jews. When had Jesus decided to visit the house of Zacchaeus and become his friend? Consider different possibilities.
How might Zacchaeus have reacted if Jesus had said to him from under the tree, “If you become a good person and stop stealing, then I will come and visit you”?
How would you react if someone said to you: “If you become a better person first, then I want to be your friend”?
What would the citizens of Jericho have thought if Jesus had told Zacchaeus to change his ways. Look at verse 7?
Why is it that being told to change does not change a person?
Why was Jesus in such a hurry?
What made the chief of Jericho tax office happy instead of being terribly embarrassed in that situation?
Why was it important that the encounter between Zacchaeus and Jesus was public?
According to this verse, what did the people of Jericho think of themselves?
Verse 8. The best translation for this verse is: “And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated.” (CEV) In other words, Zacchaeus admitted that he was guilty of stealing.
What had suddenly changed Zacchaeus’ heart so that money was no longer his highest value?
How much of his wealth did Zacchaeus approximately keep for himself and his children?
What might the citizens of Jericho have thought when the head of the tax office first helped the poor of the city with a large sum of money and then went around paying back the money he had extorted from people?
What do you think: how did Zacchaeus change as a father after becoming a believer in Jesus?
Abraham is the ancestor of the Jews as well as the father of the Christian faith. What did Jesus mean when he said that Zacchaeus, too, is the son of Abraham? (For those interested, see also Romans 4:3-5.)
Who was looking for whom in this text: did Zacchaeus look for Jesus or Jesus for Zacchaeus? Give your reasons.
When, in your opinion, did Zacchaeus become a believer? Mention the verse.
What happened to the punishment that God had prescribed for thieves in his law? Who bore it?
Glad tidings: On his way to Jerusalem to be crucified, Jesus visited Jericho for the sake of Zacchaeus. In forgiving him for his sins, Jesus knew that the following week he himself would have to bear his punishment to the cross. Forgiveness of sins was free for Zacchaeus and is free for us, but for Jesus it cost his life.