Biblical People

Biblical People: Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus is a tax collector in Jericho. But he’s not just a tax collector. Luke says Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector. This likely means he’s the manager of tax collectors or their leader, possibly skimming off the taxes they take in.

Lest there be any doubt, Luke adds that he’s wealthy. Oh, there’s one more detail about Zacchaeus. He’s short.

Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus, but he can’t push his way through the crowd or see over all the taller people in front of him. Desperate to get a glimpse of Jesus, he has an idea. He runs down the road and scampers up a tree, a sycamore-fig tree.

Jesus approaches, and when he gets to the tree, he looks up. “Quick! Come down, Zacchaeus. I’m going to hang out with you at your house—today.”

Zacchaeus climbs down and meets Jesus, welcoming him with gladness.

Though Zacchaeus is happy, the people aren’t. Maybe they’re jealous. They complain about Jesus planning to visit the home of a notorious man, a “sinner.”

To prove that he’s a changed man, Zacchaeus makes a bold pledge. “I’m going to give away half of everything I own to help poor people. And if I cheated anyone on their taxes, I’ll reimburse them fourfold.”

Jesus responds with the most astonishing promise, that Zacchaeus and his whole family are now saved.

What are we willing to do to show Jesus how much we love him? Though this may involve money, it could involve our time, priorities, or future.

[Discover more about Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1–10.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at