Pastor James J. Barker

Text: LUKE 19:1-10


  1. We know very little about this man Zaccheus, but we do know he was a publican (tax collector) and that he was rich (Luke 19:2).
  2. Publicans were Jews who collected taxes for the Roman government. Therefore, they were despised by most of the Jews, who considered them working for the enemy.
  3. The publicans were considered the worst of sinners, worse than adulterers and prostitutes (cf. Matt.21:31; Luke 7:34; 15:1,2; 18:10,11).
  4. Interestingly, according to Scofield his name means "Pure."
  5. The publicans were notorious for collecting more taxes than required. The more money they collected, the more they put in their pocket (cf. Luke 3:12,13).
  6. I am going to preach today on the conversion of this publican named Zaccheus. His conversion is a beautiful picture of our Lord’s method of winning souls.
  7. The great evangelist D.L. Moody said, "Some people do not believe in sudden conversion. I should like them to answer me – when was Zaccheus converted? He was certainly in his sins when he went up into the tree; he certainly was converted when he came down."
  8. Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Zaccheus was a sinner saved by grace. Our Lord said, "Zaccheus, make haste, and come down" (Luke 19:5).
  9. Today, God’s love and grace is still reaching out to lost sinners. Perhaps God is speaking to such a one today – "Make haste!"
  10. Remember God can save anyone. Our Lord had just said that "it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (cf. Luke 18:24-27). Zaccheus was a rich man (19:2) and God saved him.



    1. Note that our Lord called him by name – "Zaccheus, make haste…" (19:5). Our Lord was seeking to save Zaccheus that day.
    2. When Zaccheus climbed up into that sycomore tree he thought he was seeking after Jesus, but actually Jesus was seeking after him.
    3. By nature, the lost sinner does not seek after God (cf. Rom. 3:10,11).
    4. Then how are we to understand the conversion of Zaccheus? The Bible says, "And he sought to see Jesus" (Luke 19:3). There are several ways to look at this.
    5. First of all, we know that God was working in his heart, convicting him of his sin. God was preparing him for this meeting with Jesus.
    6. The Bible says that Levi (Matthew) was also a publican, i.e. a tax collector (cf. Luke 5:27-29). He probably knew Zaccheus because Zaccheus "was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich" (19:2).
    7. Perhaps Zaccheus was part of that "great company of publicans" at Matthew’s house (Luke 5:29).
    8. Perhaps Matthew was praying for Zaccheus. The Bible does not say but we know many people are saved as a result of the faithful prayers of godly Christians. If God has given you a burden to pray for some lost friends or loved ones – please keep praying.
    9. Perhaps Zaccheus was tired of the worldly life style he had been living as a rich publican. And so he decided to seek after Jesus.
    10. The Bible teaches that God seeks after sinners (Luke 19:10). The Bible teaches that God convicts sinners and draws them to Himself. The Bible also teaches that while God seeks after sinners, sinners must come to Him in order to be saved (cf. John 5:40; 6:37; Isa.55:6,7; Jer.29:11-13).



    1. There are always "murmurers" that try and hinder God’s work (19:7). These murmurers were probably the same Pharisees who were always criticizing and complaining (cf. Luke 5:27-32).
    2. In addition to the murmurers, there were other obstacles Zaccheus faced. "Because he was little of stature" (19:3), he "climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him" (19:4).
    3. Oftentimes, when we think of this story, or when we hear children sing it in Sunday School, we think of this comical little fellow climbing up a tree like some little monkey.
    4. But there is more to the story than that. Zaccheus was a wealthy government official with a lucrative job. To run down the street and climb up a tree was an unusual thing to do for someone of his stature (I am not talking now about his height but his position in society as "the chief among the publicans," 19:2).
    5. J. Vernon McGee said he saw sycomore trees over in Israel and they are smooth and slippery, and it is a long climb to the first limb.
    6. So Zaccheus had to put aside his dignity and his pride to climb up that sycomore tree. I believe it is pride that keeps many lost sinners from seeking after Jesus. "What will my friends and co-workers think?" "What will this do to my career?" And so on.
    7. As I was preparing this message I was thinking about another wealthy and successful sinner that had to overcome his pride and dignity in order to get saved.
    8. I am talking about Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army (II Kings 5:1-15).
    9. Unsaved friend: put away your pride. Humble yourself. Do what God says to do: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And thou shalt be saved.



    1. Zaccheus was not saved because he promised to do good works (19:8). He was saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. But after receiving Christ as his Saviour, he gave evidence that he was genuinely saved.
    2. Zaccheus was convicted of his sin – "And if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (19:8).
    3. Fourfold was the amount a thief was required to restore if he were convicted of fraud (cf. Exodus 22). Zaccheus faced up to the light which our Lord cast upon his crooked little life, and he determined to put it right.
    4. Zaccheus saw himself the way God saw him – a thief, a crook, an extortioner. Sinners need to see themselves the way God sees them – thieves, liars, boasters, lazy loafers, adulterers, fornicators, hypocrites, drunkards, gamblers, no-good hellbound rascals.
    5. Some say preachers should not be so plain. But the Bible is very plain (cf. I Cor.6:9-11). Zaccheus was a lost sinner but he repented of his sin and was gloriously saved.
    6. Let me say this before moving on: You will note that Zaccheus’ statement in 19:8 did not come in answer to some exhortation from Jesus, but from an instinctive sense that it was the right thing to do.
    7. I am greatly moved when people inform me that they are going to do right, not because I have been after them, and not because some other Christian has been after them, but because the Holy Spirit has convinced them it is the right thing to do.
    8. Genuine faith always results in positive changes, such as we see in the conversion of Zaccheus. Genuine faith is more than raising your hand at the invitation, or saying the right words or praying a little prayer. It is more than getting baptized and joining the church.
    9. As a pastor, I want to see more Zaccheus-type conversions. I want to see more conversions like the apostle Paul or D.L. Moody or Billy Sunday.
    10. I’m tired of these phony-baloney conversions where there is no change, no zeal for God, no burden for the unsaved, and no interest in spiritual things.
    11. There is something wrong with a so-called converted sinner who still runs around with the worldly crowd, still smokes and drinks, still does not tithe, still watches all that trash on TV, still goes to the movie theater, still listens to rock and roll music, etc.
    12. There is something wrong with a so-called converted sinner who does not like to attend Sunday School or church services or prayer meeting (cf. II Cor.5:17).
    13. We all carry baggage with us when we get saved. Let’s make up our minds that we are going to get rid of any baggage that is hindering us from serving God more effectively (Heb.12:1,2).
    14. I remember when I first got saved, my dad questioned me why I went to S.S., Sunday morning service, and Sunday evening service. He asked, "Isn’t one hour a week enough?" No, it is not if you love God.
    15. Zaccheus changed right away. That is evidence that he really got saved. Our Lord said that Zaccheus was "a son of Abraham" (19:9). This may puzzle some people. Zaccheus was a Jew, so wasn’t he already a son of Abraham? Wasn’t he a son of Abraham before he was saved?
    16. Strictly speaking he was. Spiritually speaking he was not (cf. Rom. 4:11,12; Gal.3:6-7).


  1. Luke 19:10 is one of the most precious verses in the Bible. According to this Scripture, you are either "saved" or "lost." A man approached our tent Wednesday after prayer meeting and I asked him if he was saved. He said he did not use our terminology.
  2. But it is Bible terminology.
  3. A poet put it this way:

He didn’t come to judge the world, He didn’t come to blame,
He didn’t only come to seek; it was to save He came;
And when we call Him Saviour, then we call Him by His name.

— Dora Greenwell

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