Zacchaeus was a man who lived when Jesus was on the earth. He was a “tax collector” and he was very rich.
A tax collector is someone who collected money for the king from the people in the city. But the people in the city didn’t like tax collectors because they forced them to pay more than they owed so that the tax collector could keep part of the money for themselves.
Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was going to be coming through his town. People said that He did wonderful miracles and Zacchaeus wanted to see what Jesus looked like. There was just one problem…Zacchaeus was a very short man! When other people crowded into the streets to see Jesus, Zacchaeus couldn’t see over them!
Looking around, Zacchaeus had a great idea! He made his way down the street to a tall tree and climbed it. He would sit on the branch of the tree and watch as Jesus passed by!
As Jesus came down the street, people crowded all around Him hoping that Jesus would do something for them. But when He reached the tree where Zacchaeus was sitting, Jesus stopped. He looked right up at Zacchaeus and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly from that tree because today I’m going to stay at your house.”
Zacchaeus was thrilled!! He came down from the tree and joyfully ran to where Jesus was. Zacchaeus was excited to take Jesus to his house, but the people of the city couldn’t believe it! Why would Jesus want to spend time with an evil tax collector like Zacchaeus?
As Jesus spent time with Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus’ heart began to change. He heard the words of love and truth that Jesus spoke, and felt very sorry for the money he had stolen from the people. Zacchaeus said, “Jesus, I will give half of all of my riches to help the poor and to every person from whom I have ever stolen money, I will give them four times as much money back!”
Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, you are exactly the kind of person I came for. Today, you and your entire family will be saved!” Jesus didn’t look down on Zacchaeus because he had done bad things; Jesus loved Zacchaeus and wanted to forgive him and show him a better way to live. And because of the love Jesus showed him, Zacchaeus repented and he and his family were saved!