The very nature of God is to seek and save sinners. From the very beginning of history, God has been seeking lost people but this good news is only good news to those who perceive that they are sinners in need of saving. Zacchaeus was one such man.
Zacchaeus was a sinner. Notorious as a chief tax collector in Jericho (one of the oldest cities in the world and a prominent one at that time), Zacchaeus was hated by everyone who interacted with him. He worked for the Romans, collecting taxes and extorting and taking as much money from his fellow countrymen as possible. Because of that, he was very rich and very unpopular! He was banned from the temple because of his cheating and excluded from the people of God. But although he was very rich, Zacchaeus was missing something in his life.
Zacchaeus had apparently heard of Jesus and wanted to see him. As Jesus went through Jericho, Zacchaeus’ curiosity bested his dignity and the short little man climbed up a sycamore/fig tree in order to get a view of the Savior. It probably wasn’t a huge tree but it allowed Zacchaeus to get a glimpse of Jesus. But he got more than a glimpse! When Jesus came to the tree, He looked right up at Zacchaeus and told him to come down. Then He did something that we find no other place in scripture—Jesus invited Himself over. The response that self-invitation got from the Jews showed that they didn’t understand that Jesus was the friend of sinners, that He was seeking to save the lost. We humans tend to build walls between ‘sinful’ people and ourselves but God spans sinful chasms with bridges of love and then walks over them to save sinners! It looked like Zacchaeus was trying to get to Jesus but in reality, Jesus sought out Zacchaeus, similar to how he sought out the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus was seeking sinners to save!
Somewhere between the branch of the sycamore tree and the ground, Zacchaeus got saved, he had accept Christ as his Savior! When he was back on the ground, he evidenced a changed life that always comes with salvation. He declared his intent to give to the poor and also to pay back generously all the money that he had extorted from the people. The words of his confession were prompted by a heart that had repented. He was changed! Jesus declared that Zacchaeus was saved, that he was a true “son of Abraham,” not because of his works but because he had come to know Jesus by faith. Jesus saved another sinner!