In the middle of the crowd at a motorcycle demonstration where riders performed breathtaking tricks, I found myself needing to stand on my tiptoes to see. Glancing around, I noticed three children perched in a nearby tree, apparently because they also couldn’t get to the front of the crowd to see the action.
Watching the kids peer out from their lofty location, I couldn’t help but think of Zacchaeus, who Luke identifies as a wealthy tax collector (Luke 19:2). Jews often viewed tax collectors as traitors for working for the Roman government collecting taxes from fellow Israelites, as well as frequently demanding additional money to pad their personal bank accounts. So Zacchaeus was likely shunned from his community.
As Jesus passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus longed to see Him but was unable to see over the crowd. So, perhaps feeling both desperate and lonely, he climbed into a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse (vv. 3–4). And it was there, on the outskirts of the crowd, that Jesus searched him out and announced His intention to be a guest at his home (v. 5).
Zacchaeus’ story reminds us that Jesus came to “seek and to save the lost,” offering His friendship and the gift of salvation (vv. 9–10). Even if we feel on the edges of our communities, pushed to the “back of the crowd,” we can be assured that, even there, Jesus finds us.
Jericho, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, is located in the Jordan Valley with the Jordan River to the east and Jerusalem to the west. In the Old Testament, it’s referred to as the “City of Palms” (Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 3:13). It’s best known as the first city taken by the invading Israelites (Joshua 2, 6). After its conquest, Joshua placed a curse on anyone who might rebuild it (6:26). About 500 years later, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt the city at the cost of his two sons (1 Kings 16:34), a fulfillment of this curse.
The story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1–10) takes place in New Testament Jericho, also known as Herodian Jericho. This site was built by King Herod more than a mile south of the Old Testament site. Modern-day Jericho is built on a site about a mile east of Herodian Jericho.