And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.…
I. THE HINDRANCES OF ZACCHEUS were twofold: partly circumstantial-partly personal. Partly circumstantial, arising from his riches and his profession of a publican. Now the publican's profession exposed him to temptations in these three ways. First of all in the way of opportunity. A publican was a gatherer of the Roman public imposts. Not, however, as now, when all is fixed, and the government pays the gatherer of the taxes. The Roman publican paid so much to the government for the privilege of collecting them; and then indemnified himself, and appropriated what overplus he could, from the taxes which he gathered. There was, therefore, evidently a temptation to overcharge, and a temptation to oppress. To overcharge, because the only redress the payer of the taxes had was an appeal to law, in which his chance was small before a tribunal where the judge was a Roman, and the accuser an official of the Roman government. A temptation to oppress, because the threat of law was nearly certain to extort a bribe. Besides this, most of us must have remarked that a certain harshness of manner is contracted by those who have the rule over the poor. They come in contact with human souls only in the way of business. They have to do with their ignorance, their stupidity, their attempts to deceive; and hence the tenderest-hearted men become impatient and apparently unfeeling. Another temptation was presented: to live satisfied with a low morality. The standard of right and wrong is eternal in the heavens — unchangeably one and the same. But here on earth it is perpetually variable — it is one in one age or nation, another in another. Every profession has its conventional morality, current nowhere else. Among publicans the standard would certainly be very low. Again, Zaccheus was tempted to that hardness in evil which comes from having no character to support. The personal hindrance to a religious life lay in the recollection of past guilt. Zaccheus had done wrong, and no fourfold restitution will undo that, where only remorse exists.
II. Pass we on to THE TRIUMPH OVER DIFFICULTIES. In this there is man's part, and God's part. Man's part in Zaccheus' case was exhibited in the discovery of expedients. The Redeemer came to Jericho, and Zaccheus desired to see that blessed Countenance, whose very looks, he was told, shed peace upon restless spirits and fevered hearts. But Zaccheus was small of stature, and a crowd surrounded Him. Therefore he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore-tree. You must not look on this as a mere act of curiosity. They who thronged the steps of Jesus were a crowd formed of different materials from the crowd which would have been found in the amphitheatre. He was there as a religious Teacher or Prophet; and they who took pains to see Him, at least were the men who looked for salvation in Israel. This, therefore, was a religious act. Then note further, the expedients adopted by Zaccheus after he had seen and heard Jesus. The tendency to the hardness and selfishness of riches he checked by a rule of giving half away. The tendency to extortion he met by fastening on himself the recollection, that when the hot moment of temptation had passed away, he would be severely dealt with before the tribunal of his own conscience, and unrelentingly sentenced to restore fourfold. God's part in this triumph over difficulties is exhibited in the address of Jesus: "Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." Two things we note here: invitation and sympathy. Invitation — "come down." Say what we will of Zaccheus seeking Jesus, the truth is Jesus was seeking Zaccheus. For what other reason but the will of God had Jesus come to Jericho, but to seek Zaccheus and such as he? We do not seek God — God seeks us. There is a Spirit pervading time and space who seek the souls of men. At last the seeking becomes reciprocal — the Divine Presence is felt afar, and the soul begins to turn towards it. Then when we begin to seek God, we become conscious that God is seeking us. It is at that period that we distinguish the voice of personal invitation — "Zaccheus!" Lastly, the Divine part was done in sympathy. By sympathy we commonly mean little more than condolence. If the tear start readily at the voice of grief, and the purse-strings open at the accents of distress, we talk of a man's having great sympathy. To weep with those who weep — common sympathy does not mean much more. The sympathy of Christ was something different from this. Sympathy to this extent, no doubt, Zaccheus could already command. If Zaccheus were sick, even a Pharisee would have given him medicine. If Zaccheus had been in need, a Jew would not have scrupled to bestow an alms. If Zaccheus had been bereaved, many even of that crowd that murmured when they saw him treated by Christ like a son of Abraham, would have given to his sorrow the tribute of a sigh. The sympathy of Jesus was fellow feeling for all that is human. He did not condole with Zaccheus upon his trials — He did not talk to him "about his soul," He did not preach to him about his sins, He did not force His way into his house to lecture him — He simply said, "I will abide at thy house:" thereby identifying himself with a publican, thereby acknowledging a publican for a brother. Zaccheus a publican? Zaccheus a sinner? Yes; but Zaccheus is a man. His heart throbs at cutting words. He has a sense of human honour. He feels the burning shame of the world's disgrace. Lost? Yes, but the Son of Man, with the blood of the human race in His veins, is a Brother to the lost.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.