Humble Hero


The Little Man Who Became Important

This chapter is based on Luke 19:1-10.

The city of Jericho was surrounded by lush tropical plants and trees. Running springs watered it, and it gleamed like an emerald in the setting of limestone hills and desolate ravines. The city was a great center of commerce, and Roman officials and soldiers, with strangers from many places, were found there. The collection of customs on the transport of goods made it the home of many tax collectors. HH 254.1

The “chief tax collector,” Zacchaeus, was a Jew, and his countrymen detested him. His rank and wealth were the reward of a profession that they regarded as another name for injustice and extortion. Yet this wealthy customs officer was not entirely the hardened man that he seemed. Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus. The report had spread far and wide that He had treated society’s outcasts with kindness and courtesy. John the Baptist had preached at the Jordan, and Zacchaeus had heard of his call to repentance. Now, hearing the words reported to have come from the Great Teacher, he felt that he was a sinner in God’s sight. Yet what he had heard of Jesus kindled hope in his heart. Repentance, reformation of life, was possible, even for him. Was not one of the new Teacher’s most trusted disciples a tax collector? Zacchaeus immediately began to follow the conviction that had taken hold of him and to make restitution to those he had wronged. HH 254.2

When the news spread through Jericho that Jesus was entering the town, Zacchaeus determined to see Him. The tax collector longed to look on the face of the One whose words had brought hope to his heart. HH 254.3

The streets were crowded, and Zacchaeus, who was small, could see nothing over the heads of the people. So, running a little ahead of the crowd to a wide-spreading fig tree, he climbed to a seat among the branches. As the procession passed below, Zacchaeus scanned the crowd eagerly to locate the one Person he longed to see. HH 254.4

Suddenly, just beneath the fig tree, the people came to a standstill, and One looked upward whose glance seemed to read his heart. Almost doubting his senses, the man in the tree heard Jesus say, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” HH 254.5

Walking as if in a dream, Zacchaeus led the way toward his own home. But the rabbis, with scowling faces, complained in scorn that “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” HH 254.6

Zacchaeus had been overwhelmed at Christ’s condescension in paying any attention to him, so unworthy. Now love to his newfound Master prompted him to speak. He would make his repentance public. In the presence of the crowd, “Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.’” HH 255.1

Now the disciples had a demonstration of the truth of Christ’s words, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27. They saw how, through the grace of God, a rich man could enter into the kingdom. HH 255.2

Before Zacchaeus had even seen the face of Christ, he had confessed his sin. He had begun to carry out the teaching written for ancient Israel as well as for us: “If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them; they shall live with you as though resident aliens. Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God.” “You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 25:35, 36, 17, NRSV. The very first response of Zacchaeus to Christ’s love was to show compassion toward the poor and suffering. HH 255.3

The tax collectors cooperated with one another to oppress the people and support each other in their fraudulent practices. But as soon as Zacchaeus yielded to the Holy Spirit, he put aside every shady practice. HH 255.4

No repentance is genuine that does not result in reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin. It is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God, entire surrender of heart and life to the principles of heaven to live within us. HH 255.5

In business life Christians are to represent to the world the way in which our Lord would conduct business. In every transaction, we are to show that God is our teacher. “Holiness to the Lord” is to be written on ledgers, deeds, receipts, and bills of sale. By abandoning unrighteous practices, every converted person will show that Christ has entered his heart. Like Zacchaeus, he will give proof of his sincerity by making restitution. “If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live.” Ezekiel 33:15. HH 255.6

If we have injured others, been deceptive in trade, or defrauded anyone, even though it might be within the letter of the law, we should confess our wrong and make restitution as far as it lies in our power. It is right to restore not only what we have taken, but all that it would have accumulated if wisely used during the time we had it. HH 255.7

To Zacchaeus, the Savior said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Christ went to his home to give him lessons of truth and to instruct his household in the things of the kingdom. Shut out from the synagogues by the contempt of rabbis and worshipers, now they gathered in their own home around the divine Teacher and heard the words of life. HH 256.1

When we receive Christ as a personal Savior, salvation comes to our lives. Zacchaeus had received Jesus, not merely as a passing guest, but as One to live in the temple of the heart. The scribes and Pharisees accused him as a sinner, but the Lord recognized him as a son of Abraham. See Galatians 3:7, 29. HH 256.2