Desperation to Transformation


Luke 19:1-10

19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man[a] came to seek and save those who are lost.”


The story of Zaccheus is short, but powerful. It contains the quintessential purpose of Jesus’ mission here on earth, to seek and save the lost. Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus is an example of the kingdom of God bringing salvation to outcasts, unloved, and even hated in society. It’s also the picture of transformation when Christ makes Himself at home in our hearts. 

Zaccheaus was not only a tax-collector, but Chief of the Tax collectors in Jericho. This was one of the wealthiest cities in Palestine, making Zaccheuas a prominent and wealthy guy. However, among the Jewish citizens of Jericho he was hated and reviled. This was most likely due to  the practice known as tax farming, the collector made his profit on whatever extra  he could get away with charging his victims. A tax collector was highly motivated to make the taxes as high as possible.

I love the picture Luke paints in his gospel of this interaction. A despised, albeit wealthy outcast doing whatever it takes just to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Motivated by rumors of the miraculous Zaccheus desperately climbs a tree to behold the Messiah. A wild and ridiculous act to see if the rumors were true. He wanted, badly, to set His eyes on Jesus no matter the cost to his reputation.

Amazingly, as a result of his dedication to seek after Jesus, Jesus in turn saw him. He did not pass him by, but instead called him by name. In calling him by name, Jesus was laying claim to Zaccheaus. As if Jesus was saying, “you are mine”, “come near to me”. The prophet Isaiah spoke these words of the Savior…

“ But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Jesus knew and saw Zaccheaus long before he climbed that tree. He knew him, He saw him, He called him, He loved him. 
This is the beauty of the Gospel!
He knows us, He sees us, He calls us to Himself. 

But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus invited Himself to Zaccheaus’ house to sit at his table, making Himself right at home. 

In the same way, Jesus makes us His own and makes our heart His home. As a result our lives are miraculously transformed. Standing before Jesus, Zaccheaus’ volunteers to give half of his possessions away to the poor and right the wrongs with his brothers and sisters whom he had cheated in his old life. Just in the presence of Jesus, Zaccheaus immediately grows in compassion, generosity, and righteous living. 

This is the power of the Gospel. His presence in our lives changes our whole self inside and out. It all begins with a position of desperation, that leads to an encounter, and becomes a transformed life.

Action Step

Zaccheaus' desire to meet Jesus mattered more than his reputation. He first realized his own desperation. This is the story of every follower when we first begin to follow Jesus. We must realize our position of desperation. 

Desperation and need must be a daily position for the believer even after they have been saved. It’s when we are desperate that we continue to seek a glimpse of His face and presence. 

Consider your own position. When was the last time you considered yourself desperate and in need? When was the last time you sought His presence?

Also, Jesus reiterates here that his  mission of Jesus was to Seek and Save the lost.
Consider someone in your own life that needs to experience the transformative power of the presence of Jesus. Pray for them today that they would realize their greatest need in His presence


Lord Jesus, we thank you for seeking and saving the lost like us. We like Zaccheaus, are desperate for you, and you call us by name. Help us to notice the outcast today.
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