Our gospel today tells of the encounter in the city of Jericho between Jesus and the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus. Chief tax collectors for a city or region contracted with the Roman government. They bid for the job taking into account how much they needed to collect to cover their bid, hire a staff of assistants, grease the palm of some public officials and guarantee a good return on investment for themselves.
Zacchaeus was a shrewd businessman and had become one of the wealthiest men in the Jericho area. Nevertheless, his wealth wasn’t bringing him happiness. With all the travellers passing through, Jericho was always current with the latest news which certainly included commentary on what Jesus was doing and saying up in Galilee. Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus. It was more than curiosity that motivated him to climb that tree. His choice to become a tax collector had made him unwelcome at the local synagogue. At the time, he likely thought he would have such a good life with all the money he would make, that giving up the contact with fellow Jews would be worth it. Although he was a non-practicing Jew, he was, however, still a believer. No matter how much money he made, the happiness he hoped to experience eluded him. He may have felt caught, that there was no going back on the decisions he had made … that was, until Jesus came to town.