Zachaeus' Sycamore

Described as a short man, then Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore fig tree so that he might be able to see Jesus.

Zacchaeus by Niels Larsen Stevns
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Zacchaeus , according to chapter 19 of the gospel of Luke, was a superintendent of customs; a chief tax-gatherer  at Jericho (Luke 19:1-10).

Tax collectors were hated by many of their fellow Jews, who saw them as traitors for working for the Roman Empire.

Because the lucrative production and export of balsam was centered in Jericho, his position would have carried both importance and wealth.

Zachaeus΄s sycarome in Jericho
pinterest button Zachaeus΄s sycarome in Jericho NicFer, CC BY-SA 3.0

In the account, he arrived before the crowd who were later to meet with Jesus, who was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem.

Zacchaeus being called down from the tree.
pinterest button Zacchaeus being called down from the tree.

Described as a short man, then Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore fig tree so that he might be able to see Jesus.

When Jesus reached the spot he looked up into the branches, addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house.

Zacchaeus by Niels Larsen Stevns
pinterest button Zacchaeus by Niels Larsen Stevns   Niels Larsen Stevns, CC BY-SA 3.0

The crowd was shocked that Jesus, a Jew, would sully himself by being a guest of a tax collector.

Moved by the audacity of Jesus's undeserved love and acceptance, Zacchaeus publicly repented of acts of corruption and vowed to make restitution for them, and held a feast at his house.

Later traditions

At Er-riha (Jericho) there is a large, venerable looking square tower, which by tradition is named the House of Zacchaeus.

According to Clement of Alexandria, in his book Stromata, Zaccheus was surnamed Matthias by the apostles, and took the place of Judas Iscariot after Jesus's ascension.

The later Apostolic Constitutions identify «Zacchaeus the Publican» as the first bishop of Caesarea (7.46).

Medieval legend identified Zacchaeus with Saint Amadour, and held him to be the founder of the French sanctuary, Rocamadour.


Useful Information

Zachaeus΄ Sycamore
Zachaeus΄ Tree
Greek Ζακχαῖος, "Zakchaios"
Hebrew זכי, which means pure and righteous one


Jericho, Holy Land Museum and Russian cultural center

The tree is located in Jericho, the first city conquered by Joshua when the Israelites crossed into Canaan. The city, sometimes touted as the world’s oldest town, is a rich oasis of greenery in a desert landscape.


Liturgical practices

In Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches of Slavic tradition, the Gospel account of Zacchaeus is read on the last Sunday preceding the liturgical preparation for Great Lent, for which reason that Sunday is known as "Zacchaeus Sunday."

It is the very first commemoration of a new Paschal cycle.

The account was chosen to open the Lenten season because of two exegetical aspects: Jesus' call to Zacchaeus to come down from the tree (symbolizing the divine call to humility), and Zacchaeus' subsequent repentance.

In the Eastern churches of Greek/Byzantine tradition, Zacchaeus Sunday may fall earlier than the Sunday before the Pre-Lenten season. he was small.

Spiritual lessons

The story of Zacchaeus is used by some to illustrate the saying of Jesus: "Blessed are the pure of heart, For they shall see God" Matthew 5:8.

Zacchaeus whose name means pure, climbed up a tree, which represents the cross, and by being symbolically crucified with Christ, was able to see God (He who has seen Jesus has seen God John 14:9)

The sycamore tree, climbed by Zacchaeus, was considered "unclean" because it bore a fruit that was fed to pigs. In the culture of the time it was humiliating for Zacchaeus to climb that tree.

To see Jesus, Zacchaeus' pride had to be crucified. In Romans, Paul wrote "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Romans 6:6