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In the historical account of Zacchaeus it is interesting to note the details surrounding the interactions between Zacchaeus and Jesus.

The location was in Jericho on the way to Jerusalem:

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:1-3‬ ‭

Zacchaeus was trying to see Jesus, the text doesn’t say why. But when Jesus got to where Zacchaeus had climbed in the tree, Jesus addressed Zacchaeus by name:

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:5‬ ‭

We know Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a chief tax collector.

• It would be interesting to note how far Zacchaeus’ area of influence reached. Could it have reached all the way to Galilee? Could Jesus as a carpenter have had clients in Jericho?

• Whether or not Jesus had prior to his ministry, dealt with Zacchaeus as a carpenter concerning tax payments (my question centers around Zacchaeus trying to see if this was the same Jesus he possibly knew from years past?!?).

• It would not be socially acceptable today to invite yourself over to someone’s house, was this acceptable for Jesus, if so why? Could it be they had met before, possibly at Zacchaeus’ home?

• How did Jesus know Zacchaeus by name? Did Jesus recognize Zacchaeus by his stature from a distance climbing the tree ahead of him and when Jesus arrive at the tree already knew it would be the unmistakable short Zacchaeus?

• Zacchaeus from the text was not looking to gain anything from Jesus, no healing, no miracle, he simply wanted to know who Jesus was. (Zacchaeus ended up giving up a lot of his wealth as a result of meeting Jesus).

Is there any reason to believe Jesus and Zacchaeus had met prior to this interaction?

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  • Very interesting observations, upvoted +1 Jun 5, 2021 at 18:25

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We are not told if Jesus and Zacchaeus were acquainted prior to this incident. It's not impossible, but I don't think it's necessary to conclude that they were acquainted.

Jesus was able to perceive people's thoughts & intentions (e.g. "why think ye evil in your hearts?"), so it's at least possible that His knowledge of Zacchaeus was of Divine origin. Jesus also had a close personal disciple (Matthew) who was a tax collector--I suppose it's more likely that Matthew & Zacchaeus were acquainted than that Jesus & Zacchaeus were acquainted.

That said, fame of Jesus tended to spread quickly (e.g. Mark 1:29, Matt. 9:26), and the passage in the OP specifically indicates that there were a lot of people who wanted to see Jesus. So whether they had met previously or not, Zacchaeus had apparently heard of Jesus (and believed in Him too--Zacchaeus immediately refers to Jesus as "Lord").

Prior business relationship

This isn't impossible, but it is unlikely. Jesus was from Galilee, Zacchaeus from Judea. As a chief tax collector in Jericho, Zacchaeus would not have had responsibilities in Galilee, which was a separate Roman province.

Invite yourself over

If Jesus & Zacchaeus were not previously acquainted, it's possible that a common acquaintance between the two helped set things up--and maybe even recommended Jesus reach out to Zacchaeus. Of course, it's also possible that Jesus did in fact just invite Himself over for dinner.

This would be unusual, but we are talking about the Person who publicly forgave sins, cast devils into a herd of swine, walked on water, fed a multitude with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, sent His disciples to preach without funds, had nowhere to lay His head, offered Himself as a sacrifice for all mankind, and rose bodily from the dead. As the show "The Chosen" put it, when serving Jesus, "get used to different". =)

Perhaps another way to look at this: if the Son of God came over for dinner, with or without an explicit invitation, stating that "This day is salvation come to this house," wouldn't you let Him in?

Conclusion

While it is possible that Jesus and Zacchaeus had previously met, the text neither states it nor requires it.

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    You give the best answer we can give. Zacchaeus knew about Jesus because of his fame. Zacchaeus's actions seemed to indicate he had never seen Jesus before.
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 6, 2021 at 11:36
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Jesus had earlier pre-seen Nathaniel when sited under the fog tree - when Jesus met him physically, Nathanael was surprised at this. Scriptures says He has no need of human witness on anything.

Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus who he was - hints that he had no previous interaction with him.

Jesus be praised ever more.

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