Jesus came down Main Street. The way I see it is the disciples are around him to keep people from rushing Jesus. Zacchaeus could see him coming. He had a bird’s-eye view. As Jesus reached the sycamore fig tree, the spot of embarrassment where it didn’t matter what people said or thought, Jesus stopped and looked up. Of course, everyone else looked up too. Imagine it! How awkward! Everyone is looking at you up a tree.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE CHAPTER 19
Zacchaeus, When Jesus Reached the Spot (Luke 19:1-10)
By Pastor Delbert Young
Zacchaeus, When Jesus Reached the Spot – Luke 19:1-10
Scriptures: Luke 19:1-2, Luke 18:43, Luke 19:3-4, Luke 19:5-6, Luke 19:7, Luke 19:8-10
Jesus continued on his journey to Jerusalem giving us a series of vignettes about people along the way. There was the Rich Young Ruler, the Pharisees who asked about the kingdom, blind Bartimaeus, and today we’ll look at a tax collector named Zacchaeus. We want to thank Luke. He alone recorded the story of Zacchaeus.
Luke 19:1-2 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a CHIEF TAX COLLECTOR and was WEALTHY.
As we pointed out last time this was “new” Jericho not the Jericho where the walls came a tumbling down. Imagine the energy in Jericho. People were traveling to Jerusalem for the big Holy Week Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. Add to this Jesus passing through, the most popular person in the nation. Stack on this how Jesus just healed the blind beggar just outside the city. The news of this and Jesus coming into town would have spread like wildfire.
We’re given the primary character’s name – Zacchaeus. Other than Matthew, he’s the only tax collector whose name is given us. Likely he became prominent in the church and if someone wondered if this truly happened they could find and question Zacchaeus.
I’ll ask the men, if you have the option to have money and power or have poverty and weakness which do you take? I choose money and power. “And” truly is better than “or,” right? Zacchaeus was wealthy and powerful
Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and the reason he was wealthy. He was at the top of the tax pyramid. He was the worst of the worst of the worst. He was in charge of all tax collectors in the area. I know we don’t understand how people despised and hated tax collectors, but they had their own category when it came to evil. It was “tax collectors and sinners.” They were in collusion with Rome taking taxes from their own countrymen, friends, and relatives for the hated Roman Empire who ruled Israel. They were seen as extortionist and criminals. They were the mafia and lived the lives of gods in the eyes of people – finest wines, clothes, mules, and homes. Zacchaeus was likely the wealthiest and most prominent man in town with the largest house and likely with many servants. To find an honest tax collector then would be as difficult as finding an honest politician today.
I always attempt to point out when a chapter break should not be a chapter break. Here is another case. Chapter 18 ended with Jesus healing the blind man just outside Jerusalem. It said,
Luke 18:43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
There was a noisy celebrating parade coming down Main Street. It was a prelude to Jesus entering Jerusalem on the donkey in a few days. Jesus the son of David, the Messiah, was in town. Even I’d go stand to see this parade! I’d even climb a tree for this.
Luke 19:3-4 He wanted to see WHO JESUS WAS, but being A SHORT MAN he could not, because of the CROWD. So HE RAN AHEAD AND CLIMBED A SYCAMORE-FIG TREE TO SEE HIM, since Jesus was coming that way.
Our little criminal (I think of Danny DeVito) had two problems. There was a massive crowd and he was a short man. You can imagine him bouncing up and down attempting to see. He’d heard about Jesus and wanted to see who Jesus was. He didn’t know nor had ever met Jesus. So he ran ahead and climbed a tree. (The thought of Danny DeVito running and climbing a tree is hilarious to me.)It seems strange a crook cared this much who Jesus was, but he did. Why do you think he wanted to see who Jesus was?
We place people into categories and pigeonholes all the time. We talked about this when studying the “A Pastor and A Pimp” (Luk 18:9-14). We can’t look at the outward person to determine righteousness. Categorizing people actually hinders our seeing what God is doing in a person’s heart. How a person looks, behaves, or what they do cannot be allowed to force us into believing God can’t, won’t, or isn’t touching them. We mess up with our snap judgments and injure our faith.
Zacchaeus was short, but was not deterred. Instead of giving up and saying, “Who cares…” He embarrassed himself by running ahead and climbing a tree to see Jesus. Climbing a tree is not something you do inconspicuously. People watching at least giggled. This wasn’t something a prominent wealthy person did. Zacchaeus was likely the best dressed guy there. Equate this to someone wearing a thousand dollar suit climbing a tree. He was very serious about his quest.
When God is dealing with our heart we drop our pride as difficult as this is. We want to see Jesus. We’ve heard about him. What do you need to do to see Jesus?
Luke 19:5-6 When JESUS REACHED THE SPOT, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I MUST STAY at your house today.” So he came down AT ONCE and welcomed him gladly.
Jesus came down Main Street. The way I see it is the disciples are around him to keep people from rushing him. Zacchaeus could see him coming. He had a “bird’s eye view.” As Jesus reached the sycamore fig tree, the spot of embarrassment where it didn’t matter what people said or thought, Jesus stopped and looked up. Of course, everyone else looked up too. Imagine it! How awkward! Everyone is looking at you up a tree. What do you do? Maybe say, “Hi Jesus”? Maybe fall out of the tree? Jesus drew everyone’s attention to Zacchaeus. Jesus said,“Zacchaeus…” how did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name? They had never met (v. 3). Jesus said, “come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” I believe Jesus came through Jericho for Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a must. Jesus came through LaFayette, or wherever, for you. You’re a must.
Jesus singled Zacchaeus out by his name telling us this was a divine appointment. Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name like he knew Nathanael’s name (Joh 1:48). You don’t need to introduce yourself to Jesus. He already knows you. Jesus knows who he is seeking. He knew you way before you knew him. There was an exact spot Jesus encounter Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus thought he was seeking to see who Jesus was. In reality Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus. Since the garden with Adam and Eve it’s God who comes seeking the lost. God seeks after us. We’ve every one who has come to Christ, had an exact spot. We’ve all had a divine appointment. God does the saving because God does the seeking. This story illustrates this fact.
Jesus said, “I must stay at your house today.” This wasn’t a request. This was a divine necessity. In verse 10 Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Jesus not only knows who he is seeking, he knows when and where salvation will come to them. He knows the spot. Zacchaeus nearly jumped out of the tree and welcomed him gladly. Of course, it’s never only Jesus. It’s at least Jesus and twelve others. When Jesus comes into your life he always brings new people. Who has he brought into your life?
Luke 19:7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'”
They were so happy to see God’s grace toward the lost. I’m being sarcastic. This is how religion works. It’s apostate and negative. What a contrast to Zacchaeus! It always amazes me how when Jesus had a huge crowd following him and people proclaiming him as Messiah, he’d throw up barriers and do something to push them away. I believe it’s a test for us. Are we real or are we religious? In the massive crowd, we’re only shown one who really got it and he was a sinner up a tree.
Do you remember when Jesus wanted to go home with you? It’s amazing how it’s ok for Jesus to come home with us, but we question his going home with others. People had written Zacchaeus off, but God hadn’t. Do you know any “Zacchaeus'”? Someone you’ve written off. I promise you God hasn’t and the spot of divine appointment is coming for them exactly as it came for you. Be cautious of the lens you see people through. It’s easy to see clearly when we’re studying the Bible and talking about it, but it’s difficult in real time. There are people we give up on. Likely someone gave up on you, but Jesus knew your name and stopped at the spot just for you when your life was up a tree.
Luke 19:8-10 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a SONOF ABRAHAM. For the SON OF MAN came to seek and to save WHAT was lost.”
A son of Abraham means a descendant of Abraham or a Jew.The Jews are lost no matter if they want to believe it or not. Jesus, the Son of Man came to save what he could of the sons of Abraham. As we’ve learned the Son of Man will bring desolation upon that generation of Jews (Luke 21:32, 36). Sadly, it seems out of the massive crowd only Zacchaeus and a few disciples would experience this salvation.
Nothing in the text says Zacchaeus was going to quit his day job. This is somewhat amazing when we first consider it. What is said is Zacchaeus will not cheat anybody as he had. Someone was going to collect taxes for Rome. Why not an honest Christ follower? His once evil occupation transformed into something benevolent and good. When salvation comes to a house, it affects our possessions, our occupations, our honesty, integrity, etc. What, not only who, was lost is saved.
Zacchaeus stripped himself of even his honest gain. He gave half of everything he’d accumulated to the poor. With the other half he paid back those he cheated out of anything four times the amount he cheated. Imagine the talk as he did this. “Honey, you remember when that guy forced us to use the kids college fund to pay taxes?” “Yes. It was Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. Why do you ask?” “He gave us back four times what he took.” What do you think the people who muttered about Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house had to say then? Jesus got a rich man through the eye of a needle. It was impossible with man, but not with God. Life will change when Jesus stops on the spot, calls your name, and goes home with you. Not only are you, but everything about you is saved.
Don’t time stamp people. God has a spot for them. Have you taken anything you need to give back? Have you defrauded anyone – billed for hours you didn’t work, charged for something you didn’t deserve? How about this? Have you taken for yourself time you should have given to your spouse, children, or grandchildren? Ouch! Have you been greedy or generous? Every week we, as it were, come to church, climb into a tree, and await Jesus to pass by. We want to see him. He wants to save us. We think we are checking him out. The truth is he’s reaching your spot. He’s calling you down and wants to go home with you. If you welcome him gladly salvation will come to your house today. Let’s pray.
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