February 10, 2013  Luke 19:1-10       Zacchaeus.

 Most of us are familiar with the song that is sung in Sunday school about Zacchaeus.   It goes like this.   Zacchaeus was a wee little man a wee little man was he.   He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.   And Jesus said Zacchaeus come down for I’m going to your house today.  There are many things that we can learn from this passage but what I want to point out today the most is that Jesus loves people.  Jesus loves to spend time with those that want to see Him. 

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and passed through the city of Jericho.   It is a resort town located slightly to the northwest of the Dead Sea a few miles west of the Jordan River and about 20 miles northeast of Jerusalem.   It was the winter capitol of King Herod.   Jericho was a hub of agriculture and also was a city where there was trading and travel.   It is a nice place for some one to become the chief tax collector and to make it big and to get rich.   Luke is the only gospel writer to tell us about Zacchaeus perhaps because he wanted to show that Jesus could reach and that Jesus wanted to reach those Jews who were not walking with God.  Luke was a doctor and he puts this human interest story in his account of the life of Jesus.  Since Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector he probably supervised other collectors.  This position was probably bought from Rome for a price.   His countrymen considered him sold out to the Romans.    The Jews hated the Romans who controlled them and would later in a few short years they would destroy the temple.    The text seems to indicate that he enriched himself = skimmed from his position.   He may have had one of the nicest homes in the city.   He may have been on Herod's list of the most important and influential people- the in people of Judea. 

 But the other side of his life is that he is hated.   The general population did not like him.   They were controlled by the Romans.   The Romans taxed them and the second verse in the passage tells us that Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector.   It was a high position and it was the source of making a good living.  Zacchaeus probably walked with the elite but was not appreciated by the Jews and those taxed.   I saw a movie where this family moved and the son was going to preppy school where they wore a suit jacket and white shirt and a tie.    So he goes to this inner city school and everyone is wearing tie die shirts and shorts and etc.   He may as well as put a sign on him – I do not belong here.   I am the new kid on the block so the first day of school he is wearing a suit. .   He could have a sign on his back punch me or kick me.   I am a geek and a misfit.   I am a dork.  I do not fit in here.   I am different.   Ole Zacchaeus did not really fit with the people.  On top of all that Zacchaeus was a short man.   Who wants to be a half pint or short?   That may have given him a complex.   I am not a normal size man.   Many men do labor with that if they are short.  I am not saying all men but as people we have our vanity.  

 The Romans probably accepted him OK although some may have despised him and seen Zacchaeus as a traitor.  Think what it would be like if Germany had taken over the world in WWII and the Gestapo was in charge today of your life.  And the Gestapo went around taxing and picking on you.   It no time you would not want to see them coming.  They would be hated.   Zacchaeus was hated.  People did not want him to be knocking in their door.  If you had a bad year and your taxes were due - it was pay up time whether you had it or not.  If you got sick and could not work part of the year well taxes are due.    Zacchaeus might as well walked around town dressed as Caesar because Zacchaeus reminded them of Rome.   I suspect that he was lonely and he probably realized that though he had made it as far as money goes his life was empty.  The world will not fill you.    Have you ever felt like you did not fit in?   Did you ever feel out of place?   Were you ever looked down upon?   Some folks feel that they do not fit in because of the way they look.   Some folks feel that they are second class because of their intelligence.     Some feel like they are substandard because of how much money they possess.   There are billions of people who fight these kinds of feelings all the time.   No matter what you have and how you look and how you feel something could be better and you can find yourself in places where you feel you do not measure up and that is tough.      No matter how well you fit in or you feel you fit in it could be better.    Dream last night. 

On top of that how does a person feel inside about his or her self?  People at times feel unrighteous.  People have questions about life and about God.    Zacchaeus name meant pure or righteous one.  So why was this not so righteous and not so pure man in a tree?   How did Zacchaeus feel about himself?    Zacchaeus was a man in the know so to speak and he heard about Jesus coming and since he is short and he wants to see Jesus he climbs a tree.  He is on a mission  ran ahead of the people.  Zacchaeus needs a prop.   He needs help and he is a smart guy and so he climbs a tree.  It seems kind of strange to think about a rich man climbing a tree but that is what Zacchaeus did.   He may have ripped his clothes on a branch.  When Jesus gets under the tree he looks up and tells Zacchaeus to come down.  It is a God moment for Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus makes a move toward Jesus and Jesus seeks him out.  Jesus said you did not seek me but I sought for you.   Jesus is not put off for 1 second about Zacchaeus.  Jesus does not care about all that other stuff.    Jesus will spend time with him.   Jesus does not care he is short.   He may be an outcast form the people but that does not stop Jesus.  Jesus is the friend of sinners.  I want to tell you that there is nothing in your life that will keep him from you.   You can keep him away but Jesus is interested in you.  He wants to go to your house for dinner today.   Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but Zacchaeus gets a lot more. 

Zacchaeus is pretty smart.   He climbs the tree to see Jesus.   He is not going to be hindered from seeing Jesus. God blesses that kind of commitment to be with him and to see him.    Zacchaeus has a drive to worship and to see Jesus and it changes his life.   And Jesus tells him to come on down and Zacchaeus comes down immediately.   He obeyed Jesus.  He hurried himself to see Jesus and to be with Jesus. Zacchaeus gladly welcomes the Lord.   He is happy to be with Jesus.   He wants to be with Jesus.   Zacchaeus wants to worship.   Jesus can meet Zacchaeus needs.   Jesus can help Zacchaeus feel good about himself just like Jesus can help us.   Jesus can bring community to Zacchaeus.   When you are in Jesus it does not matter if you are short or tall or rich or poor.  It does not matter if you are male or female or whether you are a slave or a free person.   Jesus brings new life.

 Zacchaeus has a real change of life in that he gives away half of his money.   Money is an idol or a god for many people.  He throws away the idol of money to allow the real God in his life.   What a wonderful release in his life.   It was Albert Schweitzer who said, “If you own something that you cannot give away, then you don’t own it, it owns you.”   Most people struggle to give 10% but Zacchaeus gives 50%.   He is going to make everything right where he has cheated people and then give 50% away.  God loves people like this.   God loves all people but here is a seeking heart which is so precious to God.  What do you think God would do if the church goers in America did that?   We would see a move of God.  Jesus changed his life.  One afternoon with Jesus – just one meal with Jesus and what a change.   Zacchaeus is not going to cheat people anymore and he is going to feel better about himself.  He is a different man.   He has a new life.  Zacchaeus points out a very simple truth that life without God is pretty vain even if you are rich.     Life takes on a whole new meaning when you determine to walk with Jesus.  Life means more when you let Jesus use your life.      Jesus touched him where he needed to be touched.    Maybe Zacchaeus was up in that tree to look for salvation or maybe he secretly thought Jesus could help him.   Others may have thought that Zacchaeus had it made but he knew that he really did not have it made.  Maybe he felt the emptiness that every person has in their life when Jesus is not the center of their life.   There are rich people who are rich and there are rich people who are really poor.   There are poor people who are rich and there are poor people who are really poor.  

Luke says a man was there a man named Zacchaeus.   He was a person and people need the Lord.   He was flesh and blood like you and I.   He has a mind and he has emotions.   He has needs just like every person you will ever see.   Every single person has needs and desires and problems.   An important thing to remember as we go through life is that we all need Jesus.  We all need forgiveness.   We all need to come to the place that Zacchaeus came to that we need to make things right where we have been wrong.    Zacchaeus said I will restore 4 fold or 4 times whatever I have taken that was not mine and half of all that I own I will give away.    That kind of commitment is the beginning of life.  Zacchaeus said I am going to become a giving person.  Zacchaeus was hungry for more and that is why he went up the tree.   He was open and that is a good thing.   He sought the Lord and wise people and wise men still seek God.   Wise people do not lie around watching TV all day.   They seek God.  They seek to see God and to please God.  Zacchaeus sees Jesus and he is a changed man.  He gets a new life.  He finds a new meaning in life.  He finds joy and peace.   Before Jesus he was not at peace.   He knew he cheated people.   He knew that there were poor people around him and so because of Jesus he makes it right and finds peace.  .    

Zacchaeus got Jesus attention.  God saw him and God saw potential in him and God wanted to bring him in.   Jesus said today salvation has come to this house.   Probably nobody reached out to Zacchaeus but Jesus did.   He was one of those hated tax collectors.   The people complained and sputtered because Jesus reached out to him.  That gives you an idea how the people felt about him.   They complained about Jesus going to his house.  Jesus is going to the house of a sinner.    Such people could cause a stir in church today.   I am glad our church is pretty open to sinners and those that society might cast out.   There was a convicted child molester who received Jesus and had a solid conversion but he was kicked out of a number of communities and churches and our Advent Christian Church in Meredith took him in.   That would cause a stir in many churches today.   How about bringing in a bunch of people who live in the streets?   How about bringing in a biker gang?   How would the rich be received?   What if a man came in with long hair?     God loves people and yes we love the sinner and hate the sin.   Jesus lifted people up.    He forgave and said do not sin any more.  

              Zacchaeus found the key to life that day.   Zacchaeus was a little man but he found a big God.  He found salvation and made a commitment to be a giving person.   He made a commitment to do things right.   I suspect that he shared Jesus with others.   That is a real change in his life.  Others must have noticed.   Jesus saw him and saw his need and saw potential in him and Jesus went to his house and Zacchaeus opened up his heart to God.   Jesus touched his life just as Jesus touched the thief’s heart on the cross.   Did they deserve it no and neither does anyone else.  Jesus loves you.   Jesus loves people.   Jesus loves those that we may not like.   Jesus said he that comes to me I will in no wise cat them out.   I Corinthians 1 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.    But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.    He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.     It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.    Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.   God has chosen the lowly and despised things.  God chose the despised things of the world.  Wow.   His ways are not man’s ways

              God did not choose me because I am some great guy folks.   He chose me because he is gracious.  He changed me and he can change you.   No matter how you see yourself God sees you through the eyes of love.  His heart goes out to you.   You may feel you are worthless but in God‘s eyes you are very valuable.  You may feel you don’t measure up but in God’s eyes he loves you right where you are.   You may feel that others may not want to be around you but God wants to fellowship with you right where you are at now.   You may see something in your life that needs to be changed and God says I can help you become the person you should be and the kind of person you will be at home with and comfortable with.  .