Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
January 31, 2016
Central Passage
Luke 19:1-10
Subject
Promises of God
Description

January 31, 2016

LITTLE MAN, BIG GOD

Luke 19:1-10

I read about this fitness center that was offering $1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate that they were stronger than the owner of the place…who was a body builder and trainer.  Here’s how it worked.  The owner would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass…then hand the lemon to the challenger.  Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out of the lemon would win the money.

Some really muscular guys…body builders and such…tried, but nobody could do it.  Finally a wiry, skinny little guy came in and signed up for the contest.  Everybody laughed at the prospect of him doing what a lot of muscular people couldn’t.  So the owner squeezed the lemon and then handed the wrinkled remains to the little guy.

The crowd’s laughter turned to silence when the little man clinched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass.  The owner gave the little guy the $1,000 and asked, “What do you do for a living?  Are you a body builder, weightlifter…what?”

“No,” the little man replied, “I work for the IRS.”

I also heard about the IRS receiving a letter that read: “Enclosed you will find a check for $150.  I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since.  If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest.”

Zacchaeus was a high-ranking IRS official for his time…one who had figured out a way to skim money off the top and squeeze the last drop from the wallets of people.  We meet him when Jesus is passing through Jericho on his final trip to Jerusalem.  The scenario is as follows: in Zacchaeus we have a searching sinner…in Jesus we have a seeking Savior…and the result is a spectacular salvation.

By the way, Zacchaeus in Hebrew means “pure and righteous…but he was not perceived in that way.  Because he was a tax collector who worked for Rome…he was considered a traitor by the Jewish people.  He was, in fact, more than just another IRS agent.  He was a “chief” tax collector…which means he was in charge of all the agents and was able to take a “cut” from those who collected taxes for him.

He stood on top of the collection pyramid…stuffing his pockets with shekels before he sent the required taxes to Rome.  If Rome charged a 5 percent tax…Zacchaeus may have collected 10 percent from the people.  He was not an honest fellow.

Jericho was a great place for money-making and taxation at the time because there were a lot of people coming in and out of the city on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover.  It was considered the “tax capital” of Palestine…the center of a vast trade network that extended from Damascus to Egypt.  So Zacchaeus’ position had made him wealthy…and people probably viewed him the way they would view a high-level drug dealer in today’s world.

Tax collectors were not new to Jesus.  Early on in His ministry, Jesus had attracted, and worse yet (in the eyes of the Pharisees), received them warmly.  In Luke 5:30, Jesus was accused by the religious leaders for eating and drinking with “tax collectors and sinners.”  These two terms were almost synonymous to the

Pharisees.  There was no life form more offensive than these traitors.

Even though he wealthy and successful by the world’s standards…Zacchaeus knew something was missing.  He must have understood that there’s more to life than just trying to make money and obtaining possessions.  Scripture tells us that he didn’t just want to see Jesus…he wanted to see who Jesus was…and he wanted to figure out what made Him tick.  He may not have fully understood what was going on in his heart, but he had a desperate need to get to Jesus.

But, Zacchaeus had a couple of problems…the first being that he was a short man in a large crowd…and the second was spiritual.  Isaiah 59:2 tells us that “…our iniquities have separated us from God.”  Like most of us Zacchaeus was short on integrity and tall on sin.

Anyway, what he lacked in height he made up for in speed…so he ran ahead of everyone and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could have a good view of Jesus.  There’s a lesson there for us.  Zacchaeus didn’t allow anything to keep him from his desire to see the Lord Jesus.

When Jesus arrived at the spot where the tree was located, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today.”  So even though Jesus had His face set toward the Cross…He stopped and ministered to a searching sinner.

That was a shocker to every listener…but that’s how it always happens.  Jesus makes the first move by coming to the sinner dead in his trespasses and sin and offers life through Himself.  We would never be able to come to

Jesus unless He came to us first.

And, then there’s also the command: “Come down immediately.”  There’s always a sense of urgency about following Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 6:2 we read, “…Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

Can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of those who were walking with Jesus that day?  How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name?  Why did Jesus stop under that particular tree?  Why did Jesus want this particular sinner to come down right away?

Then there was the second part of Jesus’ statement that left the crowd aghast: “I must stay at your house today.” Why did Jesus express the necessity of going to the house of Zacchaeus?  Why the “must”?  After all, a Pharisee would never invite a sinner like Zacchaeus to his house…and he certainly wouldn’t go to a sinner’s house as a guest and eat what was considered forbidden food.

This is the only instance in the four Gospels where we read about Jesus inviting Himself to someone’s home for a meal.  But, it’s a picture of what Jesus is all about.  After all, He came to seek and save sinners.

Zacchaeus didn’t waste any time getting out of the tree.  He came down right away and welcomed Jesus joyfully…and with great excitement.  The word “gladly” carries with it the idea of “jubilant exultation.”

Joy is one of the key themes found in Luke’s gospel…being mentioned more than 20 times in one form or another.  Other than Pharisees and Sadducees…and other people of that ilk…when most people encountered Jesus there was joy.  Joyful praise to and about the Lord should be reflected in our corporate worship every week…because if we aren’t meeting Jesus in worship we’re just meeting ourselves.

But, of course, there was muttering among the crowd when Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.  And, it wasn’t just some of the crowd. The text says that it was all the people…possibly including the disciples.  You see, the crowd had a different perception of Jesus than He had of Himself.

We often tend to harshly judge those among our own membership…grumbling and complaining to the Lord about them as the Israelites did in the desert…so do we really like it when God blesses some sinner more than us?  If we’re honest…don’t we think that we’re a lot more deserving of God’s favor than Zacchaeus?  Isn’t it true that we don’t want some people in our congregation because they would steal some of our thunder.

Having a meal and talk with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.  The man knew he was a sinner…and he had come to Jesus for salvation.  There is evidence of his salvation by the very words that he said: “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.”

The phrase “here and now” indicates that Zacchaeus was not trying to negotiate a contract with Jesus or just trying to slide by.  He had sold out to Christ.  His heart had been changed and he wanted to demonstrate that change through his actions.  Whenever Jesus meets someone on their personal road to Damascus there is change.

Zacchaeus’ public confession shows the sincerity of his repentance.  It was his way of living out Romans 10:10, which reads: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

As part of his repentance, Zacchaeus wanted to right his wrongs.  Restitution and Biblical repentance go hand-in-hand…because conversion is a radical life-changing event.  Among Jews in Zacchaeus’ day it was considered extremely generous to give 20 percent of your money away…but he gave 50 percent.

Based on Numbers 5:6-7, if a man stole and confessed without being found out…he was only required to restore what was stolen, and add 20 percent.  Zacchaeus was willing to respond as if he had committed a crime that was proved against him in a court of law.  He knew that his behavior was of the worst kind and was eager to make things right no matter the cost.

We think we’re being generous when we give 10 percent of our income to Christ’s Church.  However, Zacchaeus’ transformation and conversion was marked by his generosity.  Before he met Jesus his money was everything to him.  Afterward, it took a back seat to the fact that you can’t serve God and money.

Jesus states His mission very clearly in verse 10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Jesus was and is on a search and save mission.  He is seeking out people who need to be saved.  If you’ve never been saved from your sins, you need to know that Jesus is pursuing you even if you’re not pursuing Him.  He wants to have a vibrant relationship with you.

He’s knocking at the door of every penitent sinner.  He knocks and then waits for the door to be opened.  He says in Revelation 3:20, “…If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

And, when He knocks He calls out to you.  He knows everything about you…your pain…your hopes and your dreams…all the details of your life.  He knows your failures and your sins.  He has seen and felt them all.  And, He’s been trying to get your attention.  Just as He called out to Zacchaeus…He’s calling out to you.

Zacchaeus went through four stages that have a direct application to you and me.  He was curious…he wanted to know who Jesus was.  He considered and investigated the claims of Christ.  He was then converted by the Savior who searched him out and forgave his sins.  And, he was changed…his life radically redirected after his conversion.

What stage are you at?  Are you curious about who Jesus is?  If so, don’t stop there.  Investigate.  Check Him out up close by reading the Bible.  Consider His claims.  Keep coming to church.  Your next step is to be converted.  That’s why Jesus came.  He came to convert you…seeks to save you…and longs to show you His love.  And then, He will change your life in ways you can’t even imagine.

The call to you has gone out.  Is Jesus living within you or do you just let Him visit once in a while?  And, if He has taken up residence…have you been denying Him access to some of the rooms in your life?

Jesus is calling your name right now.  Will you respond?  Will you abandon it all for the sake of His call?  Are you ready to respond to Jesus’ call right now by opening the door to your life to Him?  Zacchaeus jumped out of a tree in response to Jesus’ invitation.  I’m asking you to jump out of your chair and come down to the front if you’re ready to be saved.

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