Today we’re going to study about a very familiar and famous, or I should say infamous, character in the Bible.
- Luke 19:1-3
1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
- What do we understand about who Zacchaeus was? He was a publican but not just any ordinary public, he was chief among them. He was also very rich. And he was also of little stature, meaning he was a short man!
What is a publican and what were they known for?
- A publican was a tax collector.
- Matthew 9:10-11
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
- People viewed them as dishonest people. They were put in the category of sinners. People despised them. They didn’t have good reputation.
- Matthew 18:17
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
- They were put in the same category as the heathen – people who did not believe God, even though they were Jews. Why? Because they worked for the Romans. And when they collected the money, they were corrupt and dishonest. They would take more than was actually required!
- Matthew 21:31-32
31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
- Here the publican is put in the same category as the harlot.
- They were just despised and did not have any sort of good reputation at all. And what position did Zacchaeus have as a publican? He was the chief of them! He was the worst of them all!
- Remember back in Luke the Bible said that he was rich. He had obviously obtained his riches in a dishonest way.
But something had been happening in Zacchaeus’ heart. Let’s go back to that first text that we read!
- Jesus was passing through Jericho.
- Luke 19:3
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
- The Bible says that when he heard about Jesus coming through, he really wanted to see Jesus. He SOUGHT to see Jesus. He was seeking. He was searching.
- The Holy Spirit had touched his heart somehow and he wanted to just SEE Jesus.
- But there was a problem. He was too short and couldn’t see over the people. They were blocking his view of Jesus and obviously their hatred of him prevented him from being allowed through to the front of the crowd.
But we see the seeking attitude of Zacchaeus. What does he do?
- Luke 19:4
And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
- People are blocking him, so he runs up ahead and climbs up a sycamore tree just so that he can see Jesus as He passes by.
- You must remember that Zacchaeus was a rich man! He must have been wearing his fine clothing. A nice robe and some nice shoes. A rich man is never clothed to such an extent where he’s ready to climb a tree!
- But Zacchaeus really wanted to see Jesus and he would let nothing get in his way. Even though people blocked him, he would not be deterred. We learn a very important lesson from this.
- Jeremiah 29:13
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
- If we seek God with all our heart, we will find Him! But it will require effort on our behalf. Zacchaeus had to climb a sycamore tree just so that he could get a glimpse of Jesus. He was demonstrating the type of faith that he had.
You would think that because he was a short man, that he could speak to the people, especially since he was rich, and ask to be excused so that he could pass through and go to the front. But people obviously did not like him and did not want to let him pass through, no matter how much money he had. But he wouldn’t let the cold treatment of the people deter him. He was determined!
- You know we learn a really important lesson from Zacchaeus here. Who do those tall people represent? They represent people in the church.
- And look, just because people treat you in an impolite, or unChristlike way, don’t let that be the reason for you to give up on Christ. It’s going to require an effort and Satan will put blocks in your path just so that you aren’t able to see Jesus. And sometimes those blocks come from within the church.
- I guess Zacchaeus must have been used to the cold treatment from the people already but he didn’t let that deter him.
- We have to be willing to push through any situation in how people treat you. This is what is involved if we want to seek Jesus with all our heart. It will require effort!
A very interesting application also is found in the tree.
- Zacchaeus climbed a tree just so that he could see Jesus pass by. What does a tree represent in the Bible?
- Isaiah 61:3
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
- A tree represents a righteous person. The righteous, they are the ones that help others to see Jesus! The tall people that blocked Zacchaeus, they were church members. But friends, just because you go to church, it doesn’t mean that you are righteous!
- Daniel 12:3
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
- The work of the church today is to turn many to righteousness. To assist in helping others to see Jesus who IS righteous!
- Well what does that mean today? How can we help people to see Jesus? Maybe we should get involved in door knocking and giving out literature. Maybe it’s inviting your friend to church or to a Friday CARE group! Maybe it’s as simple as sharing a sermon online through your social media account or sending the link to a friend.
- Helping others to see Jesus!
- Luke 19:5-6
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
- Jesus is passing along slowly. But He gets to the place where Zacchaeus is on the tree there. And looking up to where Zacchaeus is sitting on the tree branch, Jesus says what? He’s just going to go to his house today to abide there.
- Zacchaeus was overjoyed! He quickly comes down, not caring about his nice clothing and shoes, and brings Jesus to his house!
How does the crowd react though?
- Luke 19:7
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
- The ones that murmured, they were the ones that had blocked Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus in the beginning. They all called him a sinner. It really sounded like the Pharisees.
- Mark 2:16
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
- They couldn’t believe that Jesus was eating with the publicans and the sinners too. In other words, they never associated with these sorts of people. They didn’t eat with those that they considered were pure or perfect.
- It’s not that Jesus was making them their best friend. But He wanted to minister to them, to be a blessing to them.
- But the people, they really disliked Zacchaeus. No one wanted to eat at his house, even though he was so rich. Zacchaeus was a lonely person! They didn’t like him because of his position and what he did.
- But now Jesus was coming to his house to eat. Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour, the Messiah – the most famous person in the whole of Israel!
Zacchaeus hears the words of Jesus and quickly comes down from the tree and brings Jesus to his house to have a meal with Him. And in the middle of the meal, during the fellowship, Zacchaeus stands up and declares something. What is it?
- Luke 19:8
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
- Now do we read anywhere where Jesus told Zacchaeus – “Zacchaeus, you know you need to stop cheating people. It’s not good. You need to be an honest man. It’s time to give up your cheating ways.”
- Do we read anywhere where Jesus had a conversation with him to tell him he needs to shape up and get his life right? No we don’t. We don’t see where Jesus sermonized him or rebuked him.
- Then what was it that convicted Zacchaeus that he needs to be an honest man and restore everyone back their money that he had cheated and the rest of his money he should give to the poor?
What was it that convicted Zacchaeus?
- It was simply Jesus coming to his house. Look he knew that he was living a dishonest lifestyle already. People did not even want to come to his house no matter how rich he was. He was lonely. And he had plenty of time to think of what sort of person he was.
- But now Jesus was willing to come and fellowship with him? He was willing to come and eat with him when no one else was willing to do that? And because of that, his heart was convicted and decided to finally surrender his life to God and do that which is right.
- We underestimate the importance of social power. Not socializing with the people of the world just for the sake of socializing. But socializing with them so that you can be a blessing to them.
- This is the Abrahamic covenant.
- Genesis 12:2-3
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
- God wants us to be a blessing to the whole world. But we can’t be that blessing just living our own lives and socializing with our own click groups and those that we are comfortable with and those that go to the same church as us.
- We can’t be a blessing just hiding in our own homes and not eating with others. We can’t be that blessing when all we do is think of ourselves and who we want to hang out with and who we want to have fun with.
- He wants us to be a blessing to those that we never normally socialize with, those that we would never normally make our own friends. Those that maybe even society despises! Those that cannot pay us back.
- All Jesus did was eat with Zacchaeus, and he stood and declared the change that had already taken place in his heart! That sort of mindset really speaks a lot about whether a person is filled with the Holy Spirit or not. Whether we are filled with the Spirit of Christ.
- James 2:8-9
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
- It’s about loving your neighbour and not being partial to those that you don’t consider your friends.
But coming back to Zacchaeus.
- So he stands up and declares to Jesus and he’s going to restore back to everyone that he has cheated. And not just give it back but also restore them fourfold.
- He stole 100, he’s going to return back to them 400.
- Now I don’t know how Zacchaeus was able to invest and grow his money. They probably couldn’t in those days. So he was giving back to them what he had then honestly earned in salary as a publican. And on top of that, he was giving half of his riches to the poor!
- Needless to say, Zacchaeus was going to be a very poor man by the time he was done following through with his word. But such is the actions of a person whose heart has been touched by Christ. They are willing to sacrifice simply to make things right again. Zacchaeus was willing to sacrifice all his riches to be a follower of Christ.
How did Jesus respond?
- Luke 19:9-10
9 And Jesus said unto him, — This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
- Jesus declared that Zacchaeus was on the right track! This day is salvation come to this house!
It might have seemed impulsive for Zacchaeus to stand up and make such a bold statement in giving away all his riches. But this wasn’t impulsive. It was the work of the Holy Spirit on his heart.
- To the world, sometimes we see some people make some really drastic actions in their lives. Like giving up all their riches. Or selling everything to go and become a missionary in some foreign land. Or even take time off from their lives – whether it be study or work, and go and study at a short course Bible school like SALT.
- They go to youth conferences and come back wanting to serve God and we think that they are crazy, they are being impulsive. We think that they didn’t think through it properly. They are being emotional. That is how we would view Zacchaeus were he to do what he did today. But this was the work of God in his heart.
- He was willing to sacrifice everything so that he could gain everything that heaven wanted to offer him. This was in harmony with what Christ wanted.
- Do you remember the rich young ruler? He came to Jesus asking what he needed to do so that he could inherit eternal life. What did Jesus say to him?
- Luke 18:22
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
- Luke 18:22
- And how did this rich young ruler react?
- Luke 18:23
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
- He didn’t want to part with his riches.
- Luke 18:23
- But now we see Zacchaeus. His actions lined up with what Jesus told the rich young ruler! He was willing to sell everything and distribute to the poor and give back to those that he had cheated! Jesus proved that it IS possible for a rich man to be saved. The change in his heart was seen in his sacrifice for God and for his neighbour.
Friends, can Jesus see that sacrifice in your life today? Or are you so self absorbed in your own life, and your own self interests that all that occupies your mind is your own studies, your own job, your own family, your own future direction. Self, self, self, self, self. Me myself and I. That you don’t have time to think about being a blessing to anyone else? Can Jesus look into your heart and see that you love God and that you love your neighbour as yourself?
If not, then you need to let Jesus into your heart today.
- Revelation 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart. He wants to come and eat with you today at your place. He wants to be a guest in your heart this day. What will it take for you to let Him come in? Let Him work the change in you. Surrender your life to Him and see how good He is to you and how much He loves you and wants to make you a blessing to others in this world. You got to be willing to open the door of your heart today. May we learn the lesson of total surrender today.