Conversion, being saved or being “born again” is the very center of the Biblical message. In fact Jesus sums up his ministry to his disciples at the end of this story in verse ten by saying, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Conversion or being born again is all about change and throughout the Old and New Testaments, the message is that it is never to late to change. You do not have to be locked into what you have been or what you have done. You do not have to be a prisoner of your past. The possibility of being saved is God’s gift to everyone and it is never too late to repent and turn to God. Both biblical and secular history abounds with examples of sudden and amazing conversions.
A classic story in the New Testament of an amazing conversion is that of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a young Jewish religious figure of the time and a leading advocate of the persecution of Christians whenever and wherever they might be found. In Acts chapter nine Saul is making his way to the city of Damascus to stamp out yet another breeding ground of Christianity, when suddenly and dramatically he is meets Jesus on the road. There he is thrown to the ground and sees a blinding light and hears a voice from heaven. The result was that Saul became Paul. From chief persecutor of the Christian way to one of the chief advocates of Christianity in a moment. It would be difficult to find a more unlikely candidate to be saved than Saul of Tarsus. But then the new birth is always a miracle.
But it should not be forgotten that sometimes a conversion looks sudden, but the struggle may have been going on for a long time.
In Luke 18:25 Jesus said, 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples’ response was, 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” I would like to submit to you that a camel is about to go through the eye of a needle as we witness the sudden and miraculous conversion of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus certainly illustrates the truth that 27“What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Now in verse one we read, Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. how ironic for he was an unscrupulous tax collector. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were little more than government sanctioned crooks, in the Gospels they were mentioned together with “sinners” and “prostitutes.”
Taxes were collected at three places inland – Capernaum, Jerusalem and Jericho, so Zacchaeus had one of the big three. If tax collectors had a cartel, then Zacchaeus would have been the kingpin, for was not just “a” tax collector, he was “the chief tax collector.” As a tax collector Zacchaeus had it made.
Today in terms of conversion experience, the story of Zacchaeus is an important case study.
I want you to notice four important principles with me this morning.
First, When Jesus Comes It Does Not Matter What Tree You Climb (vv.4-5)
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, was a part of the crowd trying to see Jesus. But Zacchaeus being a short man, was unable to see, so he climbed a tree. That is the nice part about being filthy rich, he does care what people think. Zacchaeus, being a rich man, was free to do something others might think was silly – like climb a tree.
But why did Zacchaeus want so desperately to see Jesus? I want to suggest several intriguing possibilities. First, It may be that he had heard of Jesus through the acquaintance of another tax collector, Levi also called Matthew, had also been a tax collector prior to becoming a disciple of Jesus (Luke 5:27-31). Perhaps Matthew reaching out to his former circle of friends had told Zacchaeus about Jesus and what a change he had made in his life.
Secondly, I have to believe that Zacchaeus had found his wealth and lifestyle unsatisfying.
How often even today, do we hear of people who seem to have it all as far as the things of this world, who find their lives very unsatisfying? You may be experiencing unease; nothing in your life is satisfying. Perhaps like Zacchaeus you lack peace, you lack wholeness, and you need something more than this life can offer.
Third, It is very likely that Zacchaeus was tired of being hated. When people hassled him, he deserved what he got, but it no doubt made him miserable. In short Zacchaeus was tired of living his sad little life.
In verse five, we read, “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."
When Jesus stopped under the sycamore tree in which Zacchaeus had hidden himself, he would have naturally tensed, perhaps even broken out in a sweat. Terror is likely to have grasped Zacchaeus’ heart as he braced himself to be made a spectacle for ridicule by Jesus. And then Jesus called him by name and invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home. Notice that Jesus did not say “I would like to stay at your home,” he said, “I must stay at your home.” “Must” is a translation of the Greek word (dei) meaning it was necessary. This meeting was ordained before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6). I believe that Jesus came to Jericho for the purpose of seeking Zacchaeus.
When Jesus Comes It Does Not Matter What Tree You Climb
Second, When Jesus Invites You No Other Answer, but “Yes” Will Do. (v.
6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Have you ever wondered why out of all the city of Jericho that Jesus zeroed in on Zacchaeus. Though Zacchaeus may have seemed like the least honest or religious person, it is possible that he was the most hungry of a new life that only God can give him. In the eyes of the world, Zacchaeus was a traitorous, despised nobody, but in the eyes of Jesus he was a precious lost sinner.
This is Zacchaeus’ moment. Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good fortune, delighted to take Jesus home with him. I want you to think of all the people who like Zacchaeus have had their lives changed by coming out of the tree, so to speak.
When Jesus Invites You No Other Answer- but “Yes” Will Do And ….
Third, When Jesus Moves In -Some Will Not Like It. v. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” The reaction to Jesus’ choice of a host does not meet with popular approval. The religious leaders judged that Jesus had chosen to be “… a guest with a man who is a sinner" and “they all complained.”
Although it is not stated I believe that Jesus sat down to dinner with Zacchaeus. Wouldn’t you have liked to have sat in on that meal with Jesus, listening to the dinner conversation? Did Jesus explain to Zacchaeus all about God, conversion and what it means to follow him? Or did Jesus just let Zacchaeus tell him about himself and his problems?
When Jesus Moves In Some -Will Not Like It And ….
Fourth, When Jesus Enters In – You Will Be Changed. (vv. 8-9)
Sometime probably after dinner, verse eight discloses that 8 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.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. Let’s give Zacchaeus his due, when Zacchaeus got saved, he got saved all over. When he got saved, he immediately put his faith into practice.
But it is easy to misunderstand Zacchaeus’ actions. More is going on than just a surface examination will gather! The text says that Zacchaeus says, “… if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation,” but in the original Greek it is a first class condition meaning “it is true, I have cheated.” Roman law dictated that if you defrauded someone you were to repay them fourfold. He was only meeting the requirements of the law, where he went beyond the law was his willingness to give away half of all his goods. He in effect placed his entire fortune in jeopardy in an effort to make things right. That was entirely voluntary.
“Jesus said over and over that it is useless to talk about loving him and trusting him and having the sweet assurance of forgiveness and the glorious hope of Heaven unless it makes a difference in our material attachments…. Jesus’ repeated emphasis is that generosity is not the means of redemption, it is an evidence of redemption. In fact, generosity and giving are pillars of discipleship
It is my fear that this is a sticking point in the spiritual development of some Christian’s. You read your Bible, you are honest, but your just not sure about stepping out on faith in some areas. It may be that they are the very thing that is stifling your spiritual growth.
Zacchaeus was not saved because he promised to do good works. He was saved because he responded by faith to Christ’s gracious words to him. The apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 2:8-10, 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. From the words that Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus in verse nine, we can learn two things. Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus and said, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” First, anyone who is genuinely saved can be assured of that salvation immediately. In 1 John 5:13 we find, 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. It is possible to know and to know immediately that you are really saved.
And secondly, once a person is saved, the evidence will be a changed life. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the apostle Paul says, 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! The deliverance that comes to us in the form of Jesus Christ is truly life changing.
When Jesus Comes - It Does Not Matter What Tree You Climb.
When Jesus Invites You - No Other Answer but “Yes” Will Do.
When Jesus Moves In - Some Will Not Like It.
When Jesus Enters In – You Will Be Changed
- Evangelism: question is, do you believe Jesus died on the cross and came back to life on the third day? Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
- I would encourage you not to leave this room until you know for sure that Jesus Christ has forgiven you for your sins and has prepared a place in Heaven for you.
- The Holy Spirit is urging you to do the right thing.
- There are people in this room that are urging you to do the right thing.
- I am urging you to the right thing. MY STORY
- Ask Jesus to come into your heart.
- We all have an eternal soul and God has given us the freedom to determine where that eternal soul will be.
- Let me reassure you. I do not believe that a loving God would send anyone to Hell. You make the choice on your own. The decision that you make in this life will bear fruit in the next. If you live separate from God in this life, you WILL live separate from God in eternity. 2 Peter 2:4 says… For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;
- Once someone came up to me and said “if you were to die and found out there was no such place as Heaven at all what then?” With a big smile my answer would be “I had a great time anyway.” But I then turned to that person and ask them “What would you do if you died and discovered there is, just as the Bible describes, a Hell?”
WALK-OUT PRAYER: Now may grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be in abide with us, now and forever more, amen.