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A Corrupt Businessman

Jesus Through the Eyes of...  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Series Review

How many of you enjoy hearing a pastor preach politics from the pulpit? What about a sermon on a fiercely controversial topic? I’m guessing that most of you would feel uncomfortable. I try to avoid having anything in my sermons that sound even remotely like the platform of a political party. Not because politics aren’t important: policies affect people. Not because topics such as sexuality and abortion aren’t important: they are about human identity. But they don’t belong in the context of a sermon: they belong in a listening conversation, not a monologue. Even when we don’t agree with someone on the opposite side of an issue, we should always listen compassionately and try to see the world through their eyes. For this series, we are trying to see Jesus through the eyes of people who were despised, marginalized. These people were not like us.
Last week we saw Jesus through the eyes of a military oppressor. A Roman Centurion. We are not participants in political violence and oppression. We are not feared and hated by an entire population, so it is hard for us to see the world through the eyes of the Roman centurion.
But if we take the time to listen and learn, we can see what he saw. The Roman Centurion was able to see things about Jesus that God’s own people could not see: authority. That’s the purpose of this series: looking at Jesus through the eyes of people who are not just different, but people who are looked down upon. These unlikely candidates for salvation and grace can show us things that we can miss.
Today we are looking at a man named Zaccheus (a wee little man and a wee little man was he - I couldn’t resist). If you know the song, you know the story. So who was Zacchaeus? Let’s look at...

His Character

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

I. THE CHARACTER—
He was short. Luke, being the historian that he is, wanted to say more than “Zacchaeus came to know Jesus.” He describes Zacchaeus as someone small in stature. I could relate to this growing up. I was assured that I, like my classmates, would hit a growth spurt. Clearly, that never happened.
That detail by itself is not germane to my story, unless I can relate it to something important. For me, being short presented me with constant disadvantages, like when we played basketball in PE (except in China), or trying to find a date, when one of the criteria I had established was they couldn’t be taller than me. As the Italians say, height is half of beauty.
My height isn’t just a physical description: it helps tell more about my struggles growing up. The same with Zaccheus.
Zaccheus is short. We can only speculate if he experienced unconscious bias from potential mates and employers. If he ever felt vulnerable or powerless
We know that Jesus was often accompanied by large crowds, so it’s not surprising that he can’t see. But that fact that he is determined to overcome this obstacle created by his height, climbs a tree just to see Jesus tells us something about his desire to see Jesus.
He was short, and he deeply desired to see Jesus.
A. His name was Zaccheus
He was chief tax collector. The Greek word used her refers specifically to an employee of the Roman Empire to collect tariffs. You caught fish, the tax man was there to collect. You raised cattle, you were taxed. If you traveled in a caravan to sell your goods in another province, you might run into a few tax collectors - like toll booths. One of the differences between taxes in biblical times and taxes today, is that back then only the tax collector knew the tax rate. You just paid what the tax collector demanded. If you didn’t pay, he would tell the soldiers.
He has something in common with the Roman Centurion: he was feared, disliked and distrusted. Like the Centurion, it is hard us to see the world through this person’s eyes. How many of you are overpaid CEO’s? How many of you have a golden parachute? Insider traders? Money launderers? How does someone like this see the world? How might they see Jesus? How does Zacchaeus, the money launder, the money skimmer, the liar, the thief see Jesus?
2. He was rich—perhaps though dishonestly
3. He was a short man
B. Anxious to see Jesus—“Climbed a sycamore tree”
First of all he sees first hand what Jesus meant when he came to seek and save the lost. In Zacchaeus, we see how Christ establishes communion with sinners.
(Are you anxious to be with Jesus?—)
Insider trading
Overpaid ceo
Skimming the books

Christ’s Communion

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

II. THE COMMUNION—
By Christ’s communion, I mean salvation. I mean Christ entering a relationship with us. But the way it happens is the opposite we often think about how God works. How God saves us. Growing up in the church my pastor would give altar calls: he would wrap up the sermons (almost all of them had the same conclusion): if you have not accepted Jesus, come to the altar. I went to dozens of revivals and heard the same thing. It seemed to me growing up that so much depended on my coming forward after a sermon. My saying the sinner’s prayer. Jesus paid it all, but the decision was up to me.
I don’t see that in Jesus, and this story is an example:
The way I read the story, Zacchaeus is an interested observer. Maybe he is a spiritual seeker. Maybe he is burdened my guilt. But I think he has heard about Jesus and wants to have a look, like someone wanting to see Santa Clause at the Macy’s parade.
Can you imagine being singled out in this crowd? Keep in mind, Zacchaeus probably doesn’t want to draw attention to himself - he is a corrupt businessman that everyone in that crowd despises. Jesus’ orders “Come down” - Jesus takes the initiative. Jesus calls. Jesus orders. The call is forceful. It’s not a gentle knock on the door, but Jesus pushes the door open.
Jesus takes the initiative. Jesus calls.
Even Jesus’ evangelistic style seems backwards: He doesn’t invite Zaccheaus over for dinner so he can share the good news with him: he says I’m coming over: what are you having for dinner?
Our salvation does’t start with our marching to an altar, or saying a prayer. It starts with God’s forceful initiative. (My youth pastor used to say, “God is a perfect gentleman. He doesn’t force anything.”) After losing sleep after prayer, resisting the voice of God to the point of frustration, I don’t know about God the perfect gentleman.
I’m coming to your house - an imposition? Seems backwards. It seems like effective ministry would mean Jesus inviting Zaccaeus to his house for dinner, which might open the door for talking about forgiveness and repentance. But it’s the other way around
Made haste and came down
1. Made haste and came down
He came down at once. I guess so. He welcomed him gladly. The question I want you to consider: Is calling you right now? To salvation? To ministry? To repentance? Would you know it if he was? Are you taking time to listen for it?
2. Received Jesus joyfully
And of course people complain.

The People’s Complaints

The People’s Complaints

Luke 19:7 NIV
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Mark 2:17 NIV
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark
III. THE COMPLAINING—
who was he? his occupation
Like the Roman Centurion last week, there is a religious barrier. Last week Jews were not allowed to enter the home of a Gentile. Jesus crossed the religious barrier. In today’s story, a God fearing Jew would not be caught having dinner with a tax collector or a sinner (a woman accused of adultery). Guilt by association. Sullying your own good reputation. Jesus did a terrible job at protecting his reputation. He intentionally ruined his credibility (with the religious elite) by the company he kept.
Jews could not enter the home of the Gentile. The same was true of Jesus, in has the perfect response to that:
He has the perfect response to that:
Mark 2:17 NIV
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
There a lot of little lessons here: Jesus loves “bad people” and wants to save them. Christians need to be interested in “bad people” and seek to win them to Christ. Too many Christians feel that they are too good to fellowship with sinners, or might be led astray by them.
It’s easy to be sympathetic with the complaints. Someone who has caused so much suffering on their own people. Imagine being taxed into poverty, while your neighbor, who collects the taxes, is living in luxury.
Zacchaeus likely heard this and experienced the rejection. God’s people don’t always forgive as well as Jesus. God’s people sometimes struggle to acknowledge redemption for the worst of sinners.
rich at the expense of the poor
A. The people complained because Jesus took time with a sinner
B.
C. Christians need to be interested in “bad people” and seek to win them to Christ
D. Too many Christians feel that they are too good to fellowship with sinners, or might be led astray by them. (high school, being influenced, rather than influenced;
Zacchaeus likely heard this and experienced the rejection. God’s people don’t always forgive as well as Jesus. God’s people sometimes struggle to acknowledge redemption for the worst of sinners.

His Conversion

2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
Luke 19:8 NIV
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.”
IV. THE CONVERSION—
Conversion is a word we use in Christianity: it’s an important theological term. It means changing from one thing to another. From following the world to following Christ. From bondage to sin to freedom in Christ. To self centeredness to serving God and neighbor.
I don’t use the word “heresy” alot, because I have brothers and sisters in Christ who do not interpret the Bible like I do. We slap on labels like liberal and conservative: I’ve been called both. But I do believe that we can distort the meaning of conversion (or ignore the need for it altogether).
There is a false doctrine in the church that I’ve heard called “easy-believeism.” Easy believism simply means that if I want to be a follower of Jesus, all I have to do is believe. Say a prayer. Believe the right doctrines and I’m okay.
Altar calls, going forward at a Billy Graham event or Rock. If you respond to the altar call because you are responding to the call of God, that can be a powerful moment. But Jesus is far more interested in what your life will look like in the upcoming months and years.
(Giving is a good sign of real Christianity)
B. Restitution—“Restored fourfold”
(Not only right with God, but right with man)
C. Salvation—“Today salvation is come to thy house”
(Yes, Jesus’ blood cleanses “bad people,” too)
D. Christ’s mission—v. 10
(Seek and save those that are lost)
Christ had time for Zaccheus, though he was a tax collector, and was hated by others. Christ didn’t see the bad—He saw the good
true conversion: altar calls, going forward at a Billy Graham event or Rock. If you respond to the altar call because you are responding to the call of God, then that’s good. That can be a powerful moment. But Jesus is far more interested in what your life will look like in the upcoming months and years.
An outward response is only meaningful if it leads to long term change. Living a new life.
Zaccheus understood this. Following Jesus was not just making a verbal commitment, it was signing the contract. He does more than pray and ask God for forgiveness. Often we think that if we ask God for forgiveness then that’s good enough.
Seeing Jesus through the eyes of someone different. What did Zacchaeus, who was so different from the crowds trying to hear Jesus. Here’s what Zacchaeus saw that God’s people missed: We respond to God’s grace with more than a prayer. With more than religious activity. We respond to God’s grace with restitution as much as we possibly can.
Here’s what Zacchaeus saw that God’s people missed: We respond to God’s grace with more than a prayer. With more than religious activity. We respond to God’s grace with restitution as much as we possibly can.
His portfolio takes a serious hit. Half his possessions to the poor?
His portfolio takes a serious hit. Half his possessions to the poor?
The money wasn’t his, so he gives it back. 4x what he stole.
He looks at the damage done by his sin, and he demonstrates that is conversion is authentic. He demonstrates that his profession of faith is real.
Think about this: Christians believe that part of coming to Christ is acknowledging that we are in bondage to sin and need forgiveness. Zacchaeus realizes this, but he goes beyond saying the sinners prayer (God forgive me.). He realizes the gravity of his sin. He acknowledges the damage caused by his sin, and he makes restitution.
You’ve stolen. Don’t just ask God for forgiveness, demonstrate repentance by giving back what you stole. Repair what you’ve destroyed. Mend the relationship you’ve broken.
The worst kind of testimony is someone who carries the label Methodist, Christian, and whose life is not really different than anyone else’s.
It’s a pretty ineffective testimony is someone who carries the label Methodist, Christian, and whose life is not really different than anyone else’s. It’s even worse when we claim to have accepted Jesus, start off strong and then return to the old ways of doing things.
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