Faithlife Sermons

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He entered Jericho and was passing through.
And there was a man named Zacchaeus.
He was a chief tax collector and was rich.
And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.
So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.
And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”[1]
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Lord came walking by, He looked up in the tree.
And He said, Zacchaeus!
You come down!
For I’m going to your house today.
For I’m going to your house today.
Perhaps you will recall that song from childhood days in Sunday School.
I suppose that each of us sang it at one time or another when we were children.
It is a cute little song which helped each of us to remember the story of Zacchaeus and his efforts to see Jesus as He travelled through the town of Jericho.
Today, I want to invite your attention so that you can see a facet of the Saviour which must always be emphasised—His compassion for those commonly called sinners.
As we peruse the story, we will also witness the transformation which always accompanies God’s grace.
A Sinner Seeks to See the Saviour — There is an attraction about Jesus.
There is a beauty in His words, in His mercy, in His grace toward sinners.
Though obscured through cultural encrustation and distortion by ungodly expectations, Christ nevertheless draws sinners to Himself.
There is a yearning in many, a longing to be free from guilt and condemnation.
That desire for freedom drives the sinner to seek the Saviour, even when they do not realise that it is the Saviour they seek.
Focus for a moment on, Zacchaeus.
What do we know about him?
From the text, we know that he was rich, but that his riches were likely ill gotten.
He is identified as a chief tax collector [ajrcitelwvnh"].
This is a rare word, occurring only once in the whole of the New Testament, but it would lead us to believe that Zacchaeus headed a consortium of men who controlled the collection of Roman duties on this trade route.
Jericho appears to have been a Roman regional centre, straddling the main road for east-west trade passing through Judea and Perea.[2]
It was as though Jericho formed a bottleneck for the various trade routes between the orient and Africa.
All goods passing eastward toward Syria and points east would of necessity pass through Jericho.
All goods passing westward toward Egypt and Africa would likewise pass through Jericho.
This would be a major point for collection of duties.
Hence, whoever held the concession for the collection of taxes would likely grow quite wealthy under the most innocent of circumstances.
Because of the reputation of tax collectors, we might surmise that Zacchaeus had enriched himself through squeezing those whom he taxed.
We know Zacchaeus was Jewish.
The Lord identifies him as a son of Abraham [*Luke 19:9*].
His parents had given him the name y®K®z, which spoke of their hopes for this child.
The name means clean or innocent.
The name would convey the thought that he was righteous.
It would not be inappropriate to say that his name meant Righteous One.
I confess that I am only speculating, but the name which his parents gave him lead me to believe that Zacchaeus was raised by godly parents.
He would have likely been trained in the Word of God, in righteousness, to look for Messiah.
Did you have a godly home?
What a rich heritage you have.
Did you parents train you in righteousness?
What a blessed individual you are.
If your parents prayed with you and took you to church and enrolled you in Sunday School, you are a blessed individual.
As a young man, I was far from God.
It was not for lack of a godly family, however.
My paternal grandfather was a preacher.
Seldom if ever was I in his presence except that he prayed for me, pleading that God would keep me from evil.
My grandmother, his wife, was more a mother to me than my mother could have been.
She was primarily Cherokee, and she was a Christian.
She prayed for me until the day she died.
She didn’t hesitate to correct me, but it was always with love.
My dad was a rough man.
His life was hard, but he always praised God, leaving a rich heritage for my brother and me.
He would read the Bible to us on cold winter evenings.
We didn’t have a television, but we had Josephus and we had the literature of American poets, and he would read these to us after he had read the Bible and prayed for his boys.
As a young man, I can remember many evenings coming home late at night and hearing my dad a he knelt by his bedside, praying for the safety of his boys and asking God to save them.
I am a rich man!
I believe that I speak to some people who would say upon reflection that they are rich because of the family God gave to them.
And I suspect that Zacchaeus was a rich man in ways other than material wealth.
Though Zacchaeus was wealthy, he was not content.
There was a gnawing emptiness in his life.
Many of us, perhaps even all of us, have experience that sense of barrenness.
Though we have achieved some goal we thought important, it brought no satisfaction.
Though we laboured and toiled and gained some milestone, it did not make us complete as we had imagined.
I struggled and studied and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in chemistry and biology.
I would not have attended my graduation except my grandmother asked me to attend for her sake.
I toiled and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and didn’t bother to attend the graduation ceremonies.
They were behind me.
With the attainment of each goal, I found nothing but emptiness and the need for another goal.
The Preacher, the Quoholeth, writing in Ecclesiastes, speaks of this frustration.
He speaks of all that he possessed: rich foods and wine; houses; gardens and parks; wealth untold and entertainment of every imaginable sort.
Nevertheless, he was unfulfilled.
He turned his attention to the pursuit of wisdom, and attained intellectual heights others may only imagine.
At the last, he wrote of his achievements.
I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?
Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.
This also is vanity.
So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labours under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it.
This also is vanity and a great evil.
What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?
For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation.
Even in the night his heart does not rest.
This also is vanity.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.
This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God.
This also is vanity and a striving after wind [*Ecclesiastes 2:18-26*].
Zacchaeus also seemed to have it all; but he was empty.
What is more, I suggest to you that his strange desire to see Jesus demonstrates that he suspected what was missing.
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