*TITLE: * Seeking to Bring Us JOY! *SCRIPTURE: * Luke 19:1-10
Didn’t you love this song when you sang it in Sunday school:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, \\ A wee little man was he, \\ He climbed up in a sycamore tree \\ For the Lord he wanted to see; \\ \\ And as the Savior passed that way, \\ 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."
We loved this song, in part, because as wee little kids, maybe we found the thought of a wee little man amusing.
We loved it, in part, because the wee little man -- small like us -- was the hero of the story.
But we loved it mostly because it was an "action" song.
It involved gestures:
-- When we sang about the "wee little man," we held our thumb and forefinger about an inch apart to show how small he was.
-- When we sang about him climbing the tree, we would reach up with one hand and then the other, as if we were climbing the tree.
-- When we sang about him wanting to see Jesus, we held our hand to shade our eyes, as if we were looking for someone in the distance.
I still enjoy the story of Zacchaeus -- in part because of that song -- and in part because it is an amusing, happy story:
-- Amusing, because it involves a short but rich man climbing a tree to see Jesus.
-- Happy, because it shows Jesus welcoming this man whom nobody else liked.
It says that Jesus saved him -- brought salvation to his house -- restored him to be a son of Abraham.
-- And it is also a happy story because of the last verse.
In the last verse of the story, Jesus talks about you and me.
Listen to what he says:
*"For the Son of Man came*
*to seek out and to save the lost."*
That is you.
That is me.
We were lost.
Jesus came to save us.
Of course, in this story, Jesus was referring to Zacchaeus, who was lost.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and was probably dishonest.
People hated him -- no doubt about that!
My guess is that Zacchaeus felt that God hated him too -- but God didn't hate him.
If God needed reasons to hate Zacchaeus, he could surely find them.
Zacchaeus had probably gotten rich by overcharging poor people.
God has very little patience with rich people who cheat poor people.
If God wanted to damn Zacchaeus, he could find plenty of reasons for doing so -- and Zacchaeus knew it.
But God didn't want to damn Zacchaeus.
God wanted to SAVE him!
That is the happiest part of this story.
Zacchaeus didn't deserve to be saved, but God WANTED to save him.
We know that because of something that Jesus said.
When Jesus spotted Zacchaeus up in the sycamore tree, he said:
*"Zacchaeus, hurry and come down;*
*for I must stay at your house today."*
For Jesus to single out Zacchaeus conferred great honor on Zacchaeus.
Jesus was popular.
People loved him.
People wanted to hear him -- to touch him -- to get near enough to him so that even his shadow would touch them.
Jesus was a great celebrity.
For him to go to Zacchaeus' home was like having the president come to lunch.
It was hard to imagine such an honor.
It would have been especially hard for Zacchaeus to imagine that Jesus would come to his house, because everyone knew that Zacchaeus was a sinner.
If Jesus were going to honor someone with a visit, surely he would honor a saint!
But, no! Jesus decided to honor this sinner!
Jesus explained his visit this way.
He said, *"Zacchaeus..., I MUST stay at your house today."**
This little word, "must," is important.
In the original Greek, the word is /dei/ (pronounced day-ee).
/Dei/ suggests a Godly duty.
When Jesus says that he MUST stay at Zacchaeus' house today, he means that God has called him to do this.
It was no accident then that Jesus spotted Zacchaeus sitting up in the sycamore tree.
Just as Zacchaeus was trying to see Jesus, Jesus was trying to see Zacchaeus.
Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus, because he had a God-given duty to seek him and to save him.
The crowd didn't get it.
They grumbled, "Jesus has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner."
(NOTE TO SELF: Grumble these words as you speak them.)
But Zacchaeus got it!
When he realized what Jesus was doing for him, he welcomed Jesus with JOY!
The NRSV translation waters that down.
It says that Zacchaeus "was happy to welcome" Jesus (v. 6) -- but that doesn't do the original Greek justice.
The Greek says that Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus with JOY! Zacchaeus could hardly imagine that Jesus would honor him by visiting his house, and his heart was full of JOY!
And then Zacchaeus, in his great JOY, said:
*"Look, half of my possessions, Lord,*
*I will give to the poor;*
*and if I have defrauded anyone of anything,*
*I will pay back four times as much."*
We are in chapter 19 of Luke.
In chapter 18, Luke told about Jesus' encounter with another rich man -- a rich man who refused Jesus -- a rich man who loved his money more than he loved Jesus -- a rich man who went away sadly when Jesus told him to give his money to the poor.
Now Luke tells us this story about Zacchaeus, another rich man -- but one who loves Jesus -- a man who in his JOY at meeting Jesus decides to do something that Jesus has not even asked.
He VOLUNTEERS to give half of his money to the poor, because he loves Jesus more than he loves money.
He loves Jesus because of the JOY that Jesus has given him by singling him out -- because of the JOY that Jesus has given him by coming to his house -- because of the JOY that Jesus has given him by loving him.
Then Jesus says, *"Today salvation has come to this house."*
Not next week!
Not in the eternal hereafter!
It has already happened.
Zacchaeus has been saved -- restored as a son of Abraham -- restored as a child of God.
And it isn't just Zacchaeus who was saved.
Jesus says, *"Today salvation has come to this house."*
He means that Zacchaeus' family has been saved too.
Jesus even lays the groundwork for the salvation of the community.
They will see that Zacchaeus means business.
They will see him give money to the poor.
They will see him make restitution.
They will see him begin to treat them fairly.
They will begin to trust him.
This rich and powerful man will become an honored, beloved member of the community.
Who knows what wonderful things he will do.
That is part of what Jesus means when he says, *"Today salvation has come to this house."**
And then, in the last verse, Jesus explains.
He says, "For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."