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A WEE LITTLE SINNER

Luke 19:1-10

Introduction:

1.   Many Bible characters are relatively unknown, but even children know about one little fellow, though he appears in only one brief scene in the New Testament, Zacchaeus.  Most children’s Bible classes sing a song about him.

2.   Unfortunately, many of us stopped studying about Zacchaeus when we reached eight or nine.  The story of Zacchaeus contains beautiful and powerful lessons.  For instance, many would immediately recognize this verse: “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10).  Have you ever thought about what event prompted that great passage?  It is in the story of Zacchaeus.

3.   For a few moments, let us look at Luke 19 and study the story of this “wee little man” who was “a wee little sinner.”  As we do so, I want to pull from this text about “a wee little man” some great big lessons.

1.  From this wee little man we learn A BIG LESSON ON WEALTH –

Luke 10:1-2

1.   The chapter begins, “And he entered and was passing through Jericho (v. 1).  Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  For months He had been traveling “with his face toward Jerusalem,” and now He was getting into the region of Jerusalem, into Judea, with Jerusalem less than 20 miles away.

2.   Jericho is one of the most ancient of cities.  If you were to visit that city today you would be shown vast mounds where ancient city after city had been built on top of each other.  In Jesus’ time it was a beautiful city, known for her palm trees and rose gardens.  Some of the streets were lined with what the Bible calls sycamore trees.  These were mulberry-fig trees, trees with leaves like mulberry trees.  They grew thirty to forty feet, had short trunks and spreading branches close to the ground.  They provided a welcome shade in such a land as Palestine.

3.   Jericho had many riches.  One source of riches were its date palms, whose fruit was sold around the world; it was famous for its balsam groves that provided a fragrant and soothing ointment sold around the world.

4.   Another reason Jericho was wealthy was her location.  It was at the heart and center of a vast trade route network.  Situated in the Jordan valley in control the routes east and west and north and south to such cities as Damascus, Tyre, Jerusalem and Ammon, and to Mesopotamia, Arabian, and Persian cities.   And it is important to remember that all goods passing through Jericho were subject to taxation.

5.   As Jesus began to pass through the city the events of the story began to unfold.  “And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus” (v. 2a).  “Zacchaeus” is a Hebrew name meaning “pure” or “righteous.”  His name reflects the hope his mother had for her baby boy.  However, Zacchaeus was not looked upon as either pure or righteous by the citizens of Jericho.  The reason is given in the next part of the text... “... and he was a chief tax-gatherer” (v. 2a).

6.   Tax collectors were no more popular then than they are now.  I’ve never know a parent to say, “My dream for my child is that he will grow up to be a tax collector.”  However, being a tax-collector today is an honored professions compared to what it was in the time of Christ.

7.   In Palestine, tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Roman government collecting taxes from their own people to support the nation that had overrun their country and occupied their land for about a century now.  To become a tax-collector, one had to get a concession from the Roman government (often a hefty bribe was involved).  The Romans then told him how much he was expected to collect each year; sometimes this had to be paid in advance.  He made his profit by charging enough to keep back to himself a very profitable percentage. 

a.   It was a system ripe for greed, dishonesty, and corruption.  As a result, other Jews consider tax-collectors as traitors and turncoats, no longer true sons of Abraham.  According to the Jewish code, a tax-collector could not vote; he couldn’t testify in court; and he was not allowed to go into the synagogue.

b.   In the scriptures, tax collectors are invariably lumped with undesirables:

1)   Matt. 18:17 ..  “tax-collectors and sinners

2)   Matt. 21:31-32 ..   “tax-collectors and harlots”

3)   Luke 18:11 ..   “swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or... this tax-collector”.

c.   Zacchaeus was not merely a tax-collector, he was “a chief tax-collector.”   Barclay translates this phrase “commissioner of taxes.”  Apparently Zacchaeus had purchased the tax-concession for that entire area, and he had tax-collectors working under him.  He would have received a percentage for each of these tax-collectors working in the region. To the Jews in that region, Zacchaeus was the head of the local Mafia, the Jewish Godfather.

8.   Considering the widespread nature of Zacchaeus’ enterprise, we are not surprised to read the next words: “and he was rich.” (v. 2c).  Zacchaeus had prospered from his lucrative position in Jericho.

a.   Had Zacchaeus’s wealth made him a happy satisfied man?  I don’t think I’m reading too much into the text to say that although Zacchaeus had money, he did not have happiness.  He was probably the most hated man in Jericho.  When Jesus went home with him, the text says, “They all began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (v. 7). 

b.   How would like to be the most despised man in town– a total outcast?  Imagine what this would do to your wife, to your children?  I’m sure that Zacchaeus wasn’t a happy with being the most despised man in town. 

c.   I believe that, either consciously or unconsciously, Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus because he wanted Jesus to help him turn his life around.  Perhaps he had heard that Jesus was the friend of tax-collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19).  Perhaps, he had heard that Jesus had called Matthew, a tax-collector, to be one of His disciples (Luke 5:27).  Perhaps Matthew had even been a friend of Zacchaeus’.

9.   Hear this little lesson on wealth: Money and things cannot buy happiness.  Possessions are quickly gone, and things do not comfort.  To be happy, we need relationships with others.  Especially do we need a right relationship with our God.

2.  From this wee little man we learn A BIG LESSON ON  SEEKING THE LORD -- (Luke 19:3, 4)

 

1.   “And he was trying to see who Jesus was” (v. 3a).  Literally, the text read, “And he was seeking to see Jesus.”  Wherever a form of the word “seek” is found in the New Testament it always indicates a diligent effort, it never denotes a half-hearted attempt.  Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was passing through Jericho and he was determined to see Him.

2.   However, when he tried, “he was unable because of the crowd” (v. 3b).  Many of the pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for the feast had gathered around Jesus and were traveling with Him.  In addition, word had gone ahead and people no doubt, lined the streets of Jericho, probably several deep as Jesus and the travelers passed along.

3.   Zacchaeus’ problem is stated in the last part of the verse:  “He was unable... for he was small in stature” (v. 3c).  To say it plainly, he was a short man.  We can imagine him trying to push through the crowd to get where he could see.  When people saw who it was, it was their chance to get back at the hated tax collector.  Can’t you imagine him standing at the back, hopping and down, straining to see over the crowd, with no success.

4.   As Jesus and the crowd began to move, and Zacchaeus was not one to give up easily.  He was determined to see Jesus.  Probably seeing the street lined with the trees, he got an idea.  He may have even seen others, perhaps boys, up in the trees looking to see Jesus.

5.   “And he ran on ahead” (v. 4a).  Wealthy important men of Zacchaeus station walked with dignity, but here we see something about Zacchaeus.  He ran.  We picture him pulling up his robes and stretching out his short legs, skirting the crowd and running ahead down the street.

6.  Zacchaeus “climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way” (v. 4b).  We see his enthusiasm and wonder how long it had been since Zacchaeus had climbed a tree.   Zacchaeus would let nothing stand in his way of seeing Jesus, not the crowd, not his height, not his pride.

7.   Moses put our little lesson on seeking the Lord this way:  “But . . . you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deut. 4:29).

a.   [Years ago a student and a teacher walked together along a street.  The student asked the teacher how he could find the Lord.  The teacher grabbed the young man, pulled him over to a watering trough, thrust his head under the water, and held him there.  When he released him, the young man stood, water running down his face, gasping for air.  The teacher said, “When you want to find the Lord as keenly as you wished for air, you will find Him!” ]

b.   Zacchaeus was ready to do what it took to find the Lord!  We need to be that determined to find truth (John 8:32)!

 


3.  From this wee little man we learn A BIG LESSON ON  COMPASSION -- (Luke 19:5-7).

1.   “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up” (v. 5a).  The KJV says, “he looked up, and saw him.”  Zacchaeus probably thought no one would see him hidden among the broad leaves of the tree, but Jesus saw him.  Remember the verse with which this closes (v. 10) Zacchaeus was not the only one seeking; Jesus was also seeking.  Jesus was seeking the lost.

2.   “And said to him, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down” (v. 5b).  How astonished Zacchaeus must have been when Jesus called out his name!   But Jesus not only knew his name, he knew everything else about him, his needs, the ache in his heart ... even his potential!

3.   “Zacchaeus, hurry . . . for today I must stay at your house” (v. 5c).  Isn’t it amazing?  Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner!  What would you think if someone you had never met before, walked up to you and said, “I’m going home with you.  What are you having for supper?”

4.   However, if Jesus was to go into Zacchaeus’ house, He would have to invite Himself– for Rabbis would not go into the houses of tax-collectors, nor would Pharisees, or Sadducees, or scribes.

      a.   Notice the word “must,” “Today I must stay at your house.” 

b.   Jesus came “to seek and save the lost” and here was one of the lost.  In effect Jesus said, “I must stay at your house, if salvation is to come to your house!”

5.   What was Zacchaeus’ response?  “And he hurried and came down” (v. 6a).  See him scrambling down out of the tree, he still was not worried about appearing dignified. “And received Him gladly” (v. 6b).  It may have been a long time since Zacchaeus had anything to smile about or to be happy, but can’t you image the joy that lights up his face now!  Jesus was coming to his home!

6.   Some of us are familiar with Walt Disney’s Scrooge McDuck, “the richest duck in the world.”  Scrooge McDuck is happy only when diving and swimming in his pool of money. 

a.   He’s just a cartoon character, but he represents multiplied thousands who think that the way to find happiness in is money. 

b.   However, Zacchaeus, had already discovered that happiness did not come through amassing fortunes.  Instead, it came when Jesus showed concern and compassion for him.

7.   As Jesus and Zacchaeus walked away, verse 7 tells of the reaction of the crowd: “And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of man who is a sinner.’”

Earlier, when He was criticized for eating with tax-collectors and sinner, He had said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12).  However, it was a hard lesson for His hearer to learn.

8.   You and I need to learn this little lesson on compassion: Not only does “Jesus Loves Me”, as the song goes, but Jesus loves everyone.  Regardless of what has happened in a person’s life, how deep in sin that individual may be, or how bad his reputation, Jesus loves him– and so should we!

 


4.  From this wee little man we learn A BIG LESSON ON  REPENTANCE – (Luke 19:8)

1.   Luke doesn’t give us any details of Jesus’ say in Zacchaeus’ home.   We’d like to know how long he stayed, what all they talked about, and how Jesus touched this little man’s heart.  Luke gives just the results in verse 8: “And Zacchaeus stopped” (v. 8a) What ever Zacchaeus was doing, he suddenly stopped to make an announcement.

2.   Zacchaeus spoke to Jesus:  “Behold, Lord, half of my possession I will give to the poor ...” (V. 8b).  Literally, “I am giving to the poor.”  This is something he was NOW going to do!

3.   Zacchaeus continued with his announcement:  “And if I have defrauded anyone of anything”  (v. 8c).  The Greek tense and mood of this statement assumes it to be true. 

      a.   And he now says  I will give back four times as much” (v. 8d).  The law said that if a thief confessed, he had to repay what he had stolen plus one-fifth.  If he stole $100, he was to pay back $120. 

      b.   In certain extreme cases, restoring twofold or four fold was required (Num. 5:7; Lev. 6:5; Ex. 22:1, 4, 7 )

      c.   But these did not fit Zacchaeus’ situation.  Zacchaeus was not required to repay four-fold, but he was not interest in just getting by with some bare minimum.  He said, in effect, “If I have taken $100 from a man, I will give $400 back.”

4.   Zacchaeus’ attitude is a beautiful demonstration of biblical repentance.  The word “repentance” is translated from a Greek word that means “change of mind or attitude.”  A key aspect of repentance is the willingness to make restitution for the past, as far as possible.  Some time restitution is no possible. 

      a.   For instance, Peter told the people who had crucified Jesus to repent (Acts 2:23, 38) but there was no way that could unto their terrible deed.  In most cases, however, some kind of restitution is possible. 

      b.   John the Baptizer told his hearers  “... bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). [Matt. 21:29] 

c.   Unfortunately, the importance of restitution is often overlooked in the matter of repentance.

5.   The hardest part of conversion is not baptism, but repentance.  Repentance involves being brokenhearted.  Repentance means that one is moved enough to bring about real changes in his life!  If your conversion has not made a difference in your life, you may want to consider whether you have really been converted!

6.   Zacchaeus’ conversion made a difference in his life!  We need to learn this little lesson on repentance.

 


5.  From this wee little man we learn A BIG LESSON ON  SALVATION –

(Luke 19:9, 10)

1.   Jesus responded to Zacchaeus’s words:  “Today salvation has come to this house” (v. 9a).  Salvation had come to Zacchaeus because he had responded properly to the love and concern of Jesus.  Not only had Jesus come into Zacchaeus’ house, but He had come into his heart.

2.   Next, we have these stirring word from the Lord:  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (v. 10).    Not only was Zacchaeus seeking Jesus– but Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus. 

      a.   It seems always that when men are honestly and sincerely seeking the Lord, the Lord goes out seeking them.  Remember the Ethiopian, sincerely seeking and reading his Bible– and God sent Philip to him.   Cornelius worshiping and praying– and the Lord sent Peter.   A women worshiping and praying by a river bank in Macedonia– and the Lord sent Paul.

3.   Today as people sincerely seek– don’t you think they will find!   The gospel can be heard around the world today on shortwave radio – every hour of the day!   The gospel can be accessed by correspondence courses – wherever  there is mail!   The gospel is found on the Internet– everywhere there is a phone and a computer!  The Lord is “seeking” the lost who want to be found.

4.   But this verse says something about the “lost.” as well.   Most of us have heard the word “lost” so often in sermon that it doesn’t register what all that means.   That which is lost is that which is out of place, and therefore, useless and worthless. 

      a.   Remember Jesus’ parables bout the lost sheep, the lost coin.  The wonderful part of this verse is that Jesus says he has come seeking and save the lost. 

      b.   He was even now, on his way to Jerusalem – there to die on the cross for the sins of the world.

CONCLUSION:

1.   What an exciting day it was for Zacchaeus as this “wee little sinner” became a “great big follower” of Jesus!  It is not hard for us to put ourselves in Zacchaeus’ place. 

a.   Whatever tree you’re hiding in– Jesus can see you!  He is saying to you, “I want to go home with you.”  

      b.   And like Zacchaeus, you can let him come into your house and into your life– will you be as big a man a Zacchaeus this morning!

2.   When Zacchaeus awoke that morning in Jericho, he could not have known how exciting the day would turn out.  That Jesus of Nazareth would come to HIS home!  

a.   I don’t know how this day started for you.  Perhaps you woke up still tired and sleepy. Maybe you struggled over whether to be here or not.  Maybe the day has not improved much. 

b.   However, if you can see Jesus standing at the door of your heart, asking to come it, what an exciting day this can be for you!  If you will let Jesus in– today salvation has come to your house!

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