Title: Meeting the Messiah!
Text: Luke 19
Introduction: Ps 119.18; The C2C Journey; Luke 19
This story matches or compliments the previous story – The story of Blind Bartimaeus (18.35); balance; one both sides of the town of Jericho; one is oppressed and the other is an oppressor. Both show us that money isn’t what is truly longed for – not really. Both are not friends with the crowd. Bartimaeus is asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus doesn’t say, make me rich! He wants to see. His blindness isn’t something that money can fix. Zacchaeus is in a similar situation, but he doesn’t even know that money isn’t what he wants. But once he finds what he wasn’t even looking for, he starts giving his money away.
Our text (19.1-10) is presented in a chiastic structure;
A. Jesus Enters and passes through Jericho (on mission to Jerusalem)
B. Zacchaeus – money for himself
C. The crowd is hostile
D. Climbing up the tree
E. Jesus – a kind, loving act
D. Climbing down the tree
C. The crowd is angry
B. Zacchaeus – money for others
A. Jesus – His mission and purpose
I’d like to present this story in 3 separate scenes:
Scene 1: Leaving Jericho (1-4)
Scene 2: Under the Sycamore (5-7)
Scene 3: At Zach’s (8-10)
Transition: Let’s take a look at this opening Scene
Scene One: Leaving Jericho. (1-4) An introduction to our characters; rd 19.1-2a; two characters;
- Jesus – enters and is ‘passing through’; this will be important;
- Zacchaeus – rd v 2b; lit.: he was a ruling (arch) tax collector and he was rich. Despised by the Jews; traitor, Tax Collectors & sinners in the NT and Rabbinic literature. a tax collector could charge whatever tax he wanted. He was responsible to charge so much to be sent to the government (king, emperor) and anything extra was his pay, so he could charge as much as he wanted. The trickle-down effect.
So, Jesus has come to Jericho, but he doesn’t stop in the city, but passes on through. This has got to be a real let-down for the people. Zacchaeus knows his moment to Jesus is quickly passing by – literally!
His Situation: rd v 3; He was seeking to see; Jesus; but he had a problem and his problem is 2-fold:
- 1st, he was small in stature; lit.; his stature was micros;
- 2nd, and most important, the crowd wouldn’t let him see Jesus; 1st Century, Middle Eastern Culture demanded that the respected be treated as such and a way be made. A special place at the parade, as it were. A Review Stand. But Zacchaeus wasn’t respected. He was despised and hated. So, he was crowded out.
Ill.: all of us have something about ourselves that bother us. There is usually something about us that we’d like to change. A person who is smaller in stature is sometimes – made to feel – well, picked on. It shouldn’t be that way, but mean people pick on people of all sorts. They just do – that’s what bullies do. Example: The song Short People. Do you Remember Randy Newman’s Song? The back lash he got from the public pushed him to a point where he came to hate the song. Maryland’s Delegate Isaiah Dixon introduced legislation to make it illegal to play Short People back in 1978.
My brother Jerry was short. By the time he got to middle school, he would ask who the toughest kid was in the school. Usually by lunch, he would pick a fight with that guy and give him the fight of his life. That usually would give him a title of respect. Yeah, he may be short, but he’s scrappy. Don’t mess with him.
I’ll never forget Mrs. Sue Brown in Copperas Cove. I hurt her feelings. She refused to stand on the front row in the choir loft, in spite of the fact that she was the shortest person in the choir. Sometimes you couldn’t even see her on the 2nd row. For sure, it was harder to hear her. Once, when solos were handed out, someone asked why I didn’t think to give Ms. Sue a solo. She was certainly capable. I answered back that I didn’t give it to her because she was too short. I knew what I meant by that, but she didn’t Her feelings were hurt. What did her height have to do with her being able to sing. Well, my point was that no one would hear her because she was hidden by the people in front of her. Simply put, her voice wouldn’t carry over their shoulders. I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, but her stature was a touchy subject. I’m forever grateful that she didn’t let that fester, but instead came to talk to me about it.
Money had given Zacchaeus a lot of things, but respect wasn’t one of them.
He Didn’t let His Situation Stop Him – He Overcame these Obstacles; How? You ready for this? Two Actions:
- 1st, He didn’t focus on his problem. He placed his focus on Jesus. He could have sat back and cried. I’m too short, no one likes me! But instead, he wanted to see Jesus! So, rd v 4; He did two things immediately: He ran ahead, he climbed a sycamore tree; Not much info for us modern day Americans, but for a Jewish Man in the 1st Century, this sentence tells us a lot.
- 2nd, He Humbled himself; really, he became undignified; Ken Bailey: Middle Eastern adults do not run in public if they wish to avoid public shame.
ill.: The father of the prodigal son; furthermore, they don’t climb trees.
ill.: Ken Bailey tells us more in his comments on this verse about Sycamore Trees of the Middle East, that they have dense foliage and large leaves. In order to avoid being seen, it was the perfect place for Zacchaeus to hide from the crowd, but still be able to see Jesus. Bailey writes: Sycamore fig trees have large leaves and low branches. One can climb into them easily and just as easily hide among their thickly cluster broad leaves. Both of these features were important to Zacchaeus. (Literature records these particular trees, Jericho and Sycamore, were used as beams to hold up roofs) Additionally, such trees were only allowed some distance from town (75ft or more; practical? I have a Magnolia Tree). Zacchaeus chose to climb a tree growing outside of Jericho, assuming the crowd would have dispersed (or at least thinned) by the time Jesus reached the tree.
The Reason for this being so far away? Because of the possibility of being ceremonially unclean; P 178;
This tells us something else; Zacchaeus outside of town waiting because Jesus had spurned the people’s reception and decided not to be hosted by any of them. He has made his way through town and had left Jericho… just to find Zacchaeus. Now, it’s probably no big deal to you that Jesus saw Zach in the tree. He was probably kind of hidden. But, here’s the big question: how did Jesus know his name?
Scene Two: The Sycamore Tree (5-6)
rd v 5;
- Zacchaeus: He knows your name, too.; you’re not anonymous here today; Oh, maybe to us! But not to Jesus! Rd 5b;
- Hurry up, Come Down – I like this little play on words (hurry up & come down); playful, fun; I wonder if this lets us in on the fun side of the Messiah’s personality that we often miss. His response… he hurried down; He joyfully received him (into his house);
- I’m going to your house. σήμερον γὰρ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου δεῖ με μεῖναι. Implied: not theirs.
And how do they respond? Rd v 7; they grumbled. I wonder if even one thought: cool! What do they do? The lash out. Why is it that when we’re hurt, we lash out at others – especially those we don’t like! A couple of reasons:
1st, I think they feel a little slap in the face (they feel slighted?). Do you honestly think Jesus snubbed them to be mean? NO! I wonder why we don’t often rejoice at others’ blessings and successes. Why can’t we just be happy for someone else’ blessings?
2nd, They’re also being judgmental! Remember the tree – it would be unclean, so is Zacchaeus and his house. He was Obedient – hurried, came down, received him; joyfully; that means he received him into his house. And he throws a party. Well, who is going to come? Probably not the grumblers! Probably other Tax Collectors and Sinners like himself!
Scene Three: at the house of Zacchaeus. (7-10)
Rd v 8; Have you ever noticed that so many stories in the Bible told by Jesus don’t have an ending?
- What happens to the blind beggar in the previous chapter? He’s healed and can see, but what did he do after he went home?
- Did the older brother eventually go into the house w/ the father and celebrate his little brother’s return?
- And, what about the prodigal son? He came home, but what did he do on the next morning? Did he live a changed life?
- Did the man who was rescued from the road by the good Samaritan leave the hotel a changed man, having been the recipient of grace and mercy?
- What about the 10 lepers? All were healed and only one returned to say thank you, but what about the other 9? They didn’t return to say thanks to Jesus, but what about a changed life? How did they live after they got home?
Luke tells us in this story about a commitment to make amends; This story isn’t in Matthew or Mark; We don’t have time to break this all down, what it all means, but Jesus tells us; rd v 9; Salvation has come! And how do you know, because of a changed life! Salvation has come! Passive voice; it’s not something Zacchaeus has done, or even will do. It’s not because he’s giving back what he’s robbed or because he’s now choosing to be charitable. Rd v 10; What a great reminder – the story isn’t about Zacchaeus. It’s about Jesus! And we’re given a reminder of His purpose: to seek and to save the lost.
What can we gather from this story and apply to our lives: three Principles and three Imperatives…
1. Focus on Jesus, not your problems
2. Humble Yourself (It’s really difficult to not do number two while doing number one.)
3. Respond to the Invitation of Jesus. Q.: When was the last time you threw a party for Jesus and invited all of your lost friends just to invite them to meet him? Ill.: Time I went to UT Tyler (Chinese)
1st, Demonstrate your Repentance: a changed life. If you’ve not done so, now is your chance. If there is sin in your life. Stop doing what you’re not supposed to be doing and start doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Period.
2nd, Live w/ No Regrets: Don’t live w/ the regrets of yesterday. We’ve all made poor decisions, bad decisions that have hurt us and others around us. Where you can, go back to those people and ask for forgiveness. Payback what was stolen or taken. It’ll be hard but make amends where you can. Where you can’t, ask for forgiveness. But don’t live w/ regrets!
– Do you know why you shouldn’t live w/ regrets? Everything from your past makes you who you are! Don’t regret your mistakes but learn from them. It helps you acknowledge you’re weak and you need Jesus! A rod to measure how: repent as publicly or privately as you sinned. Which is the 3rd requirement here…
3rd, No Repeats: Just because you made poor decisions when you were younger, doesn’t mean you have to keep making them! Someone posted a statement by Paul Washer: He asked when is the best time to plant an Apple Tree? Answer: 30 years ago. Question: When is the 2nd best time to plant an apple tree? Today! Sure, it would have been better if you had made some changes 30 years ago. But if you didn’t, don’t keep making the same mistakes. Plant new seeds today! Make the change! That’s what repentance is! Do you remember v 9; Salvation has come? Remember: Salvation isn’t earned, it’s simply expressed. Finally, don’t forget the purpose Jesus had; rd v 10; And so it is w/ us; You may say, but Fred, you don’t know how bad I was… Listen to Rick Warren: Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you too if you stop making excuses.