4 Before Advent Year C : Luke 19:1-10

Voice 1: I'd like you to imagine that you are Zacchaeus

Voice 2: Short house!

Voice 3: I think you mean vertically challenged.

Voice 2: You cheat.

Voice 3: Ethically challenged is better.

Voice 2: Miser.

Voice 3: Careful, perhaps?  

Voice 2: Zacchaeus, you patriotically challenged person.

Voice 3: Traitor more like!

Voice 1: Zacchaeus, we hate you. That's what they say. Condemn me without knowing what I am like inside. I'm a good person trying to escape from the stereotype of being a tax collector. After all, someone has to do it. And its not something you choose to do, you just find yourself doing it.

Voice 4: I guess we've all had times like that. When we've been unpopular and it's been so unfair. We've found ourselves doing things we wouldn't have planned to do. And we feel trapped. We want to hide, even up a tree...

Voice 1: And along comes Jesus. He calls me by name. "Zacchaeus". He knows who I am! This important, popular teacher, prophet and miracle worker knows my name! I immediately felt much taller.

He says "I must stay at your house today."

What will people think of him, coming to my home. What will they think of me, too. With Jesus as my friend? My only friend.

I ignore the grumbling, the talk, I am used to that. Hardened to it.

I have no worries about what to give Jesus. The advantage of being a tax collector is that you always have a good home with a larder, full of the best food and drink. But to get it, I had to work for the Romans who occupy my homeland. I had to embezzle money from my own countrymen.

This makes me worry!  How could Jesus come to a home like mine?! Lavish, but built on foundations of fraud. I can't live like this and have Jesus as a friend...

I know. The law says I have to pay back 120% of what I have defrauded, but I will give... 400%!

And do you know what Jesus said? "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham." As a Jew I knew I was a descendent of Abraham, but I thought my sins separated me from God. I was never good or religious enough. But now I know Jesus I can know God. God sent Jesus to find me. I am free. Not to cheat people again, but to follow Jesus.

Voice 4: Jesus knows each one of us by name. He sees the potential in each of us. He wants to set us free to be the people we were created to be. People matter to God. I matter to God. The people around me and on the other side of the world matter to God. Jesus shows this. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

 

There are two sermons on this page...

Luke 19 1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner.' "  8 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."  9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

 

We live in a world where people want to be accepted and some will do anything to achieve this. This leads to workaholics, thinking that they can prove themselves by working hard. Bulimics who think that if they are slim enough people will like them. People will be charming and do what others want to earn their favour. Gymn clubs have some people in them who will think that if they are fit and trim enough then they will be desirable. Others think that wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, or wearing the right perfume or aftershave will make them more attractive. Advertisers make the most of this and, this Christmas, there will be many children demanding a certain toy because it is 'in' and will make them acceptable.

Today's gospel reading is about a man who was accepted unconditionally by Jesus and this led him to change radically.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. In a few days he would be crucified. Jericho was on the main road to Jerusalem and was, therefore a suitable place for a tax collector to live. Taxes were collected on the goods that were transported to Jerusalem.

Tax collectors were disliked by the Jews. They were capitalists, collaborators, and crooks. They collected money from their own people and gave it to the occupying Romans. Not only that, but they made extra money by collecting more than was due. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, he was hated by his countrymen and regarded as a cheat and a traitor.

The town would have been buzzing with the news that Jesus had arrived. Everyone would have heard of him. A factor that would have interested Zacchaeus was that Jesus was known for mixing with irreligious people, and that included tax collectors. Not only that, but one of Jesus' disciples used to be a tax collector.

Perhaps Zacchaeus was excited at the prospect of seeing this important man who welcomed people like him.

But how could he even see Jesus ? After all he was short and unpopular. So he climbed up a tree to see Jesus who was approaching. He didn't mind looking ridiculous because people didn't think much of him anyway.

Imagine his surprise when Jesus stops and speaks to him ! 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." . It says that "he came down at once". But he could have fallen off the branch in shock ! Jesus knew his name ! How could this be ? Not only that he wanted to come to his house.

Eating and drinking with someone in this day implied a mutual acceptance. A Jew would never eat with and accept someone who did the type of things Zacchaeus had. A religious, upright person would never defile himself by mixing with such a person. This would make him unclean, and unable to participate in Temple worship.

Sometimes we have unexpected visitors at the Rectory. It is not unusual for someone to call at the door and for my study to be in a mess, despite the fact that I have had two purges there this year ! The seats in my study may have papers on them so I have to clear them quickly so I can offer people a seat.

I don't know how unprepared Zacchaeus was. He was wealthy and probably had people to tidy up and clean his home. He would have welcomed Jesus gladly.

A church had a sign outside it saying, "Join a fraternity that immortalizes a guy who drank, partied with the hearty, and hung out with prostitutes."

The incredible thing about this story is not that Zacchaeus wanted to meet Jesus, but that Jesus wanted to meet Zacchaeus. We have a God who is interested in everyone, not just the religious. In a sense Jesus wasn't too interested in the people who thought they were religious enough. We see this in the way that he ignores the comments of the people in verse 7 ,All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner.' " . Earlier 15:2, the Pharisees had criticised Jesus for the same thing.

Today some people think that they are already good enough for God. Some will list their credentials which are often a mixture of good works and a belief in the existence of God. This is not enough. We need to realise our sin, rely upon God's mercy, and hand control of our life to him.

Other people think they are not good enough for God. I once spoke to someone who said that she thought her motives were not pure enough in coming to Christ. She felt she might be using Christianity as a crutch. I told her that Jesus did not turn away the people who came to him for healing because their motives were not pure enough, but accepted them, and he accepts people today who come to him.

Jesus said ( John 6:37 ) "whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

As they walked together perhaps Zacchaeus felt embarrassed that the home he would be entertaining Jesus in was paid for by money extorted from his fellow countrymen. They were clearly unimpressed as we read in verse 7. Maybe they knew exactly how much Zacchaeus had embezzled from themselves.

Perhaps like many people they were being self-righteous and ready to look at the shortcomings of another than looking at themselves first. That's the easy way out. Devaluing someone else so that you can feel better. Yet Jesus sees value in Zacchaeus and draws alongside him. Asking to visit him. It is amazing how small things matter. How they can communicate something to someone in an enormous way.

I was recently told of a story of a man whose wife had died and who was horrible to other people who lived in his block of flats. He would hurl abuse at them and make it unpleasant to even go near his flat. A Christian neighbour was told by God to go to this man. She resisted this initially but, after a while decided she would bake the man some cakes. When she took them round the man burst into tears and gratefully accepted them. He is now a transformed person.

Perhaps there is someone we know who is daunting, hostile, and unpleasant who needs someone to share Christ's love with them.

Luke is not one to waste words. At the end of verse 6 Zacchaeus has welcomed Jesus. At the start of verse 8 he is giving away half of his possessions and returning four times what he had embezzled. Jewish law only required him to pay back the original plus a fifth: 120%; not 400%.

Being a sinner and irreligious he may not have known the Jewish law. Instead his response is from the heart. We do not know what went on between verses 6 and 8. What Jesus and Zacchaeus talked about as they walked to his home, and how long it took for Zaccheaus to make his declaration in verse 8. Perhaps Jesus had directly challenged Zacchaeus about his wealth, or being in the presence of Jesus led to Zaccheaus realising that he needed to make a new start?

We know Jesus would not have flinched from challenging Zacchaeus because in 18:22 he asks the rich ruler to sell everything that he had and give it to the poor. The ruler's reaction was in contrast to Zacchaeus'. He wouldn't do this. His love for his money and possessions was greater than his love for God. Luke uses these two stories to illustrate how the use of possessions are a major indication of someone's spirituality.

Zacchaeus realised his own selfishness. He realised that his relationship with Jesus must affect his whole life. This leads to his declaration in verse 8, "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." . This was a mixture of repentance, love, and gratitude.

Jesus says "today salvation has come to this house..." Why? Because this man has given away half his possessions ? No. Because he was a son of Abraham. Not a blood descendant of Abraham. But a descendant in that he shared the same faith that Abraham had in God. That faith resulted in Abraham being prepared to offer his precious son, Isaac to God. Zacchaeus offers his most important thing, possessions and money, back to God.

Perhaps we need to review what is most important to us, and think if we need to offer that back to God. Jesus constantly challenges people to re-evaluate their lives. How is he calling us, as individuals and as a church, to change our lives and our witness for him ?

Verse 10 is a key verse in Luke's gospel, 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Jesus mission is twofold. To seek and to save the lost, that is to say those who are outside God's rule because of sin or unbelief.

God takes the initiative in going out to such people. Meeting them where they are, drawing alongside and accepting them. Like Jesus asking to come to Zacchaeus' home.

I wonder why many churches have lost this vision. Reaching out with God's love is foundational to Christianity. Yet we say come to us and be saved. Come and conform to what we want you to be. Perhaps we ought to be out and about more, reaching people with the love of Jesus. Going where people are to share the good news of Jesus.

And it is Jesus who saves the lost. We have experienced that ourselves. Like Zacchaeus we have had our lives transformed through an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ who has revealed himself to us. Opening our minds and wills to respond by trusting him.

A gem dealer was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, "You want $15 ( 10 ) for this?" The seller, realizing the rock wasn't as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10 ( 7 ).

The stone has since been certified as a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 800 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 ( 1.5 ) million. It took a lover of stones to recognise the sapphire's worth. It took the Lover of Souls to recognise the true value of ordinary-looking people like us.

That stone had to be chipped away and cut to reveal its true beauty. There are times when we need to be changed in order to reveal the beauty that is in us. Jesus says, ''I love you just the way you are. And I love you too much to let you stay the way you are.''

Luke 19:1-10

PRAY

An officer in a police helicopter spotted a car speeding . He radioed his partner on the ground and the officer in the car stopped the speeder and began writing a ticket.

"How in the world did you know I was speeding?" the man asked.

The patrol officer didn't say anything but pointed skyward.

"Aww," the man moaned. "You mean, He's turned against me, too?"

Some people have a picture of God as an old man waiting to catch people out. Who is a spoilsport whose attitude is 'Thou shalt not enjoy thyself'

Today's story shows that God is not like that...

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. In a few days he would be crucified. Jericho was on the main road to Jerusalem and was, therefore a suitable place for a tax collector to live. Taxes were collected on the goods that were transported to Jerusalem.

Tax collectors were disliked by the Jews. They were capitalists, collaborators, and crooks. They collected money from their own people and gave it to the occupying Romans. Not only that, but they made extra money by collecting more than was due. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, he was hated by his countrymen and about as popular as a pork pie. They looked down upon Zacchaeus, in more ways than one ! Because he was height disadvantaged - the politically correct way of calling him short.

The town would have been buzzing with the news that Jesus had arrived. Everyone would have heard of him. A factor that would have interested Zacchaeus was that Jesus was known for mixing with irreligious people, and that included tax collectors. Not only that, but one of Jesus' disciples used to be a tax collector.

Perhaps Zacchaeus was excited at the prospect of seeing this important man who welcomed people like him.

But how could he even see Jesus ? After all he was vertically challenged, platform shoes hadn't been invented, and he'd loaned his stilts to his nephew. So he climbed up a tree to see Jesus who was approaching. He didn't mind looking ridiculous because people didn't think much of him anyway.

Imagine his surprise when Jesus stops and speaks to him ! 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." . It says that "he came down at once". But he could have fallen off the branch in shock ! Jesus knew his name ! How could this be ? Not only that he wanted to come to his house.

Eating and drinking with someone in this day implied a mutual acceptance. A Jew would never eat with and accept someone who did the type of things Zacchaeus had. A religious, upright person would never defile himself by mixing with such a person. This would make him unclean, and unable to participate in Temple worship.

Sometimes we have unexpected visitors at the Rectory. The week before last someone turned up when Joshua and myself were settling down to watch 'Top Gear'. I was totally unprepared. All the seats in my study had papers on them so I had to clear them quickly so I could offer them a seat.

I don't know how unprepared Zacchaeus was. He was wealthy and probably had people to tidy up and clean his home. Perhaps he had two or three camels parked in the drive. He welcomed Jesus gladly. It was true what they said about Jesus. He would mix with anyone.

A church had a sign outside it saying, "Join a fraternity that immortalizes a guy who drank, partied with the hearty, and hung out with prostitutes."

The incredible thing about this story is not that Zacchaeus wanted to meet Jesus, but that Jesus wanted to meet Zacchaeus. We have a God who is interested in everyone, not just the religious. In a sense Jesus wasn't too interested in the people who thought they were religious enough. We see this in the way that he ignores the comments of the people in verse 7 ,All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner.' " . Earlier 15:2, the Pharisees had criticised Jesus for the same thing.

Today some people think that they are already good enough for God. Some will list their credentials which are often a mixture of good works and a belief in the existence of God. As we saw last week with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector this is not enough. We need to realise our sin, rely upon God's mercy, and hand control of our life to him.

Other people think they are not good enough for God. I once spoke to someone who said that she thought her motives were not pure enough in coming to Christ. She felt she might be using Christianity as a crutch. I told her that Jesus did not turn away the people who came to him for healing because their motives were not pure enough, but accepted them, and he accepts people today who come to him.

Jesus said ( John 6:37 ) "whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

As they walked to his home perhaps Zacchaeus felt embarrassed that the home he would be entertaining Jesus in was paid for by money extorted from his fellow countrymen. They were clearly unimpressed as we read in verse 7. Maybe they knew exactly how much Zacchaeus had embezzled from themselves.

Perhaps like many people they were being self-righteous and ready to look at the shortcomings of another than looking at themselves first. That's the easy way out. Devaluing someone else so that you can feel better. Yet Jesus sees value in Zacchaeus and draws alongside him. Asking to visit him. It is amazing how small things matter. How they can communicate something to someone in an enormous way.

I was recently told of a story of a man whose wife had died and who was horrible to other people who lived in his block of flats. He would hurl abuse at them and make it unpleasant to even go near his flat. A Christian neighbour was told by God to go to this man. She resisted this initially but, after a while decided she would bake the man some cakes. When she took them round the man burst into tears and gratefully accepted them. He is now a transformed person.

Perhaps there is someone we know who is daunting, hostile, and unpleasant who needs someone to share Christ's love with them.

Luke is not one to waste words. At the end of verse 6 Zacchaeus has welcomed Jesus. At the start of verse 8 he is giving away half of his possessions and returning four times what he had embezzled. Jewish law only required him to pay back the original plus a fifth: 120%; not 400%.

Being a sinner and irreligious he may not have known the Jewish law. Instead his response is from the heart. We do not know what went on between verses 6 and 8. What Jesus and Zacchaeus talked about as they walked to his home, and how long it took for Zaccheaus to make his declaration in verse 8. Had Jesus directly challenged Zacchaeus about his wealth ?

We know Jesus would not have flinched from this because in 18:22 he asks the rich ruler to sell everything that he had and give it to the poor. The ruler's reaction was in contrast to Zacchaeus'. He wouldn't do this. His love for his money and possessions was greater than his love for God. Luke uses these two stories to illustrate how the use of possessions are a major indication of someone's spirituality.

Zacchaeus realised his own selfishness. He realised that his relationship with Jesus must affect his whole life. This leads to his declaration in verse 8, "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." . This was a mixture of repentance, love, and gratitude.

Jesus says "today salvation has come to this house..." Why? Because this man has given away half his possessions ? No. Because he was a son of Abraham. Not a blood descendant of Abraham. But a descendant in that he shared the same faith that Abraham had in God. That faith resulted in Abraham being prepared to offer his precious son, Isaac to God. Zacchaeus offers his most important thing, possessions and money, back to God.

Perhaps we need to review what is most important to us, and think if we need to offer that back to God. Jesus constantly challenges people to re-evaluate their lives. How is he calling us, as individuals and as a church, to change our lives and our witness for him ?

Verse 10 is a key verse in Luke's gospel, 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Jesus mission is twofold. To seek and to save the lost, that is to say those who are outside God's rule because of sin or unbelief.

God takes the initiative in going out to such people. Meeting them where they are, drawing alongside and accepting them. Like Jesus asking to come to Zacchaeus' home.

I wonder why many churches have lost this vision. Reaching out with God's love is foundational to Christianity. Yet we say come to us and be saved. Come and conform to what we want you to be. Perhaps we ought to be out and about more, reaching people with the love of Jesus. Going where people are to share the good news of Jesus.

And it is Jesus who saves the lost. We have experienced that ourselves. Like Zacchaeus we have had our lives transformed through an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ who has revealed himself to us. Opening our minds and wills to respond by trusting him.

A gem dealer was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, "You want $15 ( 10 ) for this?" The seller, realizing the rock wasn't as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10 ( 7 ).

The stone has since been certified as a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 800 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 ( 1.5 ) million. It took a lover of stones to recognize the sapphire's worth. It took the Lover of Souls to recognize the true value of ordinary-looking people like us.

Chris Lyons : Jesus says, ''I love you just the way you are. And I love you too much to let you stay the way you are.'' PRAY