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Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man Found By Jesus Luke 19:1 - 10

March 7, 2021 Speaker: Jim Galli Series: The Gospel According to Luke

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: 1 Corinthians 19:1–19:10

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1 And He entered and was passing through Jericho. 2 And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich. 3 And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. 7 And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Zaccheus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.  Raise your hand if you sang that song as a child.  Even now I can picture this event perfectly.  There's nothing more logical to a child than climbing up something to get enough height so you can see.  At least it was to me.  I was a resourceful kid and never hesitated to climb up stuff.

We could picture the small man trying to see but he can't get a peek through the crowd.  And we can picture the sycamore tree becasue we grew up in an area that had those.  In fact I have one in my front yard with a chair under it that gets much use in the summer.

And if you've ever been to Furnace Creek Ranch you can picture Jericho.  It was a place of great natural beauty where the earth is naked like Death Valley but there is this lush green place in the middle of stark devastating desert.  A place of water and shade and springs below sea level.  An emerald in the desert.  An oasis in the desert.

It's about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea proper and about 6 miles west of the Jordan River that enters the Dead Sea.  After you leave Jericho you go straight up to Jerusalem on the Jericho road.

We're right at the end of Jesus ministry, just before passion week in Jerusalem and His death and resurrection from the dead.  Luke is putting finishing touches on his painting called The Ministry of Jesus.  This story of Zaccheus and a teaching with a warning that foresee's the future of those who reject Jesus, immediately after this portion, and then we go up the hill and begin the painting called Death and Resurrection.

The title of this painting in the box at the bottom of the huge frame is in vs. 10.  Do you see it?  10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

That's what Jesus has been doing for these three years, and it's what He continues to do at His Father's right hand in heaven even today.

1 And He entered and was passing through Jericho. 2 And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich.

We meet Zaccheus.  Right away this gets offensive because the Bible tells us that this person is a man.  That's all it takes these days.  He was a tax collector.  He takes money away from people under the pretense of the government.  And he was rich.

That actually tells us quite a lot about Zaccheus.  In the context of the culture to who it was written, this man is a sell out.  He's a traitor.  In order to make money he has walked away from his nation, his fellow countrymen, his religion.

It's not so different from prostitution in our culture.  For money you accept the prospect of leaving the dignity and acceptance of your peers behind to do something that everyone looks down on.  The money is worth the loss of respect and acceptance with your culture.

There's a huge political aspect to what Zaccheus had done.  Israel was an occupied country.  Rome was the occupier and the jews hated Rome.  They hated their occupiers, hated being controlled by foreigners, hated that they had no sovereignty over their own futures.  They were slaves to Rome.

Rome is the enemy.  Hated by all.  So what happens then if a countryman, a jew crosses over and helps Rome?  It's like he's fighting for the enemy against his own people.  He's robbing their money and giving it to Rome.  He's the opposite of Robin Hood.  He's taking from the poor and giving to the rich, with the component of nationalism and race in that mix.  He's taking from his own people and giving it to the enemy.  A traitor.

Zaccheus is a dispicable character.  Hated.  Shunned by his own people.  He is excommunicated from the synagogue.  He cannot enter their religious worship houses.  He cannot enter the temple.  He is unclean.  He is worse than a gentile because he actually sold himself to the gentiles.  Dispicable filthy character.

Out at work we had to have a class every year about turning in disgruntled employees who might flip to the other side and cause harm to our government by selling secrets to the enemy.  I feel Zaccheus may have had something similar going on.  His religious establishment was phony, so why not get money working for the enemy.  He had turned his back on his own people.  Disgruntled with the phony false religion, why not cross over to the religion of blood money?

And we learn two more things about Zaccheus.  He was the head man in the region.  He's the boss of a whole horde of tax collectors.  In Israel there were 3 main centers for tax collection for Rome at crossroads areas.  Capernaum in the north, up at the top of Galilee at the main north, south, east west crossroads there.  At Ceasarea on the coast, and here at Jericho were the 3 centers for Rome's collection.  Each center would have multiple tax collectors with a chief who oversaw the whole regional enterprise, and at Jericho, that person was Zaccheus.

And we know one more thing about Zach.  It says he was RICH.  plousios
(ploo'-see-os).  The word meant he was abounding in wealth.  He was rolling in money.  The problem with this information is this, if Zaccheus was following Rome's guidelines for collection, the portion that Rome would allow him to keep was a living, but it wasn't what Zaccheus had.  So we know that Zach's wealth was the result of all kinds of extortions draining the people of illegal quantities of money in order to make his crew wealthy and him abundantly wealthy.

It was like a ponzi scheme and he's at the top of the pyramid skimming wealth from everybody underneath him.  And probably coercing all of his agents to get even more.  And they had the pressure and the power of Rome to assist in the strong arming.  So Zaccheus wasn't a popular guy.  To put it mildly.  He was hated.  And he was notorious.  

That's our main character.  In our current vernacular, he wasn't a good person.  Not a good guy.  Unclean, hated, despised sinner.  That's Zaccheus.  There's an ancient legend with no reason to believe it that Matthew Levi told Jesus, sometime when you're in Jericho you need to look up Zaccheus.  

I just watched a Netflix special movie documentary thing about a tiny jewish man named Ben Ferencz.  He's 100 years old this year.  Tiny little man about 100 pounds soaking wet but he's got this dynamite inside of him that far surpasses the tiny packaging.  He was sent into the death camps after Germany fell in order to gather evidence; the information that would be presented in Nuremburg at the trials.  He was a prosecution lawyer at Nuremburg.  What a story.  

He just comes to mind when you talk about physical size but a powerhouse.  He had to stand on books to get the height he needed to stand at the podium to prosecute the Nazi's.  Little powerhouse.  That's how I picture Zaccheus.  He's a little dynamo, a little powerhouse and everybody in town hates him except for the other tax collectors and rejects.

3 And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

Dignity isn't your problem if you're Zaccheus.  He sold that a long time ago.  Climbing up into a sycamore tree was an excellent solution.  He wants to see this Jesus he's heard so much about.

You know, Zaccheus wouldn't walk across the street to see the chief priests and leaders of Israel.  Hypocrisy is something we understand these days.  The people in the chief seats, the important political people have not sold less of their souls to get in those respectable positions than Zaccheus sold his.

No one walks across the street to see another hypocrite that happens to be on the opposing but currently dignified side of the aisle.  The chief priests and scribes and pharisees are well respected movers and shakers in Israel but they sold out to hypocrisy the same as Zaccheus had sold out.  Actually his sell out is less hypocritical than the current religious mob in power.  

He has no interest in seeing those folks pass by.  But Jesus is different.  Jesus is counter-cultural.  Jesus is hated by the same people that hate him most.  Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is someone I'll at least be sympathetic to.  

Zaccheus wouldn't waste his time walking across the street to see the rulers of Israel pass by but he'll climb up into a sycamore tree to see the strangely powerful godly man, Jesus, who does miracles that only God can do and who also points to the hypocrisy of Israel.

Jesus is the real deal, and many folks are talking about Him perhaps being the Messiah, the promised one of Israel.  Someone like that, you'll climb up a tree to get a good view of Him.  Word has it that He let's sinners in and turns hypocrites away.  Someone like that is worth the effort to see passing by.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

God knows your name.  God knows the name of every single image bearer.  From eternity past to eternity future, God knows ever image bearer by name.  Even the unborn who have no name here, will have a name in heaven.  

Names are the recognition of being.  We name our children, and most of them never question what their parents gave them.  My mom named me James William after her grandfather who was William James Owens.  It never occured to me to be anybody else.  Zaccheus meant pure one.  Holy person.  That was his parents wish for him when they gave him that name.

Jesus doesn't walk up and say, Hey you, little man up in the tree . . . come down.  Jesus know's Zaccheus' name.  “Zaccheus, hurry and come down,

It's a big deal when Jesus knows your name and calls you by name.  Bartimaeus was shouting to Jesus trying to get an audience and the crowd hushed him.  Jesus is too important and too busy to bother with every decrepit blind man shouting to Him.  Shut up.  He's not going to stop for you.  He's on a mission.  He's going to Jerusalem to confront Rome.  Too busy for you.

And then when Jesus ordered Bartimaeus to come to Him, it was a big deal.  The people who were hushing him are all of a sudden getting him.  Take courage, He's calling for you.  That was a big deal.  An audience with Jesus was a big thing.

Imagine the surprise when Jesus stops the multitude underneath a huge sycamore tree and looks up and calls you by your name.  “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Not only is there the name recognition, Jesus has a mission for you to do for Him.  Come down quickly, because today, I'm planning to stay at your house!  The providence of God has an appointment with you and your household today Zaccheus.  God has you on His itinerary.

Jesus is honoring Zaccheus by asking him for the hospitality of his lodging.  That would be amazing on so many levels, some of which we're going to see immediately in the next verses.

Whoa Jesus!  Are you sure you've got the right Zaccheus??!!  You DON'T want to go to his house.  Nobody respectable wants to go anywhere near this Zaccheus' house.  Really??  Have you got the right guy??  The godly jews would have made a wide berth around this sycamore tree just to avoid the unclean Zaccheus.  Jesus walks right up and stops right there.  Shocking.

6 And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly.

The word here for received is hupodechomai.  It's the word for someone who receives someone else into their home for shelter and hospitality.  Likewise the word for gladly, he received Him gladly, is chairōn and it normally is translated rejoicing.  

Zaccheus hurried down from the tree and was thrilled to be asked by Jesus for the honor of spending some time giving hospitality and comfort, food and rest to Him.  Zaccheus rejoiced!  Everybody else, not so much;

7 And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Zaccheus is rejoicing.  The multitude is grumbling.  Grumble is an onomatopoeic word.  That means the word sounds like what's happening.  diegongyzon  grumble grumble grumble.  Low tones one to another.  “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Shock.  Dismay.  Disappointment.  The man who we want to make King so He can throw out the Romans and Israel can be the head of the world just went to the home of a vile reprobate sinner.  To lodge there!  It's unclean.  That man is unclean.  He's a sinner.  To their minds that makes Jesus an unclean sinner by association.  NOT His first rodeo.  We want Him to over-throw the Romans but He has a penchant for hanging out with sinners.

There would have been a component of this multitude who were the people in John chapter 6 who were plotting to take Jesus by force and make Him king.  The same folks who will shout Hosanna real soon and lay the palm fronds in His path as He enters Jerusalem.  

But Jesus keeps throwing a big wrench in the gears by associating with outcasts who are sympathetic to the government they want to overthrow.  It's hard to get Jesus to cooperate with their plan.  You can just hear this political faction groan, along with all the uber religious folks, when Jesus calls a traitor who has been robbing them blind, to come down from a tree so He can lodge at his home!

The elephant in the room here is that all these righteous folks who are calling Zaccheus a sinner are also sinners.  Guilty.  The whole bunch of them.  Vile to God.  At least Zaccheus knew he was a sinner.  It's impossible to save people who think they're OK.  

If rubbing up against sinners made you one by association, Jesus was condemned long before He got to Zaccheus' tree.  They thought uncleaness rubbed off by association.  Actually the opposite is true.  When you associate with Jesus, His righteousness rubs off on you.

The leading jews, the ruling religious class, had made up their minds about Jesus a LONG time ago.  Guilty.  He's a sinner by association with sinners.  Sure He does miracles.  He uses power derived from Satan to do the miracles.  He can't be from God because if He was, He would be here with us.  He's hanging out with sinners.  He's a criminally insane dangerous religious fanatic with satanic powers and the foolish people are drawn to Him like flies to a flame, and He must be silenced.  That's the crowd He's marching towards in Jerusalem.

8 And Zaccheus stopped (literally stood up, as if at a banquet giving a speach or a toast) and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

That sounds like repentence to me.  That sounds like a man who is pivoting out of this world and it's systems into God's family.  How does that happen from a Man walking up to you and asking you to come down out of a tree and give Him lodging?

It says;  Zaccheus stopped.  When.  How much time had transpired.  What had been said that we missed out on.  Were they on the way to his house and he stopped?  Was it at a meal with other guests and hearers?  We simply don't know, and I don't know that it matters.  What matters is repentence from his heart.  

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

 sótéria (so-tay-ree'-ah)  Salvation.  If you go to The Masters Seminary you will study Soteriology.  The doctrines concerning salvation.  The word is unchanged.  

Salvation, eternal life, and kingdom of God are all used interchangeably.  All of them mean the same thing.  You leave this world and the captivity of sin and the authority of Satan to rule behind, and you come into God's kingdom, God's family, God's authority to reign, a relationship that lasts forever because you are freed from sin's penalty.  Sin is forgiven in Christ's death in your place.

That's what happened to Zaccheus on the way to his house with Jesus who chose him to lodge with.

“Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

Jesus isn't talking about DNA here.  Zaccheus isn't saved because of his ethnicity, his family tie with the 12 tribes of Israel.  If that was all it took he didn't need to even come down out of his perch in the tree.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Born not of blood.  Zaccheus jewish blood descended to him from Abraham meant that he was a son in the sense of his family descendence.  But John says the right to be a child of God doesn't come from family.  You can't inherit it.

What did Jesus mean when he said salvation had come to Zaccheus and indeed, perhaps also to others in his home that evening because he was ALSO a son of Abraham.  

Look again at vs. 12 in John chapter 1 that we just read.  He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name

Paul says to the Galations;  3:7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are sons of Abraham.  9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Jesus is stating that Zaccheus, like Abraham before him, has become part of God's family, salvation has come, because like Abraham before him, he has believed that Jesus is the Son of God, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Zaccheus is a son of Abraham because he believes like Abraham the believer.  

And now Luke closes this section with this story of Zaccheus and finishes with this great statement of Jesus that encompasses all of the chapters since He set His face to go to Jerusalem in 9:51;

10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

There is so much theology in that single sweeping truth.  Jesus is stating His purpose.  This is the reason He left His home in heaven, left unfathomable riches and joy to come to this lost world that is ravaged by the destroyer, Satan.  

Jesus left His home with His Father in heaven to come to this place to be mocked and spit on.  To be hated and reviled.  To suffer the indignity of murder, even death on a cross.  Nailed to wood and hanging unsupported until you bleed out and death comes.  Why would anyone do that??

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

In chapter 15 we had 3 stories of lost things that were later re-gained.  The lost sheep that the shepherd leaves the ninety and nine and goes and searches for the one lost sheep.  He rejoices exultantly when he finds that sheep and he carries the sheep on his shoulders back to safety.

The woman who has ten coins but one is lost.  She sweeps and searches until she finds the lost coin and she rejoices over re-gaining the lost one.

And finally a son who is lost by his own doing.  Foolish and selfish the son wastes the father's resources until he is destitute.  Finally he returns to his father who sees him a long way off and rushes to receive him again with great joy.

Jesus left glory because of the joy set before Him of restoring to His Father the lost image bearers that belong to him but who had been lost.  Folks, we are born into this place, this world, this cosmos lost and condemned.  Born lost.  Born condemned.  Born into Adam's lost race.  Born in sin.  Born dead.  Spiritually dead.  Removed from God whose image we bear even in our lost condition.

Jesus came to restore lost people to God.  Jesus gives life, eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.  The Holy Spirit quickens dead spirits to life in all who like Zaccheus are sons of Abraham, not in his blood line, but who like Abraham, believe that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus told the pharisees;   “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.  Jn 8:56

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

A multitude was raising dust traveling up the Jericho road.  Most of the people in that multitude don't think they're lost at all.  They think that blood line from Abraham is all they need.  Why does Jesus stop at a sycamore tree and seek out a single individual among the thousands in that multitude.

Certainly, Zaccheus was farther along in his understanding of his lostness than many there that day.  But the question haunts us.  Why Bartimaeus?  Why Zaccheus?  Why not the rich young ruler?  Is Jesus showing us that the first are last and the last are first.  Certainly true.  This worlds legends and rock stars will be missing in the kingdom.

But all of these questions bump up against the inscrutable mind of God.  He simply doesn't tell us why He chooses who He chooses.  Instead of flights of fancy trying to figure out what He has hidden from us perhaps we should listen to what Jesus does tell us;

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Son of Man is Jesus favorite name to describe Himself.  A term that originated in Daniel's prophecy.  It signifies His humility in leaving glory and coming to this wretched sinful place.  He became a man.  God the Son became a man.

I want you to disect that small verse and tell me which of the verbs in the process of our salvation did we accomplish?

Jesus seeks, we don't seek.  Jesus saves, we cannot save ourselves.  Jesus seeks and saves the lost.  He accomplishes all of it, we accomplish none of it.

In the stories in chapter 15 about the different lost things, in each case there is a sense of the not lost as opposed to the lost.  99 sheep aren't lost.  1 sheep is.  9 coins aren't lost, one is.  The second son isn't lost, in fact he's angry about the attention and love that the son who was lost is now receiving.  The not lost son hates the restored son, and also the Father.

On the Jericho road there was a multitude of perhaps thousands, moving towards Jerusalem, and they aren't lost.  Jesus stops at a sycamore tree and restores the one person in the multitude who IS lost.

Listen again to a transliteration of the Beatitudes, the manifesto of the Kingdom of God;

     3 “Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
     4 “Blessed are brokenhearted over sin, for they shall be comforted.
     5 “Blessed are the powerless, for they shall inherit the earth.
     6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness not their own, for they shall be satisfied.

There was a multitude who were not spiritually bankrupt, at least they didn't understand their own destitute condition.  A multitude who are not broken over their own sin, not worried about their sin at all.  A multitude who believe they are in control of their own lives, with no need for Jesus, except perhaps what He can give them.  A welfare state.  He makes food out of nothing and feeds them.  And there is a multitude who are self satisfied with their own self righteousness and have no need of a true righteousness that they cannot attain to.

And there's one guy up in a sycamore tree who was lost.  Jesus found him.