The Rocky Road…Runs By Your House-March 30, 2014
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
Jesus always seems to be going somewhere. Sometimes His going was to get away from crowds, other times it was for an appointed purpose. Often as Jesus was going He encountered situations that came up and He took time and compassion on those people. He also took to teach others and His own disciples. Without knowing it at that time Jesus was modeling for His disciples what He would later instruct them to do as part of the Great Commission. “As you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As Jesus was going about people began to hear of Him. He became known to many in many different ways because of what they were seeking. People heard of His healing ministry and came seeking healing or to witness a miracle. People heard of His abundance and came to have their stomachs filled. Some people came for these things and received that and then some. Not only did they see a miracle at work but many also received forgiveness of their sins. Others still came to hear His wonderful and challenging teaching. Some came wanting to learn, others wanted to be justified, and still others wanted to challenge and discredit Jesus.
Most people found what they were searching for in Jesus and the same time finding something always completely unexpected too. So when you came here today, what were you looking to Jesus to find? Are you looking for the Comforter, Counselor, Friend, Healer, Provider, Sustainer, Teacher, Master, Lord, Prince of Peace, Jesus? If you came here today honestly to encounter Jesus and not out of a sense of obligation, ritual, or habit, I believe you will find Him. I believe that He will speak to your heart, meet your need, and Jesus will more than meet your expectations. Will you make room in your heart and life for Him? Life can and is different because of Christ.
As Jesus’ reputation spread, people came when they knew He was going from one place to another. There always seemed to be crowds filled with different people all with different needs and coming for different reasons. People came to see what Jesus might do. Jesus enters Jericho with the intention of passing through. Stopping in Jericho was not a planned stop on His journey. As His disciples it is also true of us that we are just passing through. Even in passing through we have opportunities to tell people that we belong to Jesus and where our final destination is.
There was also a man in Jericho by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. Taxation was a little different at that time because they were an occupied people and the Caesar would set up a tax amount but many of the collectors would ask for more and get rich by keeping the difference beyond what they were getting paid for. It made it easy for these collectors to get wealthy in a very short period of time. This practice also made them very hated in the communities they lived and worked in. Also within the Jewish communities there were tithes, offerings, and temple taxes that could be estimated between 20 to 26% of their income. The people were under heavy financial constraints and it would be easy to see how a tax collector could become a hated person.
Whether it was in Jesus time or today, people have always wanted to see others get what they think they deserve. Maybe these people act the way they do because of some deeper needs that we know nothing about, and perhaps we are afraid that their deeper needs may be very similar to our own. It may be hard for us to believe that they would seek Jesus or more surprisingly that a righteous man like Jesus would have anything to do with a sinner like this man.
Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. SO he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. How about us if Jesus were coming through our town, what would we be willing to do to see Him? We have the opportunity to encounter Jesus every day and sometimes the crowd can keep us from really seeing Jesus. If you remember the crowd is made up of many different people, who also came with their own expectations. At this point when unable to see because of the crowd many would have just given up. Zacchaeus did not give up he saw which direction Jesus was going and ran ahead to get just the right spot.
Zacchaeus had all that he thought he needed in this world but he didn’t have Jesus. Not taking the easy excuse he makes his way to a place where he can see Jesus passing by. What about us? What obstacles would we try to overcome or to avoid to see Jesus? The crowd could be the world trying to tell us to just ignore Jesus He is a fad and will be short-lived. The crowd could also represent religious onlookers who are willing to stand, listen, gawk, and critique but certainly not follow. How about you? How about me? Will we be part of the crowd or will we follow Jesus?
When Jesus reached that spot or the spot, he looked up. We do not know if Jesus had seen him far off, or saw the tree moving, or a shadow perhaps it was obvious that this grown man was out on a limb, with no place to go. Have you ever been out on a limb? Then come down, turn around, and follow Jesus. The next thing that happens is quite extraordinary, Jesus stops and calls Zacchaeus by name. We do not have any record of Jesus having met Zacchaeus or known about him from others but he engaged Zacchaeus personally. Zacchaeus was not labelled a random wealthy sinner, but was a man who was deeply loved by Jesus, but separated from God by more than the crowd. He was desperate to see Jesus. This would today be the equivalent to a man trying to see someone in a parade and runs ahead and climbs a light post in a business suit. Jesus did not have to stop, but He did and Jesus called Zacchaeus by name. Has Jesus ever found you out on a limb and called you by name?
Jesus tells Zacchaeus to come down immediately because, Jesus said, “I must stay at your house today.” So Zacchaeus responds immediately coming down and gladly welcoming Jesus. Jesus wants to make Himself at home in our hearts, will we welcome Him gladly? Zacchaeus responded at once to the invitation of Jesus, how about you and I? Do we follow Jesus when it is convenient or when we agree with Him, or if He doesn’t ask too much, or are we part of the crowd hoping Jesus will side with us rather than having supper with “sinners.”
The crowd basically criticized Jesus to one another though a mutter, murmur, or gossip and are put off by Jesus going to be the guest of a “sinner.” They label Zacchaeus and are critical of Jesus. You can almost hear it, “sure Jesus would hang out with the priest from down town Jericho, or perhaps the preacher at F.B.C. Jericho, or maybe even the mayor, but this man?” Why would a holy man want to be with an unholy man? This response from the crowd is surprising considering that they assume they are too holy or at least “better” than this sinner. Where Zacchaeus may have been a short man, many in the crowd were short-sighted and self-righteous.
Zacchaeus upon Jesus’ inviting Himself to his home and Zacchaeus welcoming Jesus he also being to change his way of life. This is what the crowd missed, if Jesus were to save an unrighteous man, a “sinner” and change his life then the community too would be better off because of a sinner’s transformation. For what Zacchaeus lacked in size, he sure made up for in wealth. What in our lives makes us feel insecure or unworthy? How do we try to compensate to feel better about ourselves? If we trusted and followed Jesus would we be willing to burn our man-made crutches, for the promise of Jesus that we do not need them? We do not need them because we are whole in Christ. Zacchaeus offers right at the beginning to give half of all he has to the poor, and if he had cheated anyone he would make good with four times the interest. Remember Jesus actually asked the rich young ruler to give up all he had to the poor and follow Him. He chose not to give up his wealth but went away sad. Zacchaeus wasn’t even asked but was willing to give it up to follow Jesus.
Not only was Zaccheaus’ life about to change but because of his place and position of influence the town would likely be better off too. The power of Christ living in and through one sold out sort man out on a limb in a business suit would change so many things in that town. How about you? Where are you today? Are you out on a limb?
Jesus says today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save that what was lost. Jesus’ words here can mean a few things. First is that salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus, because Jesus Himself is salvation and has been received. Second, Jesus refers to the salvation because this man too is a son of Abraham. Now we do not know for sure if this literally means he was from the line of Abraham, or if he is a son of Abraham because he believed on faith and it is credited to him as righteousness.
Jesus reminds the crowd that His purpose is to seek and save the lost. It seems awesome to know that He would seek to save those out on a limb. The crowd will continue to do what crowds do, they will murmur, and assume that Jesus’ place would not be with sinners, but with them…but aren’t we all just sinners saved by His grace?