[Luke 19:1-9] Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four-fold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
This is one of the most amazing stories in the New Testament. It tells of the salvation experience of Zacchaeus, a man hated by his fellow Jews because he worked for the Roman Government collecting taxes from his fellow countrymen. Zacchaeus may not have been a well liked man, but unlike those who hated him, he used his circumstances to improve his position in life. Upon hearing that Jesus was coming to Jericho he made the determination that he is going to go see who Jesus was and returned home full of joy and was willing to give away half of everything he owned. On this day, a multitude of people had lined the main street of Jericho in hopes they would see Jesus perform a miracle for them. Zacchaeus upon hearing that Jesus was coming, closed down his tax business and went in search of a place from which he could see this famous man who was known to be a miracle worker. Whether Zacchaeus went out of curiosity to see Jesus or for a specific purpose, we do not know. But we do know a large crowd was present in such numbers that Zacchaeus because of his short stature could not find a suitable place along the street from which he could see Jesus. Upon finding a sycamore tree with a branch low to the ground, he climbed up into the tree and took a seat. One would expect a child to climb up into a tree, but a rich dignified man, never. But Zacchaeus was not your typical rich man, he was determined to see Jesus and was willing to do whatever was necessary to fulfill his mission.
It was the actions of Zacchaeus that caught the eye of Jesus as he made his way down main street, and upon reaching the spot, He said to Zacchaeus, “Come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus did not miss the invitation for a great thing to take place in his life that was clearly expressed in the words of Jesus. He climbed down from the tree and the two of them left. There were many people present who had needs that Jesus had come to Jericho to meet, but only one left with Him, and only one had his needs met. All the other people went home the same way they came. They came expecting to see Jesus perform miracles and missed their own. They come to watch Him pass by and received nothing. Zacchaeus went to see what kind of man Jesus was and went home with a new life. He came a sinner and went home a saint. He came searching and found more than he expected.
It wasn’t just the fact that a rich man was sitting in a sycamore tree that caught the attention of Jesus, it was the effort Zacchaeus had put into the climb to reach that location. Do you hear me? If it was important enough for Zacchaeus to play the part of a fool to see Jesus, then the Lord was not going to disappoint him. If we study this story, it won’t take us long to figure out that Zacchaeus was an opportunist, when the opportunity arose for him to become a tax collector, he took advantage of it; and when the opportunity for eternal life came, he took advantage of that as well. He may have been a small man whom people hated, but he was quick to respond when opportunity knocked. He took advantage of what life handed him while all the other people watched their opportunity pass them by.
Jesus didn’t come into the world to disciple just twelve men, He went through every city and town in Israel seeking to save that which was lost. And He didn’t walk all the way down to Jericho on this day just to meet the needs of Zacchaeus. He came to meet the needs of every person in that city just like He comes to meet all of our needs every time the church doors are opened. However, there are not many people in our churches like Zacchaeus who will take advantage of opportunity when it knocks; and like the other people in the story who lined the street and received nothing from the Lord, church people go home complaining about those who are quick to understand. Every Sunday, the preacher stands up and teaches the Word of God; but how many parishioners really take advantage of the gifts the Lord comes bearing? How long has it been since someone got saved in your church? Or someone miraculously healed? If the church you attend is like most churches; it has been years. Most people don’t go to church expecting to be a part of a miracle; they come burdened down and leave overloaded with cares that Jesus came to remove from them. Don’t you realize how disappointed Jesus was that only one person in Jericho believed He could help THEM? Don’t you know He’s tired of being a spectator in our churches watching the sick and tired come and go and never reach out to Him. Jesus promised us, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30] If Jesus is present to remove our burdens, why are we so slow to give them to Him? Jesus isn’t some kind of a circus act who comes to town every few years to entertain us. The Pharisee’s and Saducee’s said to Him, “What sign will you show us that we may believe in you?” And He said to them, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will be the Son of Man three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” [Matthew 12:40] Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Word of God that is always present to remove our burdens. It seems to me, we have become so proud of our burdens that we refuse to hear the Word of God coming out of the mouth of the preacher behind the pulpit. People who go to church expecting nothing, receive nothing. The man in the pulpit is not the miracle worker, he is only the delivery boy, but the Word of God pouring forth from his mouth is the deliverer, the healer, the provider. The person who goes to church expecting like Zacchaeus came to see what kind of man Jesus was, will go home happy, satisfied, and burden free. What we receive from the Word of God is entirely dependent upon us just as it was for Zacchaeus. After all, we go to all the effort to get up and get dressed in our Sunday best for church. Why not go all the way and climb a tree; who knows, just maybe the fresh air up there will clear our foggy minds. Climbing up a little higher allowed Zacchaeus to see over the crowd who had been blocking His view. Get away from the people who are holding you back from receiving your needs met. Try climbing up a little higher than where you normally sit in church; the new location just might allow you to get a better view of who Jesus is as well. You might just go home a changed person.
Zacchaeus did what he had to do to get in a position where he could get a better view of Jesus and he got his empty heart filled and went home a happy man. Now how about you? Are you so selfish and proud of your problems that you refuse to give them up, or will you allow Jesus Christ to set you free of them? You know, God said to His people in Malachi 3, “I am the Lord, I do not change.” And Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If God does not change and Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God does not change… those scriptures tell me, if we will put forth the effort to receive our miracle from them; they will see our effort just as they saw the effort Zacchaeus put into climbing that Sycamore tree to get a better view. DThrash