- The turning point between Galilee and Jerusalem. Located in the Jordan River Valley near the Dead Sea
- A fragrant and fertile place. Dates, palm-honey, myrrh, and balsam. Used to make fragrances, medicine, makeup.
- Major trade center. Valued by Rome as a center of taxation. Rich, powerful tax collectors make sure the taxes are rendered unto Caesar, plus some extra for themselves.
- Chief tax collector. Rich. Short.
- What happens to short people, especially short men? They are teased. Many feel they must prove themselves.
Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, Zacchaeus learned to compensate—first, to laugh at the jokes, and later, to fight back. And so, as he climbed the professional ladder, he stepped on anyone who stood in his way, anyone on the next rung up. He would show them, show them all. Someday they’d look up to him.
At last, he made it to the top— a chief tax collector. King of the hill, controlling commerce. King of the hill, greasing his greedy little palms with the sweat of his neighbor’s brow. King of the hill, looking down over Jericho.
But the hill Zacchaeus rules is a dunghill, at least in the eyes of the people. For tax gatherers are despised as little more than ruthless bill collectors for a corrupt government. Even the Talmud looks down on them, allowing a Jew permission to lie to a murderer, to a thief, and . . . to a tax collector.
True, Zacchaeus has power. And he has wealth. But the stature he sought among others has eluded him.
What else eludes Zacchaeus? Friendship, belonging, salvation, meaning, love, healing, peace
Have you ever started down a path, only to find what you were looking for eludes you, too?
Now there’s hope
Zacchaeus has heard stories about this Jesus who was a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
- Who ate and drank with them and stayed in their homes
- Who changed the life of Levi/Matthew, the tax collector at Capernaum. Levi left a lucrative career, left everything to follow Jesus. This Jesus must be some man.
- There’s even talk of him being the Messiah. Not just a rabbi, a healer, but a Messiah who’s a friend of tax collectors.
- Zacchaeus is willing to look the fool for even a glimpse of Jesus. He runs. He climbs a tree. Zacchaeus literally goes out on a limb to get to Jesus.
Imagine all that Zacchaeus is feeling. His chest is pounding from the run and the climb. Jesus and his disciples are coming. Closer. Closer. Then Jesus stops right in front of him.
Their eyes meet. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name. In front of all those people, Jesus asks if he can come to Zacchaeus’ home. Later, Zacchaeus makes Jesus his home.
- Experiences a complete transformation. Not just part of his life, but the whole.
- Zacchaeus chooses both repentance and reparation. He turns from walking in his own strength and plan to follow Jesus. (Repentance, Justification) He doesn’t stop there. He wants to make things right, live a new way. (Reparation, Sanctification)
- Zacchaeus goes out on a limb to see Jesus and out on a limb to follow Jesus fully. He liquidates his war chest to care for the poor and compensate those he defrauded.
This is what our salvation should look like as well: complete transformation, not just part of our lives, not just enough to get into heaven. We turn. We follow. We live a new life.
- Gain = Earn. As followers of Jesus, we embrace hard, honest work. Zacchaeus will be looking for a new job or doing his current job in a very different way.
- Save = Stewardship. Zacchaeus realizes we are and have belongs to God. We are caretakers. My money, my possessions, my talents, my body, are not my own. As followers of Jesus, we embrace careful, farsighted, faithful management of everything God’s entrusted to us. Zacchaeus’s management will include caring for the poor and making right his old, evil ways.
- Give = Generous Living
Earn all you can + Save all you can = the ultimate goal of generous living. We can trust and follow and give because Christ has already given everything for us.
Generosity by Steve Garnaas Holmes
True poverty and riches are in our hearts,
not our pockets.
Fear is the only prison that prevents us
from loving deeply,
from giving freely,
from living richly.
Generosity is the power that sets us free.
It melts the prison bars.
It fills the coffers of our hearts.
In generosity, regardless of circumstances,
even the penniless are not poor,
even the destitute are not alone,
even the flat broke are not afraid.
Give everything you have,
and you will be free
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.