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Learning about JESUS: the Way, the Truth and the Life
A sermon by Jeff Foster preached to the Cortez Church of Christ January 14, 2007
When I was a child, the man who lived across the alleyway from my family was a rather strange man who had an extraordinary gift.
We would often find him in the alley rummaging through dumpsters. He would find junk, old things that people had thrown away—broken furniture, busted electronics, tattered clothing—and he would gather up these things and bring them to his home and repair them. He then would sell the items in a yard sale.
What everybody else regarded as eccentric, this man considered a calling. He relished the opportunity to take something old, discarded, useless and make it new again.
Isn’t this what we see in Jesus?
Consider Zacchaeus. Here was a man who was quite successful in his business. He was a tax collector and apparently quite good at it. He had amassed a great fortune, but in ways that were quite shady. He had become reviled by all of his neighbors.
You remember his story. It is recorded for us in Luke 19.
One afternoon, Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming to town. He knew some things about Jesus. Everybody was talking about him—how he was healing people of their illnesses, giving sight to the blind, casting demons out of the possessed, even raising the dead. Zacchaeus had certainly heard about the things Jesus was saying. “Blessed are the poor, and woe to you who are rich,” was certain to catch Zaccheaus’s attention.
Hearing that Jesus was coming to his town, to the streets of Jericho . . . well, Zacchaeus had to make every effort to see this man. His desire belies an unease deep within Zacchaeus. Despite his wealth, his success, his powerful job, Zacchaeus wanted, no needed something more. Perhaps he had become convicted by his lack of ethics, by his shady business dealings, by the stigma attached to his profession. Whatever the feelings deep down inside, Zacchaeus felt compelled to see Jesus, for in Jesus he saw a new beginning.
The scene is rather ironic. Zacchaeus, a man of powerful position was a man of short stature. The crowds thronging the route Jesus was taking through Jericho blocked Zacchaeus’s view of the man he so desperately wanted, no needed to see. But he did not give up. He did not allow this obstacle to prevent him seeing Jesus, from seeking a new way in his life. No, he found a tree, a sycamore tree, and he climbed up into its branches. His efforts paid off. He saw Jesus, but more importantly, Jesus saw him.
What Jesus said to the man is extraordinary: He said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19.5). Can you imagine the look of surprise on the face of Zacchaeus?
Jesus knew the man’s name, and you would have to think that Jesus knew something about the man himself. Yet, when Jesus addressed Zacchaeus, he did not see a shady, crooked, despised tax collector. No, he saw a man who had undoubtedly made some mistakes in life, who had obviously earned the ire of his neighbors, but who was desperately wanting, needing renewal.
The genuineness of Zacchaeus’s heart is seen in his words. He said to Jesus, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much”
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