Hide and Seek: Seek and Save
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
There’s a story told about a fitness center. This fitness center owner was offering $1,000 to anyone who could prove that they were stronger than he was. Her’s how it worked: the owner of the fitness center was a real muscle man, and he would take a lemon and squeeze it until all the juice had run into a glass. He’d then hand the lemon to the challenger. Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out, would win the money. Many people tried overtime - weight lifters, construction workers - even professional wrestlers but no-one could get another drop of juice out of that lemon. One day a short, skinny guy came in and signed up for the contest. Amid the laughs and snickers of the crowd, the owner grabbed a lemon and squeezed the juice out of it and handed it to the scrawny looking man. The man clenched his fist around the lemon, squeezed, and six more drops of juice fell into the glass. Everybody went silent, the owner paid out the money and then asked him, “Are you a lumberjack, a weightlifter, or what?” The man picked up his money, walked to the door and said, “No. None of those. I work for Internal Revenue.”
Our scripture passage this morning talks about a man who was a tax collector. But this guy was liked even less than the IRS. This guy was despised. Not only was he a tax collector, but he was a chief tax collector. That means he had bought the rights from Rome to collect taxes in that part of Jericho and he was allowed to add his cut. See, if the required taxes were say, 5%, Zacchaeus could add another 5% for himself. And he was doing it!! And Jericho was a great place to be to collect taxes because people were coming in and out of the city on their way to Jerusalem for the passover. The Jews considered Zacchaeus a traitor, and Rome hated him because he was a Jew, but they tolerated him because he obviously got the job done, because verse 2 tells us he was rich. That means Rome was getting their full payment.
Just to make the point a little clearer of what people would have thought of Zaccheaus, he would have been considered equivalent today of say, a drug dealer to kids, or a sex offender. There was hardly anyone who was thought less of than a tax collector.
Now with that background, I want to suggest three things to you this morning about who Zacchaeus was, and then I’m going to follow that with three things that Zacchaeus found that we can offer to people today if we’re willing. (The practical application, if you like.)
First of all, I want to suggest to you this morning, that
1. Zacchaeus was LONELY.
Look at verse 3 - it says Zacchaeus was trying to find out who Jesus was . It doesn’t say he just wanted to SEE Jesus, he wanted to know who he was - what made Jesus so different. And we know that he didn’t want to be seen, because it says he ran ahead and climbed up a tree. Now think about it. If Zacchaeus was perfectly content - if he was happy with his riches and his home life, do you think he’d have gotten up to the antics he got up to? It would be like us seeing some wealthy, all-put-together person in town running ahead in a parade and climbing a light pole to see it better. (If I knew someone .... Hmmm - imagine the fair is in town and all of a sudden Ben Pxxxxx comes running early onto the fairgrounds, and climbs up onto one of the rides and hides there, because he wants so desperately to see the elephants come by.
I think Zacchaeus wasn’t just curious to see Jesus. I think he was desperate to see Jesus. Why? Because he ran. Desperate people run. And he climbed the tree. Most adults don’t climb trees unless they’re being chased by a lion or trying to escape a flood. Most adults don’t climb trees unless they’re looking .... looking for a way out of something.
That’s the second thing. Zacchaeus was looking.
2. Zacchaeus was LOOKING. Verse 4 tells us that. And the context of these verses suggests that Zaccheaus was looking intensely. He wanted something. I think he knew something was missing in his life so he got resourceful - he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree. He didn’t allow the crowd or his short stature keep him from seeing Jesus. BUT...even though Zacchaeus was looking, he was LOST.
# 3 Zacchaeus was LOST.
Now bear with me here for a moment. I want to tell you something about the story that you may not have considered before. Zaccheaus was very resourceful in getting to SEE Jesus but in his desperation, he ended up being further from Jesus. You see, now, when the crowd goes by, and Jesus is in the crowd - oh - he’ll SEE Jesus probably, but he won’t be able to get to him - because he’s up in a tree!!
Let me take a moment and apply that to our lives today. People are lost. The world is lost. And in their very attempt to find their way to the source of whatever they believe may be their salvation, they’ll no doubt get themselves further from where they need to be. Why? Because they’re lost!! Things (and people), that get lost, can’t find themselves - they have to be found. Let me make it clearer with a personal illustration.
A few years ago when I had my motorcycle accident and ended up in a ditch full of dirt, I was lost in the same way the Bible uses the world “lost.” I could not get out of that ditch even though every fibre of my being wanted to. My HEART wanted to. My spirit wanted to. Everything within me wanted to get out of that ditch because I knew I was laying in the dirt. But I couldn’t get out.
And that’s how it is with the world. And that’s how it is with some of the people in OUR town. And I might not be very popular for saying this, and I say with as much love as I possible can, but YOU might be the one you has to get dirty to reach those people.
When we’re laying in the dirt - SOMEBODY’s got to get us out. The firemen that got me out of the ditch that day - they got themselves really dirty by doing it. And when they arrived on the scene that day, they RAN to the ditch and started doing what they had to do to get me outta there!! And they didn’t worry about their clothes, or how good they looked. I don’t know, maybe they had on a good pair of jeans that day - maybe one of them had on a new pair of shoes. But they didn’t look at me down in the ditch and yell down to me and say, “We’re clean up here so we’ll just wait ‘til you get cleaned up and then we’ll come and carry you out. No, of course they didn’t - they had good legs under them. And they RAN, and they got themselves dirty - and they got down in the ditch with me and they CARRIED me out. And they did it with as much gentleness and concern for my hurts, and the situation I found myself in life, as I can ever remember.
And I want to tell you this morning, we who have our spiritual legs under us, need to get down in the ditches and stop worrying so much about looking good and get some lost people found.
(Whew!! - that’s good preachin’! ....) Gotta love me...Bible says so.
Well....let’s move on.
Three things I want us to notice about what happened to Zacchaeus that day. Now remember he’s the worst kind of sinner in the eyes of the religious people. He’s the lowest of the low.
First of all:
1. Zacchaeus found SUPPORT
When Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd, he went to a tree. The tree held him up. The tree lifted him up above the crowd.
Here’s my question: Are you willing to be a tree to lift people up so they can see Jesus? What would have happened to Zacchaeus if that tree hadn’t been there that day? We’ll never know. But that’s because Jesus made sure there was a tree right there for Zacchaeus. And Jesus is planting you right in front of some people for you to lift up - it might be your farm-hand, it might be your receptionist - it might be your mechanic - it might be that little kid that keeps walking across your lawn when you’ve told him 100 times not to. It might be a son or daughter. Or maybe it’s the person you’re sitting next to right now.
2. Zacchaeus found SAFETY. Look at verse 5 with me. When Jesus reached THE SPOT (you see it had been prepared), he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Jesus called him by name. Don’t you feel better when someone calls you by name? The first word Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, was his name. Zacchaeus had probably been called many names. But at the tree Jesus didn’t say, “Zacchaeus, you’re a thief. Now repent and pay back to these poor people what you took from them. You see, Jesus doesn’t place expectations on us. If he did, none of us, not one - would meet the mark. No! What Jesus said was, (in today’s language), “Hey Zach, come on down outta that tree. Let’s go to your house and get to know each other....Because .... once you know me....you’ll want to be like me.”
I believe Zacchaeus felt safe in Jesus presence AND with Jesus’ request. You see in those days to invite someone to your house meant you accepted them - they were your friend.
Verse 6 says he hurried and came down and welcomed Jesus. Zacchaeus didn’t waste any time getting out of the tree. That word “gladly” or “joyfully” in the original text, carries with it the idea of being overwhelmed with joy. See Zacchaeus wanted to get a closer look to find out who Jesus was. Jesus saw beyond who Zacchaeus was and knew what Zacchaeus needed, and without any coaxing on anyone’s part, Zacchaeus became all that he was supposed to be in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus gave him more than what he expected. Jesus brought
3. SALVATION to his house that day. Verse 9 tells us that.
And Jesus will always do that for you and for me. If we simply look for Jesus, he’ll always give us more than we could ask or think. He’ll overwhelm us with joy and bring us salvation.
Now let me ask you a question. When people watch you. When your friend, family, co-workers, whoever - when they see you - do they see a person who is overwhelmed with joy because of their relationship with Jesus?
What do they see when they see you? There was a song my father used to play for us a lot. I’ve never forgotten it. It goes like this:
If you could see Jesus in me,
All his wonder and majesty,
You’d see a new love,
Only sent from above,
And the Savior you’d see in me.
And if I had one wish, I could grant you,
That one wish would surely be,
That to lok in my face you’d see glory and grace,
And the Savior you’d see in me.
But I’m just a flesh-bound traveler
And his light is often darkened by me.
But always I pray, there will come a glad day
When all will see Jesus in me.
Do they see Jesus in you? Are you a Zacchaeus this morning looking for something and getting obliterated by the crowd, or do you feel small because of people’s put-downs, or your own ugly sins. Do you feel like you’re too short to see Jesus? Or maybe you feel like God has been calling you to be a tree in somebody’s life and you haven’t really been where you should be. May I encourage you this morning, whatever it is, get it right with Jesus. Zacchaeus did - he found salvation. And we’re told he gave up half of his possessions to the poor and promised to pay back 4 times the amount to anyone whom he had cheated. He had surrendered it all to Christ. He went looking for Jesus. He found his Lord.
(If you don’t know him this morning and you feel like you’re seeking, or the Lord has been speaking to you - he wants to come to your house.....AD LIB..invitation..)
Note: Credit for the outline (the points) of this sermon may belong to someone else. I can’t remember if it is my outline or not.