Summary: Comparison of the "rich young ruler" and Zacchaeus. Haughty verses humble.
A CAMEL, A NEEDLE, AND A SYCAMORE TREE
(A Tale of Two Rich Men)
Tonight our Scripture reading is from the Book of Luke. The first passage is Luke 18:18-25 and the second is Luke 19:1-10. Go ahead and find both of these in your Bibles, and place your fingers between the pages.
We’re going to be flipping back and forth between these passages as we compare two rich men who sought out Jesus.
One man we’re going to look at is a ruler, probably a Pharisee, who had the respect of those around him. The other man is a tax collector, who was hated by his people. Not only was he a tax collector, he was a chief tax collector.
Neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke tell who the ruler is, but we do know he is young. He is usually referred to as “the rich young ruler.” Luke does tell us the tax collector’s name. It is Zacchaeus. We don’t know his age, but he is probably a middle-aged man.
The Gospels don’t go into a lot of detail to describe these two men, but we do know they have a few things in common. They are both Jews. They both made a special effort to see Jesus, and they were both wealthy.
Just to set the time and place for you - Jesus and His disciples had passed through Samaria, and they were going through Galilee on the road to Jericho. It wouldn’t be long before they entered Jerusalem where Jesus would be crucified.
Both men were seeking Jesus.
Before Jesus and His disciples entered Jericho, Mark tells us in chapter 10 verse 17, “ 17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him. . .” Look at Luke 18:18. It says, “ 18Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
So we see that the “rich young ruler” was anxious to see and talk to Jesus. He had heard that Jesus was a great rabbi or teacher. He came running and knelt before Him. He was looking for something.
Now look at Luke 19 beginning with verse 1, “ 1Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.”
Zacchaeus had also heard of this great man, and he wanted to see for himself who this man was. There was a crowd of people surrounding Jesus and Zacchaeus, not being very tall couldn’t get a good look.
So he ran ahead as fast as his legs would take him, and climbed up a sycamore tree so that he could see this great rabbi everyone had told him about. Both men were seeking Jesus, and it seems they were seeking Him for the wrong reasons.
The rich young ruler asked Jesus to tell him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. But I believe he just wanted Jesus to reassure him that he was already good enough to inherit eternal life. I don’t think he was seeking a close personal relationship with Jesus.
On the other hand, Zacchaeus was just curious. He saw a large crowd and he knew someone big or famous or popular was coming to town. He may have heard of Jesus and the healing and other miracles He had performed.