Summary: A look, on tax day, at Zacchaeus, to remind us how Jesus is concerned with finding and saving the lost people of our world
The town is Jericho. It’s that city that Israel had destroyed, where Rahab lived. It may be the oldest city on earth. 23 layers of ancient civilizations have been uncovered at the ancient site.
Remember that Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan and the road going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. (Here’s a picture of that road today.) Jesus was on His way up to Jerusalem, passing through Jericho. Luke records for us how Jesus finds Himself surrounded by a crowd of people. They’re looking for something. In fact, everyone in this story is looking for something. I’m willing to bet that the same thing is true of everyone here this morning. So, we’re going to look at this familiar story and ask, in a grammatically incorrect fashion, placing the preposition at the end of the phrase, “What’s everyone looking for?”
What are they looking for?
I. The Crowd
That day, there was a crowd of people surrounding Jesus as He walked. What were they looking for? Was there just nothing better to do in Jericho? Well, they at least were looking for…
1. Jesus, sort of
There are always crowds around Jesus during His ministry. Several times, He has to struggle just to have time to eat or to teach the 12.
People of Jericho had heard something about Jesus – enough that they came out in a large crowd to see Him. Maybe it was to see a miracle, or to hear Him teach, or for a free lunch, like He had done up north by the Sea of Galilee.
On more than one occasion, Jesus said some things that thinned the crowds around Him. He wasn’t trying to get rid of people, but His words definitely had a way of separating the sincere people from the thrill seekers; words that dealt with the people who said, “Lord, I will follow You, but…” “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
“…unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
“…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
"…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Maybe the more basic thing the crowds are looking for is…
When you go to the doctor, are you looking for someone to really tell you what’s wrong and needs to be fixed, or are you looking for someone who will ignore the symptoms and tell you there’s no problem? Many of the people who followed Jesus around were seeking justification, like the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18 – “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Just before this, Jesus told a story about people who are seeking to be justified. The point of it was to show the difference between people seeking His real help and seeking just to feel OK about themselves without His help.
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Justification. We need this in our lives, and deep down we know it. The question is, how are we going to find it? What are we going to do to be able to live with ourselves? How can you face that person in the mirror tomorrow morning, especially when the mirror is filled with reminders that you’re not perfect – not even close – where it counts?
I suppose in the crowd there was a mix of what people were seeking that day. One thing the crowd wasn’t seeking was how to help short, despicable, outcast tax guys.
Speaking of short, despicable, outcast tax guys, let’s consider what Zacchaeus was seeking…
I’m sure Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. So are you. When a rich man is willing to run ahead and climb a tree just to get a look at Jesus, you can be pretty sure that he really did want to see Jesus.
Look at this story and think about the obstacles that Zacchaeus had to overcome to be able just to see Jesus. Yeah, he had to climb a tree and all that. Really, there’s much more…