Summary: When Jesus comes around your life are you like Zacchaeus who couldn’t wait to see and experience Jesus - or are you like the third servant in Jesus’ parable who wants nothing to do with the family business?
If you’ve ever been laid off and received unemployment insurance you know the saying "able, available, and actively seeking." It’s what you’ve got to do in order to continue receiving those benefits. You are able to work, you are available to accept work, and you are actively seeking to find another job.
Today I want to apply it to two stories in the first half of Luke 19-one real story, and one fictional that Jesus tells. They contrast the idea of able, available, and actively seeking God in the person of Zacchaeus with the servants who received the ten minas or talents-especially the third servant, who was anything but able, available or actively seeking. Zacchaeus wanted God more than anything, and got saved. The last servant wanted nothing to do with his master and so got what he wanted: nothing.
So what is the condition of our hearts when it comes to seeking and serving God? Let’s find out.
Verses 1 - 10 Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus is a study in contradictions. He was small in stature-a "wee little man." He was also hated-not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Tax collectors worked for Rome. They collected taxes from the people, but there was no 1040 to fill out. Basically the Tax Collector told you how much you owed and you either paid or they put you in jail. The amount was flexible depending on how much extra the Tax Collector thought he could get out of you. The Tax Collectors were considered traitors to Rome and were outsiders in Jewish society. They were also outsiders to Rome because they were Jews. Catch 22, right? Matthew was a Tax Collector. I wonder if word didn’t get to Zacchaeus that Jesus had changed Levi’s (Matthew’s) life.
But here’s this shrimp of a traitor living in Jericho. Luke takes pains to note one thing about him. He was rich. Have you ever noticed how money gains respect? I mean, look at Bill Gates. Bill Gates is a geek. He looks like a geek, dresses like a geed, and talks like a geek. In high school we made fun of guys like that. Yet Bill Gates is the richest man in America. I guarantee that if you met Bill Gates you would shake his hand and say "yes, sir, thank you sir, how are you sir?" It’s kind of the "geeks revenge" which I like ’cause I was sort of that way when I was younger, but that’s another story.
So here’s Zacchaeus-ridiculed and abandoned by society, yet feared for his power and respected for his wealth. I’m sure that despite how awful they felt about him, the people also envied him. But at the same time they wished for the fleas on a thousand camels to make their home in his bed, or something.
I want to notice three things about Zacchaeus: his persistence in finding Jesus, his eagerness to approach Jesus, and his willingness to be changed by Jesus. When his environment kept him from seeing the Savior clearly, he moved, even climbed a tree-how much gall did that take? Then when the Holy Spirit revealed to Jesus that there was a man ready to receive Him, He called out and invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ life. So he hurried down with joy-despite the grumbling of those around him. You might think "well, Zacchaeus was pretty lonely so the fact that this important man paid attention to him was the only reason he responded that way."
I don’t think so because not only did he move to find Jesus, come when Jesus called, but then responded by completely repenting of his past life of cheating and stealing. I think this is a great picture of how people can come to Christ, no matter how bad they were, or no matter how far away from the kingdom they appear. Don’t underestimate the power of the gospel to reach a heart that seems hard, and don’t be surprised or even a little put off when a "sinner" turns to Jesus.
So right then, with Zacchaeus fresh on their mind and standing in their midst, He tells this great story about what happens to lives in which the gospel has been planted.
Verses 11 - 27
The parable of the Ten Minas operates on several levels-both historic, specific for the disciples, and also for all those called to serve the King of Kings.
Historically the Jews would have immediately recognized the storyline: in order for someone to be recognized as a king they would have to travel to Rome. One of Herod’s sons, Archelaus, had done so, but he was so evil that the Jews sent a delegation to Rome to plead against him. Archelaus was given the kingdom, but not the title of king until he could prove himself, which he never did. Archelaus had 3,000 Jews killed on his first Passover.