Summary: What a terrible position to be in, when we find ourselves dangerously positioned higher than Christ. This is when Jesus challenges us to Come On Down.
TITLE: COME ON DOWN
SCRIPTURE: ST. LUKE 19:1-10
I am reminded of a game show that has been televised since 1956 entitled THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Even if you are not a fan of the game show we are very familiar with the announcers call to those in attendance as they hope for the opportunity to be called as a contestant in an effort to win various Prizes and Trips. The announcer calls a contestants name from the audience and it is followed by the CLARION CALL of COME ON DOWN.
• Excited contestants have jumped from their seats and run down the aisle in excitement
• They take their place with the host and try to accurately guess the cost of various items
• Ultimately, if you do not hear your name called followed by Come On Down, then you simply keep your seat until the next round
In our text this morning we find this same scenario taking place before us. We can literally hear the clarion call of Come On Down and the EXCITEMENT and ANTICIPATION that follows. What is the Prize? Money – Trips? Throughout history, even our governments and other entities have often decided that EXTRACTING EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF MONEY from people was a great way to RAISE LARGE AMOUNTS OF REVENUE. That was rarely more true, than within the Roman Empire.
• The Roman Empire was, after all, an expensive proposition
• All those roads, government buildings, local rulers and soldiers had to be underwritten
• Heavily taxing the local citizens was an answer to the money need
The sad reality is that the Roman Empire resembles much of Christendom today. From pulpits across the land it seems as though many of those in leadership are only concerned about Extracting Excessive Amounts of Money and dressing it – wrapping it in the pages of the Holy Writ. It seems to me that the local church has become nothing more than a facility to Raise Large Amounts of Revenue and focus upon building barns.
• Pastors are just like Superstars
• Pastors can no longer be bothered with people
• Personal jets to keep them separated from the masses
• Travel in luxury automobiles
• Live in the best neighborhoods
• The danger is when these things become our Motivation
In our text we find a Wealthy Man by the name of ZACCHAEUS. According to Scripture, he was a "CHIEF TAX COLLECTOR." This does not mean Zacchaeus was a civil servant as are the tax collectors of the Internal Revenue Service in our day and age. In fact, the Roman system of government had no civil servants; instead, the civil service was run by volunteers. Back then, tax collectors were self-employed businessmen who bid for the right to collect taxes for the Romans. They made a profit only by collecting more in taxes than they had contracted to pay to the Roman authorities.
• In the Israel of Jesus’ day, the Romans recruited locals to be their tax collectors
• Local citizens would know who had money and who therefore could be squeezed for larger “contributions“
• We meet such a Roman employee today
In the Roman provinces there were THREE MAIN KINDS OF TAXES:
• A PRODUCE TAX - on all the crops and goods produced
• A UNIVERSAL POLL TAX - assessed every resident
• A TOLL OR CUSTOMS TAX - to be paid as goods were transported from one province to another. To collect this last tax, custom booths were located at the border between provinces on all the major highways and trade routes
Tax collectors like Zacchaeus were hated and feared. Don't forget, they were self-employed businessmen who made a profit only by collecting more in taxes than they had contracted to pay to the Roman authorities.
• Zacchaeus" – that's a Hebrew name
• This means Zacchaeus was a Jew and a physical descendant of Abraham
• "Zacchaeus" – this name means "the righteous one"
• Obviously, Zacchaeus did not live up to the promise of his name for he was anything but righteous
• Also, he may trace his physical descent from Abraham, but he is not a true child of Abraham
• True children of Abraham, you see, have Abraham's faith and righteousness
In spite all that we know about Zacchaeus, he is famous to New Testament readers, not because of his occupation, but because of his size. His short stature, not his short-changing of people in Jericho are how Bible readers remember him. The text introduces this Biblical figure to us by informing that Jesus was passing through Jericho. Apparently, Zacchaeus had heard about the man called Jesus. He hears that Jesus and a crowd were about to pass through. Because of his short stature he runs and climbs up into a Sycamore Tree to catch a glimpse of the famous teacher.