Summary: Jesus has the desire to bring those who are far off back to him.
“Jesus has the desire to bring those who are far off back to him.”
Sunday Morning Sermon
Intro: (Start with Title and text)
There’s a story about a local fitness center, which was offering $1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate that they were stronger than the owner of the place. Here’s how it worked. This muscle man would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and then hand the lemon to the next challenger. Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out would win the money.
Many people tried over time other weightlifters, construction workers, even professional wrestlers, but nobody could do it.
One day a short and skinny guy came in and signed up for the contest. After the laughter died down, the owner grabbed a lemon and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains to the little man.
The crowd’s laughter turned to silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As the crowd cheered, the manager paid out the winning prize and asked the short guy what he did for a living. “Are you a lumberjack, a weightlifter, or what?”
The man replied, “I work for the IRS.”
It’s hard to see people as a new creation sometimes. When they come to Christ, and accept Jesus as Lord – they are made new. It’s easy to, in our minds point out some of the things they’ve done in the past. It’s even easier to bring those forward and almost get a self-righteous joy from their not being able to let whatever it is go. Because the truth is – we all struggle with something.
Our scripture this morning takes us to a very familiar story. The story is about a wee little man. A short guy. Horizontally challenged.
Turn with me if you have your Bibles to (Advance) Luke 19:1-10 (read)
This story is set as Jesus entered Jericho going to Jerusalem for the final week of his life.
We first see a: (Advance)
I. Searching Sinner (1-4)
i. A wee little man (and a wee little man was he)
ii. The Hebrew name that lies behind it uses a root word meaning “clean/innocent”
He wasn’t living up to his name. He was a: (Advance)
1. Chief Tax Collector
Imagine all the love you feel for the IRS, and multiply it by 100. The unique thing about their tax system is they had people who actually collected taxes, we do too, and they are called auditors, I understand that. It was common practice in their day to add several percent on to actual amount owed, and for the collector to keep it. (Advance)
a. People didn’t like tax collectors (Advance)
b. He wasn’t the kind of man you’d bring home to mom and dad. (Advance)
c. He wasn’t just a tax collector – he was the chief tax collector.
The house that he owned, the cars he had, the white picket fence in his yard – all paid for by taking a little off the top. It’s the idea that he was so rotten – he taught others to cheat, and make their living by cheating.
Luke adds the fact that he was:
Jesus mentioned the fate of the rich in dealing with a young ruler – he said
Luke 18:25 – Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
He didn’t say it was impossible – remember Jesus’ response to the disciples – “With God all things are possible”.
b. He was a searching sinner
i. He knew that he was missing out on something
ii. He knew that he wasn’t experiencing “life”
My guess is that this is probably NOT the first experience he had with Jesus. Maybe he was in the crowd when he was speaking to the rich young ruler. Maybe he heard their dialogue. Maybe he saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, maybe he saw Jesus heal the sick, tell the lame to get up and walk, cure the blind. We don’t know for sure what experience Zack has had with Jesus. Maybe he was like many in that time – who had just heard of Jesus, and didn’t have any experience with him at all. He just heard from a distance.
c. He wanted a distant relationship with Christ
A wee little man – he climbs a fig-sycamore tree. Although he is rich, he couldn’t get a place in the front of the line. It seems that not only was he physically short – he was also short in social standing, people didn’t like him. Kinda like the kid that picks his nose, I’m talking about the kid that gets caught picking his nose – it’s hard to be friends with someone like that. It was hard to be friends with Z