Summary: How to get the fresh starts we need: 1. Rush to meet Jesus (vs. 1-4). 2. Joyfully receive the Lord (vs. 5-6). 3. Rededicate yourself to righteous living (vs. 8-9). 4. Keep resting in the grace of God (vs. 7 & 9-10)
Get the Fresh Start You Need
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - April 21, 2013
(Updated from sermon "New Year -- New You" preached at McClendon Baptist Church - Jan. 13, 2008)
*Sometimes height makes a difference. I like the story Gene Jennings told about a high school boy who was filling out an application to work as a lifeguard at a local pool. At the end of the form was a space that said: "Any further information that might show your suitability for the job."
*The young man filled in the blank with these words: "Depth of swimming pool: 6 feet 6 inches -- Height of applicant: 6 feet 7 inches." (1)
*Height (or lack thereof) can make a difference. It certainly did for Zacchaeus. But no matter how tall you are, no matter how smart, no matter how well-off you are, we all need fresh starts in life.
*Zacchaeus shows us how to get the fresh start we need, because if anybody ever needed a fresh start in life, it was Zacchaeus. His name meant "pure," but Zacchaeus was about as far from pure as you can get, because as vs. 2 tells us, he was a chief tax collector. Church: That doesn’t mean he worked for the IRS. No, the system Zacchaeus worked in overflowed with corruption.
*James Moore points out that Zacchaeus must have been despised by his fellow townspeople. They hated paying taxes to Rome and they felt that Zacchaeus, a fellow Jew, had betrayed them, had sold out to Rome, and had gotten rich at their expense. So, they rejected him, shunned him, detested him. If you had conducted a popularity contest in Jericho that day, Zacchaeus may well have come in dead last. (2)
*Bruce Ball tells us that to become a tax collector you had to bribe an official. Rome told you how much to collect, and if you were able to collect more, you could keep the extra. Zacchaeus was pretty good at gouging his fellow Jews, so he ended up being rich. But for a Jewish man to become a Roman tax collector was unthinkable. This was high treason. It was like going over to Afghanistan and joining the terrorists who are fighting against us today. You would be hated for being a traitor.
*If you became a Roman tax collector as a Jew it meant three things:
-Your family would disown you.
-You would never be allowed to worship in the synagogue.
-And you would be considered to be as evil as a murderer. (3)
*Zacchaeus may have had all the friends his money could buy. But deep down he was lonely, empty, and lost. He needed a fresh start in life. And he shows us how to get the fresh start we need.
1. First: Rush to get closer to Jesus.
*Make a real effort to get to know Jesus Christ. Make an effort like Zacchaeus did in vs. 3&4:
3. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.
4. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.
*Jesus was now near the end of His earthly ministry, just days away from the cross. And by now, Zacchaeus had surely heard wonderful stories about Jesus:
-How He healed the sick and raised the dead.
-How He treated sinners with kindness and compassion.
-How He offered forgiveness and hope.
-How He called people to a new way of life.
*God was already at work in Zacchaeus’ heart. Deep inside he realized the emptiness in his heart. Zacchaeus was hungry for more in life. Then he heard that Jesus was coming to town! So he began to search for Jesus. And Zacchaeus didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus.
*He was short, but he didn’t let his size keep him away. "He climbed up in that sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see."
*I used to love climbing trees when I was a kid back in the 1960’s. It was an adventure. With a few boards and a few nails, we would build a fort or a rocket ship up in a tree. And it was easy. We could go up and down those trees like monkeys, but not anymore.
*I don’t think it was too easy for that old tax collector to get up that tree. But Zacchaeus didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus: Not his size and not his pride. We can almost hear the crowd, “Look at that goofy, little-ole-man up in that tree!” But Zacchaeus didn’t let that keep him from Jesus.
*He didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus! -- Not his size, not his pride, and not other people. That crowd wasn’t about to keep him from seeing Jesus. Is there anybody in your life coming between you Christ? Don’t let them do it! Don’t let anything keep you from Jesus: Not your pride, not other people and not your past.