Summary: Some valuable lessons we learn from the story of Zaccheus.
Hide and Seek: Seek and Save
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
There’s a story told about a fitness center. This fitness center owner was offering $1,000 to anyone who could prove that they were stronger than he was. Her’s how it worked: the owner of the fitness center was a real muscle man, and he would take a lemon and squeeze it until all the juice had run into a glass. He’d then hand the lemon to the challenger. Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out, would win the money. Many people tried overtime - weight lifters, construction workers - even professional wrestlers but no-one could get another drop of juice out of that lemon. One day a short, skinny guy came in and signed up for the contest. Amid the laughs and snickers of the crowd, the owner grabbed a lemon and squeezed the juice out of it and handed it to the scrawny looking man. The man clenched his fist around the lemon, squeezed, and six more drops of juice fell into the glass. Everybody went silent, the owner paid out the money and then asked him, “Are you a lumberjack, a weightlifter, or what?” The man picked up his money, walked to the door and said, “No. None of those. I work for Internal Revenue.”
Our scripture passage this morning talks about a man who was a tax collector. But this guy was liked even less than the IRS. This guy was despised. Not only was he a tax collector, but he was a chief tax collector. That means he had bought the rights from Rome to collect taxes in that part of Jericho and he was allowed to add his cut. See, if the required taxes were say, 5%, Zacchaeus could add another 5% for himself. And he was doing it!! And Jericho was a great place to be to collect taxes because people were coming in and out of the city on their way to Jerusalem for the passover. The Jews considered Zacchaeus a traitor, and Rome hated him because he was a Jew, but they tolerated him because he obviously got the job done, because verse 2 tells us he was rich. That means Rome was getting their full payment.
Just to make the point a little clearer of what people would have thought of Zaccheaus, he would have been considered equivalent today of say, a drug dealer to kids, or a sex offender. There was hardly anyone who was thought less of than a tax collector.
Now with that background, I want to suggest three things to you this morning about who Zacchaeus was, and then I’m going to follow that with three things that Zacchaeus found that we can offer to people today if we’re willing. (The practical application, if you like.)
First of all, I want to suggest to you this morning, that
1. Zacchaeus was LONELY.
Look at verse 3 - it says Zacchaeus was trying to find out who Jesus was . It doesn’t say he just wanted to SEE Jesus, he wanted to know who he was - what made Jesus so different. And we know that he didn’t want to be seen, because it says he ran ahead and climbed up a tree. Now think about it. If Zacchaeus was perfectly content - if he was happy with his riches and his home life, do you think he’d have gotten up to the antics he got up to? It would be like us seeing some wealthy, all-put-together person in town running ahead in a parade and climbing a light pole to see it better. (If I knew someone .... Hmmm - imagine the fair is in town and all of a sudden Ben Pxxxxx comes running early onto the fairgrounds, and climbs up onto one of the rides and hides there, because he wants so desperately to see the elephants come by.
I think Zacchaeus wasn’t just curious to see Jesus. I think he was desperate to see Jesus. Why? Because he ran. Desperate people run. And he climbed the tree. Most adults don’t climb trees unless they’re being chased by a lion or trying to escape a flood. Most adults don’t climb trees unless they’re looking .... looking for a way out of something.
That’s the second thing. Zacchaeus was looking.
2. Zacchaeus was LOOKING. Verse 4 tells us that. And the context of these verses suggests that Zaccheaus was looking intensely. He wanted something. I think he knew something was missing in his life so he got resourceful - he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree. He didn’t allow the crowd or his short stature keep him from seeing Jesus. BUT...even though Zacchaeus was looking, he was LOST.
# 3 Zacchaeus was LOST.