Summary: In Christ life isn’t meaningless - we have a living hope, a promise from God that there is more to life than this...
Ecclesiastes 1 NIV
2 "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
3 What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
11 There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.
I wonder if those words rung in the head of the rich man – he had all anyone could want, well possessions anyway. He purchased rugs that had been imported from the far east he furnished his home with beautiful things maybe even surrounded himself with beautiful women, not caring that they were there only for his money. But like so many rich people, his life was empty. He was really alone. Like the words of Ecclesiastes he rightly questioned what he really had gained from all his hard work – his life was essentially meaningless – simply amassing more and more wealth. He knew people didn’t like him, well in fact he knew most of them despised him. And yes others just like him, even some of those who worked for him in the city, died and were buried and forgotten about after the most token period of mourning. They made no mark on history, thy wouldn’t be remembered for anything and the only way they touched peoples lives was to fleece them. And he would go the same way – another generation, come and gone. Is this really it? Is this all there is? Is life really doomed to be meaningless or simply vanity as the KJV puts it?
He had heard about something that rubbed up against that passage from scripture..something that may be new, a man who was saying surprising things and offering people something more than the trivia of life – although of course it was the diseased and poor who were flocking to him looking for some sort of release – no that wasn’t him – I’m alright, I have everything I need. OK I’m not handsome, I’m not liked but I’m rich! I can buy pretty much anything 0 even friends. But his own words sounded hollow in his ears – meaningless, hopeless forgotten, irrelevant – they were the words that haunted him as he approached the edge of the crowd. He wasn’t going to loose his dignity pushing through the rabble to get a view but the closer he got and the bigger the crowd grew the more curious he became – curiosity that gave way to a kind of hunger.
He needed to know more – what if these people were right – what if there was something else – what if life wasn’t meaningless what if there was more than this? He saw a tree, just budding in the early spring sunshine, and he remembered the last time he’d climbed one – he’d just been a boy. A boy of religious parents – wouldn’t they be proud of him – a rich government employee – a senior manager, responsible for a dozen or more tax collectors in the city… wouldn’t they be astonished at how well he’d done at how big his hose was? Well maybe, as long as they didn’t find out about his dishonesty – but that was part of the job, it was expected… accepted even… but they would know, everyone knew, they knew where it all came from, the pain his work created in families in communities already struggling to feed their children. They’d be disappointed, he knew that really, they had taught him better but it had become obscured so quickly by the meaningless accrual of possessions and the empty promise of the life he’d chosen.
As he climbed the tree his heart was heavy – he was restless, his belly full but in every other way, empty. He could see the man they were all talking about in the distance – people pushed in all around him – men trying to make space so he could walk down the street. He realized that he wasn’t even going to hear what this man Jesus had to say – but he’d just wanted a glimpse of him. As Jesus drew level with the tree he looked up – looked him right in the eye – what a look, a searching look and as people turned to look too he thought Oh no – here we go…they’ll know who I am…but the man called his name, he shouted Zaccheus – hurry up, get down from that tree, I need to stay at your house! How was it possible, how?! He called my name – but Zaccheus didn’t delay, he literally jumped out of the tree and oblivious to the shouts and jeers of the people around him, pushing, yelling even spitting at him – he led this man Jesus to his home. And of course we all know that Zaccheus discovered that life isn’t meaningless, life isn’t without purpose and Jesus went to his house to teach others about repentance. Zaccheus realized the emptiness of his life and filled it with the hope that Christ gave him that afternoon in Jericho. A hope of glory to come and the chance to live a life that wasn’t empty but a life characterized by the hope given to him by the son of God – a living hope expressed by the Holy Spirit abiding in him – guiding his life and helping him live a life of example to others who’d been just like him.