Summary: If we want to minister like Jesus we must be intentional, unconditional and relational.
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.”
This morning we’ll look at the account of a first century IRS agent and see how Jesus ministered to him as we continue our series that is focusing on how Jesus ministered to others. Since every Christ follower is a minister, we are looking to the example of Jesus to learn how we can be more effective in our own ministry to others, both personally and as a body.
So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 19 and follow along as I begin reading in verse 1:
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:1-10 (ESV)
Before we develop some ministry principles from this passage, we need to take a few moments to make sure we understand the cultural background here.
Collecting taxes during the time of Jesus was a bit different than it was today. There were no 1040 forms that everyone filled out and mailed into the IRS along with a check. The Roman government sold the equivalent of a franchise to Jews who then were given the right to collect taxes from their own people. But there was no Internal Revenue Code to determine how much each person had to pay in taxes. Instead, the Roman government required each tax collector to remit a certain amount of taxes to them and the tax collector got to keep everything he could collect over and above that amount.
As you can imagine, this led to all kinds of extortion, fraud and abuse. It’s no wonder that the Jews regarded the tax collectors as traitors. Since they were considered to be liars and defiled, no tax collector could testify in a Jewish court and they were not allowed to worship in the Temple or in a synagogue.
But by taking the time to minister to a despised tax collector named Zacchaeus, Jesus demonstrates several ministry principles that we can take and apply in our day-to-day lives as we minister to others. We’ll focus on just three of those principles today.
Jesus’ ministry was intentional
This event occurred a little over a week before Jesus would give His life on a Roman cross. So Jesus probably had a lot on His mind. And yet, He takes time from His busy schedule to seek out one person from the large crowds that followed Him. We don’t know from this account exactly why Jesus chose to single out Zacchaeus that day. But for some reason, as Jesus surveyed the throngs around Him, He understood that this vertically challenged tax collector who had climbed up into a tree so that he could see Jesus as He walked by had some needs He could meet.