Summary: How did Jesus first get your attention? Was it through circumstances, another person’s witness, or is He still trying to get your attention. This sermon is a salvation message to anyone anywhere.
Is Jesus Standing Under Your Tree?
INTRODUCTION: When Jesus went to Jericho to teach, there was already quite a crowd of people who had gathered there. In fact, one man went early so he could get a seat--in a tree of all places Zacchaeus, a short person, couldn’t see for the crowd. He climbed up into a tree so he could see and hear what Jesus had to say.
No one would have thought that this man would be interested in spiritual things let alone make any special effort to be there. He was a tax collector who worked for the Roman authorities, a cheat and a thief. That had made him a wealthy man, and the Jews didn’t want anything to do with him. They resented him and hated him.
Zaccheus had a longing in his heart for something better than he had. He was searching, but the crowd had written him off. Would Jesus even know he was there or speak to him? In that crowd Zacchaeus would probably have been voted the least likely person to come to Jesus. You probably know some people that are just like this. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, send some SEARCHING nonbelievers across my pathway this week?” That sounds like a good way to pray, but the Lord may lead us to speak to people who are NOT searching yet. They may be as hard as nails right now.
One writer said, “We must interact with people concerning the gospel BEFORE we know they are ready.” We must let God decide who are SEEKERS and who are NONSEEKERS. Do you agree with this statement? We would have probably missed Zacchaeus. We don’t always know who the true seekers are, and therefore, we must be ready to do the work of evangelism with the ones God brings our way.
Sometimes we pre-judge people and say, “Oh, they wouldn’t be interested.” There used to be a student who came into my office to talk every day at lunch time. She would bring me a Reese cup and one for herself. We talked about all kinds of things and about the Lord. She didn’t go to church and didn’t want to go to church. After eating Reese cups all year, she came in at the end of the school year and just out of the blue said, “You’ll be happy to know that I went to church Sunday.” (I know I was happy not to have to eat any more Reese cups for awhile).
John Wesley believed that “God is busy working in people’s lives from the beginning.” One person described a person’s coming to Christ like a chain with many links. There is the first link and the last link and many in between. The Lord may use you to speak to a person at any of these links including the very first link when they are OPENLY HOSTILE toward the gospel or He may have you to close the deal.
In Zacchaeus’ case, people would have written him off, but Jesus knew what was in his heart. Zacchaeus was hoping that Jesus would know how he was feeing about his life and help him change for the better. On the inside something was missing. There was a “big hole” in the middle of his heart. He knew he had done wrong by stealing from the people. He may have thought, “I wish Jesus knew what was in my heart--how tired I am of fooling people and pretending to be something I am not. I wish Jesus knew how guilty I feel and how sorry I am for the way I have acted.”
Although Zacchaeus was a person who was not living for Jesus, he was beginning to want a change in his life. Do you think that Jesus know about the conflicts that Zacchaeus was experiencing? Yes, Jesus DID know. You don’t have to talk with your lips in order for God to hear you. He will hear the cry of your heart and your inner wishes. Scripture says that God knows our thoughts (Jeremiah 29:11).
Once in the tree, Zacchaeus settled back to listen to Jesus but that didn’t last for long. In spite of the crowd surrounding Jesus that day, Jesus stopped directly under the very sycamore tree in which Zacchaeus was sitting. Do you think it was just a coincidence or all a part of the plan and purpose of God? How do you suppose Zacchaeus felt when Jesus saw him there, looked up, and spoke to him? He stopped, looked up and said, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay in your house today.” What do you think of Jesus’ approach with him? If you had been Zacchaeus when Jesus singled him out, how would you have felt? Would it have embarrassed you? He may have been both excited and afraid. He may have felt put on the spot. After all he was not with a group of supportive friends. He may have felt uncomfortable. He probably didn’t dream that Jesus was going to say anything to him in the first place. Sometimes people don’t like to go to church because they feel put on the spot not knowing what to do or say. Zacchaeus might have felt that people were staring at him. He may have wondered what was coming next. His hands may have felt clammy and his throat dry. What would you have done in a situation like this?