Summary: God calls us from our sychamore tree and requests residence in our hearts.
Text: When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).
In my mind, I picture Zacchaeus as being about 5 feet tall with dark hair, a little goatee, average size nose, thick eyebrows, medium to dark brown skin color, beady piercing eyes, an attitude of superiority and having little feeling and sympathy for the average person.
The fact he was a short person led him to believe he had to demonstrate his importance by exercising authority over anyone he could. Little people have a tendency to have this feeling. Deep in their hearts they have an inferiority complex, but to compensate for this, they try to exhibit a superior attitude toward other people.
The King James Version says that Zacchaeus was “chief among the publicans” (Luke 19:2). During this time in history, there were many professions and occupations. There were physicians, nurses, plowman, judges, herdsmen, musicians, priests, prophets, rulers, schoolmasters, publicans, etc. The publicans were tax collectors similar to our county tax collectors, state tax collectors or federal tax collectors.
There were two classes of publicans. There was the “chief publican”, which is the title and position Zacchaeus held and then there were the other regular publicans who engaged in the actual collection of the taxes. In Orange County, we have Earl K. Wood who is the head or chief tax collector and then he has numerous people working for him who actually collect the taxes. Earl would be like the “chief tax collector or publican” and the people working under him would be the ordinary tax collectors or publicans. We don’t use the term “publican”, but we say they work for the county tax collector’s office.
Tax collectors in the days of Zacchaeus were not well liked. They had a reputation of cheating the people. The were collecting taxes for the Roman government, but many times they would exhort additional taxes from the people and put that money in their pockets. The publicans or tax collectors were cheaters who worked against the people paying taxes. Zacchaeus was “chief of the publicans” and acquired much money using unfair tactics.
I don’t believe Zacchaues’ career goal was to be a cheat, but I think as he gained power and prestige, the sins of greed, envy and pride set in and he became spiteful, selfish and self-centered. This same thing still goes on today. An individual moves up the rungs of the corporate ladder, reaches the top rung, and forgets how it is on the bottom rung of the ladder. Once the top rung is reach, more opportunities and benefits avail themselves and soon the individual becomes like Zacchaeus, conceited and uncaring of the people below him. We have seen this recently in the Enron Corporation. One sin leads to another and soon your sin will find you out.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).
Why did Jesus say this to Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus was a cheater who daily took advantage of people.
If we stop and think for a moment, we realize God created Zacchaeus just as he created us. God knew Zacchaeus before he was even conceived in the womb. God knew each of us before we were ever conceived in the womb. God spoke these words to the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
God had a purpose for Jeremiah’s life, a purpose for Zacchaeus’ life and he has a purpose for each of our lives. God appoints specific kinds of work for some people. Jeremiah’s work was “to be a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5); John the Baptist came a witness, “to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe; He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:7,8).
David was chosen by God, at the age 15 years, to ascend the throne some years later. Scripture indicates that Samuel sent for David, who was in the field tending the sheep, to come and be in his presence. “So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (I Samuel 16:11-13).
Paul was chosen by God to do a specific work. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul records these words: “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus” (Galatians 1:15-17). It was divine intervention that changed this man, Paul, from a persecutor of the Christians to the greatest Christian missionary that ever lived.