Summary: The pull of the church is always inward. There is much we can learn from Zacchaeus.
Projectionist: Start by showing 5_MeChurch
It doesn’t matter whether you have been in church all of your life, are coming back to the church after a long time away, or are new to church. Our natural pull is always going to be toward a church that we perceive as meeting our particular wants and desires.
The natural pull of every church is away from the mission the Lord left for us to do and toward an insider-club mentality focus. Because of this natural pull it is important that we remind ourselves from time to time why the Lord established His church in the first place.
Jesus didn’t leave us guessing on our mission. In the passage we call “The Great Commission” Jesus said, “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, GNB). We have taken this commission and express it as our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. That is not always as easy as we would like it to be because sometimes we get in the way.
Jesus was in Jericho when an interesting encounter took place. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” (Luke 19:1–2, NIV84).
Jericho was an important city in the time of Christ. Its wealth provided for the royal family of Herod quite nicely. It was the main stopping point for anyone traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem.
In this town lived a man by the name of Zacchaeus. His name means “righteous one” but Zacchaeus was not living up to his name! He was anything but righteous!
Much like today, the Jewish people had hierarchy of sin. The really righteous people were the Pharisees. They were viewed by the common people as being the truly religious. They viewed themselves that way and at times could be heard praying that they were glad they weren’t like other folks! Below them were the common people. They were good Jews, but just not as radical as the Pharisees. They had enough religion to keep them right with God (they thought). Today they would be your average church-goer.
Then, below them were "sinners." These were the people who pretty much had given up on any religion. They were bad and they knew it. They didn’t feel they had any chance of having a relationship with God and they were okay with that.
Finally, on the bottom rung were tax collectors--they were the lowest of the low. Even sinners said, "I might be bad, but at least I'm not a tax-collector!"
Then there was Zacchaeus. He is beyond category! He’s even lower than the lowest. I mean, the disciples raised their eyebrows when Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, in a minute they are about to have a stroke!
Our text describes Zacchaeus as a “chief tax-collector.” He not only collected the Roman taxes, he was in charge of all the tax collectors in the area! The result is he grew quite wealthy!
Our text continues, “He wanted to see Jesus . . . .” That’s something no one would have expected. Maybe a sinner, they might want to see Jesus because of what they had heard about Him, maybe a tax-collector, but not this guy! He was too far gone!
“He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.” (Luke 19:3, NIV84). The politically correct phrase by the way is vertically challenged.
While no one would have expected Zacchaeus to be interested in Christ, Zacchaeus was determined to see Him. What he knew about Him we don’t know, but something drew him to Jesus. Problem was, being vertically challenged proved to be an unexpected obstacle to him in this instance.
Another obstacle that kept him from seeing Jesus ironically was the crowd. It is strange to consider that those who were so enthusiastic about Christ were the very people who blocked Zacchaeus’ view.
There is a lesson for us here. Sometimes those of us who are so enthusiastic about spiritual things become the barrier blocking those who desperately need to see Christ! I am not saying we shouldn’t be enthusiastic about the things of God, I think the things of God should be the most exciting thing we do, but when we allow our traditions and desires to rule the day, we may be guilty of acting as a barrier between the Zacchaeus’ all around us and the Savior we claim we want them to know.