Summary: Genuine salvation requires making Jesus “Lord” in both words and deeds
This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
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.”
If you haven’t already filed your income taxes this year, you still have a few weeks left, but when you do, please don’t be like the person who sent this letter to the IRS several years ago:
“Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest.”
I don’t think there is anyone here this morning who really likes to pay taxes, even though fair taxation was an important part of the civil and religious structure of Israel and we are clearly commanded in the Bible to pay taxes that are fairly imposed on us. But for the most part, none of us would really consider an IRS agent to be a particularly evil or villainous person.
But things were much different in the days of Jesus. The Romans divided Israel into three tax districts and then hired a chief tax collector to oversee the collections in each district, usually based on who would pay the most for that right. Then that chief collector would hire additional IRS agents to help collect the taxes. But instead of fair and consistent tax rates, the Romans just told the chief tax collector how much money he had to remit to the Roman government and then he got to keep anything else he could raise on top of that. So it’s easy to see why the tax collectors became greedy extortioners who used pressure and intimidation to get as much as they could from their fellow Jews. And it’s also easy to see why they were the most hated and reviled people in that culture.
But interestingly, in the gospels, and especially in the gospel of Luke, tax collectors are shown in a favorable light. Even one of Jesus’ twelve apostles was a tax collector. So it’s not a big surprise that Luke uses the account of a conversation Jesus has with one of those tax collectors to illustrate an important truth about the gospel.
That conversation with Jesus is the perfect follow up to the one we looked at last week. In fact, in Luke’s gospel account, this event occurs right after Jesus conversation with the rich young man. In essence, we are going to see that it is indeed possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, at least spiritually. And we’ll see living proof that while it is indeed difficult, it is possible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
And we’re also going to see that this passage provides us with some appropriate standards that we can use to evaluate our own lives in order to determine if Jesus genuinely is our Savior and Lord.
Jesus is now on His final trip to Jerusalem where He is going to be crucified in just a matter of days. He has a divine appointment there in Jericho with a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus, whose name ironically means “clean and pure” or “righteous”. But as we’ve already talked about, as a chief tax collector that hardly described his character before he meets Jesus.
Zacchaeus was rich, but apparently he realized that there was still something missing in his life. So when he heard that Jesus would be passing through town, we are told he “was seeking to see who Jesus was”. We can’t be totally sure why he wanted to see who Jesus was because we’re not told specifically, but what is clear here is that he was willing to go to great lengths to do that.