Summary: Zacchaeus was not just a "wee little man" he was also a man who went out on a limb to see Jesus. Having done that, he went out on a limb to be generous. What would happen if we went out on a limb and gave out of our generosity?
"Out On A Limb"
By the Rev. Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
Sunrise Presbyterian Church
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.
2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.
4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."
6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a ’sinner.’"
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
One profession that amazes me is that of the television reporter, especially the network reporters. They get to meet so many of the most interesting and famous people of our age - entertainers, politicians, scientists, astronauts. I think it must be nice to be able to see and meet such historic people in person.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go to a policital rally to see former President Reagan. I even had my photograph with him - Of course, I ought to admit that I am three feet from the camera and the President was three hundred feet from the camera, but there we are, both in the same picture.
It is nice to have an occasional opportunity to see a celebrity or to get a personal glimpse of history.
This is exactly what Zacchaeus was doing in our Gospel lesson for this morning. Jesus is entering the town of Jericho, and he does so with some fanfare. Today there would have been reporters at the city gates and maybe a motorcade to take him to the Holiday Inn, but back then, Jesus simply entered the town and the townspeople simply gathered and gawked. All trying to get a glimpse of history, all trying to see who this fellow is who has been causing such a stir over the country side for the past 3 years.
Unfortunately, the folks who have gathered to watch Jesus come into town have become quite a large crowd. And as the children’s song says, Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. But he is very eater to see Jesus, so he begins to run through the crowd, ahead of Jesus, and he climbs a sycamore-fig tree so wee little Zacchaeus can get that glimpse of Jesus.
That must have been quite a sight. Zacchaeus, a wealthy and well known, although not well respected tax collector, running through the crowd. Have you ever tried running through a crowed? It is hard enough to push and shove your way through, but there is Zacchaeous in his three-piece suit, or whatever it was that they wore back then, running through the crowds. He climbs up a sycamore fig tree. That kind of tree was easy to climb. It had low branches, so even an office worker like Zacchaeus could scoot up the tree.
And so we find Zacchaeus in our Gospel lesson. A man out on a limb. Literally.
But Zacchaeus had been out on a limb before, figuratively that is.
Zacchaeus was not only the shortest man in town, he was also the wealthiest, and he didn’t make his money by playing it save. He took his life and went out on a limb. He made that money by collecting taxes, which was a risky sort of thing to do. One might be risking your safety. One who becomes a tax collector is certainly risking friendships and even family ties. The profession of collecting taxes back then was not something that made one popular. You see those taxes supported an alien empire, Rome, which the folks at Jericho dispiesed. And Rome didn’t provide much in a way of a salary, the individual tax collectors were expected to provide for themselves by padding the bottom line of everyone’s 1040, so that when tax time came around, you had to not only pay Rome, but Rome’s tax collector as well.
It was a risk, being a tax collector. You risked your popularity, your friendships, your family ties, and perhaps even your own welfare and safety. But Zacchaeus had to make a living of some sort, and it seemed that a wealthy living attracted him more than an impoverished one, so he went out on a limb, figuratively speaking, and he became a tax collector.