Summary: How do we know if a person is really saved?
Salvation has Come
Our story takes place in the city of Jericho. It is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world. For thousands of years humans have walk through its streets. It is the city of Palms along the fertile plain of the Jordan River.
This city was so beautiful that Mark Anthony presented it as a gift to Cleopatra. It was here that the royal household of Herod built a magnificent palace.
In the air lingered the perfume of roses and on the streets tax collectors and courtiers rubbed shoulders with fanatics and wandering hermits; with traders moving in along the great caravan route from North Africa and the Far East; with robbers and soldiers; with priests from Jerusalem and pilgrims. It was a great city.
And the greatest man who ever lived walked through Jericho. It would be his last visit to Jericho. He was on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. He would never pass this way again.
For two men in Jericho, it was now or never. For blind Bartimaeus and for Zacchaeus this was their hour of visitation. As William Shakespeare put it
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
For Zacchaeus it was a make it or break it moment. He had to catch opportunity by the forelock. It was now or never. Perhaps it is such a moment for someone in this service today. I do not know. What I do know for sure is - Jesus is passing our way.
The name Zacchaeus means pure and righteous. And that’s a laugh because as you read this story you discover that Zacchaeus was anything but pure and righteous. Zacchaeus had a wonderful name but that’s all it was – a name. He was a cheat and a bully.
Tax collectors have never been beloved people but in Jesus’ day they were despised. These men personified the yoke of Rome. Most people in Israel had never seen Caesar but they had all seen a tax collector. Zacchaeus was a constant reminder that they were not a free people.
And the tax burden was heavy. There was a poll tax and an income tax; property tax and a road tax; vehicle tax; import and export taxes. The yoke of taxation was overwhelming.
To collect these taxes Rome appointed local men – men who would jack up the tax and squeeze excess money out of the people to line their own pockets. As far as the Jews were concerned tax collectors were in the same boat as thieves, murderers, and harlots. A tax collector was barred from the synagogue. He was not allowed in Church. He was an outcast.
And Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. He oversaw a group of these rascals. And he, this dishonest, quisling of Rome wanted to see Jesus.
But Zacchaeus had a problem. Two problems really.
Problem # 1: There were too many other people who also wanted to see Jesus.
Problem #2: He was short
Have you notice that many of our problems come in pairs? If Zacchaeus had been tall the crowd wouldn’t have been a problem OR if there hadn’t been a crowd his shortness wouldn’t have been a problem.
But these two facts taken together kept this man from Jesus.
Zacchaeus’ main disability was he was short. Most of us here this morning don’t have the same problem but there are many ways of being short. Most of us have been short of something in our life.
Dr. James Dobson in one of his books points out that North Americans have been programmed to value a person’s worth in terms of three things:
And some of us are short. Some of us are short on looks; some of us are short on brains; some of us are short on money and alas, alas, some of us are short on all three!
And sometimes when a person comes up short in one of these three areas, he or she starts to blame God. And this kind of attitude will keep us from Jesus. Zacchaeus was short but he said to himself, I will not let this disability from birth keep me from Jesus. I will do what I can. I must see Jesus.
It says in verse 4 that he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore – fig tree. How many business executives have you seen climbing trees lately? You see, Zacchaeus became as a little child so that he might see Jesus.
We can get so sophisticated and complicated in our approach to God, but Jesus says: Come as a little child. Come with your grubby hands and your tear-stained face. Come with your hurts and questions. Come to me just as you are. Come.