Summary: Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus: Tearing Down and Rebuilding Worldviews
Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
Tearing Down and Rebuilding Worldviews
July 26, 2009
I want to talk to you today about worldviews. A worldview is the lens with which you see, understand, and interpret the world. In this passage, Jesus addresses two different groups of people with two different worldviews, which determines how they see themselves, Jesus as well as understand and respond to his message.
1. Two Groups and Two Worldviews
The first two verses are key to understanding the rest of the chapter. The key hinges on who is in the crowd and how they hear these parables. The first group is made up of tax collectors and sinners. Some of us grew up learning about tax collectors in Sunday school. Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, and so he climbed up in a Sycamore tree because the Lord he wanted to see. And we were told that a tax collector was a man who was supposed to get $25 from you but instead he takes $30 from you because he wanted to get rich. That’s a good story but that is not true. In the minds (worldview) of the Pharisees and Scribes, Zacchaeus was a worthless piece of trash who, on his best day deserved to burned alive.
At this time in history, the world, from India to England, was ruled by Rome. Rome was a ruthless and horrendous government. In fact, there are historical accounts of Rome conquering a city and then taking 20,000 men, women, and children, stripping them naked and then crucifying them on the road leading up to that city for up to 40 miles. Everyone going into that city for supplies, to see family, or to work, would have to pass by 20,000 suffering, dying or dead men, women, and children who have been stripped of their clothes as an act of shame to intimidate you - don’t mess with Rome. Now if you rule from India to England at that time the only way you can govern a landmass that size is with a massive army. But Rome’s population could not supply that massive of an army so as they conquered land, they hired mercenaries and gave them food, weapons and training to become part of the legions of Rome, despite the fact that they were not Romans. Well, how do you fund, supply, feed, and train such a massive army - taxes. Zacchaeus was a Jew who purchased the right from Rome to raise funds for an oppressive occupying army that was responsible for the brutal death of hundreds of thousands of people. As a tax collector, he was considered a traitor, despised by his fellow Jews. It would be like you living next door to a man who had single-handedly funded the murder of your loved ones and it being legal. But tax collectors are drawing near to hear Jesus. They’re not the only ones, sinners are there too. Here “sinner” is marked as a class of people who are deformed, diseased or whose job is one that the Jews would have considered irreparable. They were the prostitutes, strippers, slave traders, tax collectors or they had some kind of physical ailment that the Jews viewed as a curse from God. Remember the story where the Pharisees brought the blind man to Jesus and asked, “Was it his parent’s sin or his?” And Jesus said, “Neither, but that God might be glorified,” and He heals him. But the Jews see that he’s blind because God hates and cursed him. Or there’s the woman who had the issue of blood or the lepers, any one of these diseases would have been marked them as unclean and their disease would have been viewed by the culture as a judgment from God.
Yet the tax collectors and the sinners are drawing near to hear Jesus. Here’s the punch line - the tax collector and the sinner would have been taught from the day they were born that they were outcasts. They were taught that God had judged them, there was no chance of forgiveness, they would have a meeting with God one day, and it was not going to be pleasant. They’re not allowed in the synagogue, they’re not allowed to make sacrifices, they’re not allowed to hear the Torah read. They are absolutely ostracized from the religious life of Israel. Yet here they are gathering near to hear Jesus. I don’t know what your story is, but some of us have or are sinning to such an extent that we began to embrace this world-view of “Well, I’m not the type of person God goes after, so I might as well just dive head-long into sin.” “I’ve already blown it so we begin to say, “Okay, God’s for that type of person, and I’m not that type of person. I’ll run from Him rather than to Him.”