Summary: In Luke 19:1-10 Jesus’ willingness to be present to Zacchaeus ends up being an act of evangelism. His encounter with his Savior changes his life. Is there ever anyone beyond the reach of God’s grace. The answer is "No!"
“The Rich Little Man”
By: Ken Sauer, pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
He wants to see Jesus but he can’t.
He’s a small man, and he can’t see through the crowd.
So, he climbs a tree.
…or is he?
Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was a tax-collector…
…and not just a regular old tax collector, but a “chief tax collector and he was wealthy.”
Zacchaeus is possibly the richest guy in town.
And more than that, he’s gotten rich by ripping people off!
I remember, when I was a kid, my family was driving through some really “posh” neighborhood somewhere along the Florida coast when my dad made some remark like, “There must be a lot of crooks living in these houses. How else could they afford it?”
It kind of gave me the creeps.
Wherever money changes hands, whether it’s across a grubby table in a tin shack in a dusty small town or across a sparkling computer screen in a shiny office on the ninth floor of a Wall Street Skyscraper, hands just get dirty too easily.
One can only imagine the reaction of neighbors, and even of friends and relatives, as Zacchaeus’ house became more and more lavishly decorated…
…as more slaves scurried around waiting on him hand and foot, as his clothes became finer and his food richer.
Everyone knew that this was their money and that he had no right to it; everyone also knew that there was nothing they could do about it.
To the people in Jericho, tax collectors like Zacchaeus were something like extortionists and loan sharks rolled into one.
We could even think of them as being in the same family as the mafia.
It’s a pretty lucrative racket.
So, as we can imagine, nobody in Jericho liked Zacchaeus.
They would have been horrified to think that, of all the people in that town, he would be the one known by name to millions of people two thousands years later.
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…”
How many of you sang this song in Sunday school?
So, Zacchaeus has done pretty well for himself.
But he’s had to pay the price socially—people say things behind his back; he’s banned from the synagogue; the Pharisees won’t so much as let the hem of their robes touch him—but the “good life” of fine clothes and rich food and a big house in the new suburb at the edge of town more than make up for his lack of friends.
That’s what Zacchaeus thinks to himself, anyway, at least most of the time.
But when he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is coming to Jericho—Jesus the religious teacher who (rumor is) talks to tax collectors and sinners—Zacchaeus feels an unexpected loneliness well-up inside.
Usually he wouldn’t give in to such a feeling.
He’s a loner, after all: tough and calloused when it comes to feelings.
But there’s something about Jesus that draws Zacchaeus out.
So he slips out of his house and goes down to Main Street, where everyone else is waiting…
…but there are too many people there: an unruly mob, pushing and shoving.
And they would love to push and shove the chief tax collector!!!
So Zacchaeus goes further down the road and climbs a tree—but it isn’t long before the crowd, moving along ahead of Jesus, catches up with him.
Before Zacchaeus can do anything about it—he’s surrounded!!!
“Just sit quietly,” he says to himself, “maybe they won’t notice.”
But they do!
And suddenly he’s the entertainment!!!...
…the warm-up act for Jesus’ latest tour.
The people laugh and point.
Some of the children start to throw stones.
Zacchaeus climbs to the next higher limb, but the branch starts to bend.
The people laugh harder.
The chief tax collector is up a tree!
What a strange sight!
But then, abruptly, they turn away; Jesus has arrived!
Someone whispers to Jesus that it’s the chief tax collector up in the tree, like a parakeet.
Jesus looks up at his undignified roost, and says, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
Can you imagine what they were talking about in the taverns and inns of Jericho that night?
If Jesus had been running for Mayor, His campaign manager would have resigned!
But then Jesus has never been out to win a popularity contest.
Jesus made a big impact on Jericho and it really had nothing to do with what He said.
It had everything to do with where Jesus chose to spend His time.
When Jesus looked at Zacchaeus He saw straight through the layers of greed.
He had met enough tax collectors already to know exactly what life was like for them, and how, even though they couldn’t resist the chance to make more money for themselves than they should, there was a sickness at the heart of it all…