Summary: Lessons from the ministry of Jesus to Zacchaeus.
Up a Tree and out on a Limb – ZACCHAEUS
I. What we can know about Zacchaeus
1. Not much known about him historically … we know more about the “job” he held.
1) Because of the name, as well as the people that surrounded him, we can know that he was Jewish.
2) Tax collector for the Roman Government
i. One who “extracted” the tax from the occupied citizens
ii. Not only a “tax collector” - but Chief Tax Collector
a. Not an elected position … bought (bid) position.
b. As “Chief collector - headed up a loosely organized force that was empowered to levy taxes, collect those taxes, hold accountable those that failed to pay the taxes.
c. As “chief tax collector” he gained wealth by sub-bidding his authority to others willing to pay to help him … thus increasing his own wealth exponentially (perhaps Matthew had worked for him at one time???)
3) Therefore, Zacchaeus was a man made rich by greed and selfishness. A man who knew he wasn‘t doing right -
i. The law (his own religious code) condemned him
Ø He was a religious outcast. Didn’t go to synagogue. Wasn’t trying to live right. Wasn’t really concerned what people or God thought of him as long as he had what he wanted.
Ø The Scribes and Pharisees looked on him as if he had an incurable disease.
Ø The Jewish religious system had no hope for people such as Zacchaeus. The work of a tax collector required that they maintain continual contact with Gentiles which meant they (as publicans) were ceremonially unclean.
Ø Yes, salvation was highly unlikely for a man like Zacchaeus
ii. Society condemned him
Ø Not only did his own religion reject him … but his “city” rejected him.
Ø He was a man hated by his own people. A publican (= any Jew employed by the Roman Government) was worse than a sinner to the Jews because they saw that person as a traitor.
Ø The tax collector stood for everything the Hebrew Citizen hated about the Roman government:
o Reminded them of being captives - authority over their lives
o Unjust - unscrupulous (without reason or mercy).
o Oppressive - “what now, what else…”
iii. His own conscience condemned him (as evidenced by his response after his conversion).
Ø feeling guilty, knew his situation but didn’t have the heart to get out (would loose everything, and still be rejected?)
Ø What’s more, he knew inwardly that though he seemed to have “everything” … his life was full of emptiness - no satisfaction, no joy, no lasting purpose.
2. His wrong was not in being a tax collector - but his wrong WAS not having a heart that was right with God - which was evidenced by HIS OWN GREED.
1) There were some honest tax collectors … but the system bred corruption.
2) Our outward actions - which we often see as “sins” - are just evidence of the condition of our hearts; Our hearts have SIN (inward rebellion against God).
3) Most important of all, he was a sinner, lost, without God … searching for something to fill his personal emptiness.
II. What we can know about Zacchaeus’ conversion.
1. His conversion was sudden … (God has HIS way of getting our attention - unique).