Summary: A sermon to inspire great things even from normal people.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’”
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.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Wee Lil Man
There’s a story about a local fitness center which was offering $1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate that they were stronger than the owner of the place. Here’s how it worked. This muscle man would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and then hand the lemon to the next challenger. Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out would win the money.
Many people tried over time ¬ other weightlifters, construction workers, even professional wrestlers, but nobody could do it.
One day a short and skinny guy came in and signed up for the contest. After the laughter died down, the owner grabbed a lemon and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains to the little man.
The crowd’s laughter turned to silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As the crowd cheered, the manager paid out the winning prize and asked the short guy what he did for a living. “Are you a lumberjack, a weightlifter, or what?”
The man replied, “I work for the IRS.”
The good old IRS… notorious for being able to squeeze water out of rocks and getting blood from turnips. Keeping to that stereotype… we find a tax man in our scripture text this morning who was great at squeezing every last penny out of your wallet… and keeping a good chunk of it for himself.
In the game of life… Zacchaeus was a BIG man. In verse two, we learn that Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector… a position of great prominence, authority, and power.
As we discussed last week… tax collectors make their living by taxing the people of their region… and skimming from off the top for themselves. Now… if you were a chief tax collector… it meant that you were in charge of all the tax collectors underneath of you as well… and guess what… you got to skim off the top of their take as well.
Now… the shadier you were… the more money you made. And our friend Zacky boy here… was very very rich… so guess what that meant. Zacchaeus was absolutely no saint. Well… with all of his scrupulous living… Zacchaeus had risen to a position of great wealth and power… he as a very… BIG… man.
Now… it is quite ironic… seeing what a BIG man Zacchaeus was… that verse three describes Zacchaeus as a small man. The Greek literally calls Zacchaeus a man of small stature - creating a play on words… you see Zacchaeus was indeed a short man… but he was also a man of little substance. Despite his power… despite his wealth… Zacchaeus didn’t measure up to be much of a man at all.
Now, our verse today begins with the declaration that a REAL big man was coming to town that day. Jesus was not a man of great wealth or great position… but everyone in town was talking about him. I imagine that Zacchaeus was awfully curious about Jesus. I mean… he had spent his entire life reaching for power and clamoring for wealth… yet… he was empty. Now Jesus was a man who lived his life in a completely different way with completely different standards… and Zacchaeus really needed to see what he was all about.
Unfortunately, when Jesus got to town… crowds had gathered and Zacchaeus couldn’t see because he was a very short man. Now, Zacchaeus may have been short… but what he lacked in height he more than made up for in resourcefulness. Little man Zacchaeus, climbed up a tree to get a first hand look at the Lord.