Summary: Lost people matter to God, and they had better matter to us!
What Do You See?
A fitness center 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.”
Zacchaeus was such a man. He was probably one of those men who could get blood out of a turnip! He was a wealthy crook, a pawn of the Roman government, an outcast and turncoat to his own people. In Luke 19, Jesus is entering Jericho and the people know He is coming. Jericho was a wealthy city. It was the ancient equivalent of Palm Springs. The Roman government knew it was ripe with revenue, and Rome sent its tax collectors there like a swarm of locusts. Rome made sure it received its share of tax money.
Tax collectors in those ancient days were nothing more than government-sanctioned crooks. They strong-armed the merchants and people gathering much more tax than necessary. They were experts at falsifying tax statements and kept the extra money for themselves. Zacchaeus was a Jew turned tax collector. Zacchaeus was in charge of one of the three tax offices in the entire country, and may have had the best job of them all. Not surprisingly, the last part of verse 2 tells us that he was wealthy. But he was a renegade in the eyes of the religious people. He would have been thought of as fondly as a high-level drug dealer is today. In fact, in the minds of people, tax collectors were often linked with murderers, adulterers, robbers, and other “sinners.” He was held in utter contempt by his countrymen. Although he could buy anything he wanted, he could not buy true friendship or self-respect. Zacchaeus was empty, as empty as a well in a 10 year drought. He sought to hide himself in his wealth and put on a façade of happiness, but he knew it was in vain. Zacchaeus was searching for Jesus and Jesus was looking for the real Zacchaeus. Jesus had Zacchaeus in His sight. Zacchaeus was His focus. Are you looking for anyone in particular? How is your vision? 3% of children under age 6 today have amblyopia. Sounds like a terminal disease, but it is a medical term for lazy eye. It’s a condition in which one eye is doing all the work, but the problem is not with the eye but with the brain. The brain is not fully acknowledging what the eyes are seeing. Doctors tell us that if one eye sees clearly and the other sees a blur, the brain can block or ignore the eye with the blur. And in order to avoid losing the full function of the eye you have to use it. In other words, the loss of vision is taking place in the brain and not the eye. One course of treatment is to place a patch over the good eye in the hope that the other eye would be used and everything would then come into focus. It occurred to me that many of us w/I the church seem to have a problem w/spiritual amblyopia. It is as though we have the capability to see (to have vision) and live like Jesus but our brains say, “no you don’t!”
Christians, we must re-train our eyes to see life, people, our future through the eyes of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to help us see clearly. I want us to be able to see like Jesus. I want us to be able to focus on the things that Jesus focused His eyes, time and attention.
Luke 19:1-10 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."