Summary: Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus teaches us about His ministry. Insignificant to us may be significant to Him; He always has time to minister; He doesn’t really care what self-righteous think; His mind was on His mission.
Imagine the story with me. Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem. He knew what awaited him there, he knew he was going to be received royally, then in a matter of days, he would be crucified and murdered. He understood this was God’s master plan to offer salvation to the world – the way of escape for you and me – dying on the cross, bearing our sins, rising from the dead and securing the victory!
Have you ever had a very important deadline? You knew there was something coming at work or at home where you had a lot to do to get ready. There were preparations to be made, there was work to be done! Add to it that it is the most significant event you have ever participated in, your job is on the line, or your family needs this to go thru without a hitch. Stressful… fearful…
Then maybe you can relate in a tiny way to this scene in the life of Christ. He was on the verge of His master plan. Since the foundation of the world, this had been God’s plan to redeem his fallen children. What a majestic, wondrous, terrible path – the path to Calvary.
Now we come to our scripture. Notice v.1 – he was just passing through. Just a part of the path to Jerusalem. Point A to Point B took the Lord through a town called Jericho. This part of the journey had no OT scripture to fulfill, no great sermon to preach, nothing significant to you or me – it was just a footnote for the trip to Jerusalem.
v.2 tells us there was a worldly, sinful man in this town. Zacchaeus. It really doesn’t say he was worldly or sinful, but that he was a tax collector and he was rich. The religious people of the day would say that makes it obvious. He was a tax collector, so he obviously had no morals (everyone knows tax collectors steal from the people). He was rich, so he obviously got his riches at the expense of the rest of us…
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. That worldly sinner that you work with, that you see every day, that neighbor, may not be as evil as you think… they may be a Zacchaeus, just waiting for a Savior.
Now v. 3- The Zacchaeus story is a cute passage about a resourceful short man who found a way to see Jesus. He climbed that sycamore tree, and waited and watched. He wanted to see Jesus – He wanted to be a part of this big scene – I’m sure it was not every day that something this big happened in Jericho! Jesus and his followers would be passing through. The folks had heard of Jesus in Jericho – this miracle worker… prophet… King.
You know the story, Jesus came by – stopped right at Zacchaeus – and said ‘come down – I want to stay with you a while at your house today.’….. and he did.
”So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly”
Here’s where our cute little story takes a turn for the worse. V.7 “Why, doesn’t Jesus know just what kind of man Z. really is? Look, even I know that we should not hang around with his type – those sinners. Even I know that we don’t go to their house! They do sinful things, they have sinful stuff in their house. To go there will make my other religious friends think I’m doing what he does. I’ve got to maintain my religious superiority to those types. Why doesn’t Jesus just invite Z. to come to the temple. I’m not about to go to his house!”
Those self-righteous mumblers and mutterers missed out on what happened next. This is often the way it is – the legalist self-righteous get in their little huddle and talk about their offenses.. while God’s over here – changing lives.
8 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."
Z. came to terms with his sin. It’s implied and obvious in our passage that Jesus impacted his life. So much so, that he repented. He made restoration for wrongs he had done. He was changed, he would never be the same – because Jesus took the time to sit with him, to love on him, and to show him the way.
There’s no greater blessing for the believer than to witness another soul come to know Jesus Christ. There’s no greater joy than to be in the same room, to be a part, of someone coming to accept Him as Lord and Savior! The self-righteous missed it, they gathered with their own types and made sure they didn’t get dirty by going to Z.’s house.