Summary: Do you ever feel that you've been overlooked? Work? School? Home? Zacchaues is a man that could have been easily overlooke and some would have prefered it that way. But not Jesus! God's grace overlooks no one!
Do you ever feel overlooked? I think we’ve all been there a time or two. You put the extra hours and additional effort into a project at work to make that critical sale, only to hear your employer thank everyone except you. You clean the house, fill and empty the dishwasher, wash and fold the clothes, get dinner ready only to have your spouse walk through the door, plop down on the couch and ask, “So what did you do today?” You put the time into practicing, do well in the audition or tryout, only to hear that someone else was selected for that team or got that part in the play you wanted. Overlooked – being overlooked is not a real fun position to find yourself in, is it?
This morning we hear of a man who could have been very easily overlooked, but wasn’t. In fact, he was pointed out, he was chosen, he was blessed. The man’s name was Zacchaeus. And just as Zacchaeus was NOT overlooked, we are reminded that neither have we been overlooked. In fact, you too have been pointed out, you have been chosen, you have been blessed by the Lord Jesus himself.
The account of Zacchaeus might be a bit more familiar to you than some of the other people that we’ve heard about in our sermon series this morning. You might have heard of Zacchaeus’ story in Sunday school or Bible history class. Unfortunately, what is Zacchaeus usually most remembered for? He’s portably best known for his height, or his lack of height. But this morning, we’re going to see that there is so much more to learn from and remember about Zacchaeus.
We meet Zacchaeus towards the end of Jesus’ ministry and life. For the past three years, Jesus had been travelling with his disciples from town to town throughout Israel. He had been preaching and teaching the people. His message was simple and straight forward. He called people to recognize their sin and broken relationship with God. He called for them to repent of their sin and turn to the Lord for forgiveness of their sin. He assured them of the full forgiveness of their sin which he would secure for all by his sacrifice at the cross. Strengthened by God’s forgiveness, Jesus called them to turn from their sin and to follow God’s will for them. A simple but powerful message that was confirmed by the countless number of miracles that Jesus had performed. With every miracle, Jesus was demonstrating his divine power over nature, disease, disability and death itself. Jesus’ miracles were evidence that he was who claimed to be – the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
On the day that Zacchaeus met Jesus, Jesus was making his way into a city called Jericho. Jericho had been rebuilt just up the road from where it originally stood before it suddenly collapsed. Living in New Jericho was a man named Zacchaeus who the Bible tells us, “was a chief tax collector and was wealthy” (Luke 19:2). The title of “chief tax collector” is a word only found in the Bible to describe Zacchaeus. There were other tax collectors in the Bible like Jesus’ disciple Matthew, but only Zacchaeus is called a “chief tax collector.” This seems to indicate that Zacchaeus was in charge of and had other tax collectors working under him. This also seems to emphasize how very wealthy Zacchaeus would have been.
However, wealth did not make Zacchaeus popular. In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were some of the most hated of all people. The Jews hated tax collectors because they saw the Jewish tax collectors as traitors, working for the pagan Roman Empire which was occupying their land. The general population hated tax collectors because they were allowed to charge whatever amount they wanted just so long they submitted what was required by the Roman government. Therefore tax collectors were well-known for overcharging their fellow citizens so that they could take home more money for themselves. Simply put, as the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus was probably not the most popular person in Jericho.
Zacchaeus did hear about someone who was quite popular, at least among the general population. He heard about a man named Jesus. Jesus had already lived up to his miraculous reputation! When entering Jericho, Jesus had healed a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. Zacchaeus couldn’t wait to see Jesus! But those crowds. They just kept getting larger and larger! The Bible tells us, “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd” (Luke 19:3). Frantically Zacchaeus starts looking around and that’s when he sees his opportunity. “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way” (Luke 19:4).