Summary: What can we learn from this tax collector’s encounter with the Son of God
The story of Zacchaeus
Story: On 12th February 1809, in a one room log cabin with a dirt floor on a farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky, a baby boy was born.
When he was only 9 years-old, his mother died.
He was a boy with rugged determination. And although he only had less than a year of formal education, he succeeded in becoming a lawyer.
However he wasnt satisfied with that. He wanted to REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE and so entered US politics.
If he was going to have maximum impact, he believed that he had to achieve the highest position in the land that of being president of the United States.
Being a man of perseverance, he tried and tried again – and he failed and failed again.
His list of failures was embarrassing:
YEAR FAILURES or SETBACKS
1832 Lost job and was defeated for state
1833 Failed in business
1835 His Sweetheart died
1836 Had nervous breakdown
1838 Defeated for Illinois House Speaker
1843 Defeated for nomination for Congress
1846 Elected to Congress but lost
renomination in 1848
1849 Rejected for land officer for Illinois
1854 Defeated for U.S. Senate
1856 Defeated for nomination for Vice-
1858 Again defeated for U.S. Senate
But in 1860 he was elected President.
And by now you have probably guessed who I am talking about - Abraham Lincoln, probably the greatest of all American Presidents.
His persistence paid off. I’d have given up long ago but Lincoln persevered.
He had a vision of what he wanted to do – and the setbacks that he had did not deflect him from his goal.
In our Gospel reading today, Zaccheus had a goal – to catch a glimpse of Jesus – but he was too small to look above the Crowd.
He could have given up – but he didn’t.
So he did something that was very undignified for a top Roman tax official . Imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown shinning up a tree to get a view of Jesus!! That’s how undignified it was!
Zaccheus had a goal and nothing would deflect him from it. He put his heart and soul into it – even to the point of having the indignity of shinning up a tree.!
He wanted to see Jesus.
In this story I see three important points:
1. Zaccheus looked for Jesus
2. He invited Jesus into his house
3. His meeting with Jesus changed his lifestyle. He showed his faith by what he did
My first important point is that
1. Zacchaeus looked for Jesus
Zaccheus lived in Jericho. As a tax collector he was extremely unpopular. And perhaps very lonely
As I mentioned last week, tax collectors were seen as the lowest form of life in Jewish society – they were outcasts
Do you remember last week in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector what the Pharisee said
11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ’God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.
Tax Collectors didn’t have their reputation for nothing. They were unscrupulous. They did charge more than they were entitled to. And they used the Roman Army to enforce their will. And there was no Court of Appeal to resort to if you felt you were being unfairly taxed.
Just before Jesus started his ministry, John the Baptist came calling the people to repent of their sins and be baptised. And we read in Luke’s Gospel that
12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
13"Don’t collect any more than you are required to," he told (Luke 3:12 & 13.)
Tax Collectors weren’t very nice people
Zaccheus was a hard businessman – otherwise he wouldn’t have been a chief tax collector and very rich
But this hard businessman came looking for Jesus. He felt a need.
It is quite a challenge to us isn’t it to look beyond the tough exterior to see the real needs of people beneath.
Zaccheus heard about Jesus – and wanted to see him, so the only way he could get to him was to climb up the tree.
There are so many people around us climbing up trees to look for Jesus - and we are too busy to notice them.
May the Lord bring such Zacchaeus’ to our prayers today.
People look for Jesus in many different ways:
Zaccheus climbed a tree;
Blind Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus (Mk11;46-52),
Jairus came running to Jesus in his need (Lk 8:41), the paralytic was let down through the roof of a house to find Jesus (Mk 2:4) .
As Servants of God, we are called to help people find Jesus.
My second point from the story today is that