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Summary: What can we learn from Zacchaeus?

The story of Zacchaeus

"On February 24, 1948, one of the most unusual operations in medical history took place in Ohio State University’s department of research surgery.

A stony sheath was removed from around the heart of Harry Besharra, a man thirty years of age.

When only a boy he had been shot accidentally by a playmate with a .22-caliber rifle.

The bullet had lodged in his heart but had not caused his death.

However, a lime deposit had begun to form over the protective covering of the heart and gradually was strangling it.

The operation was a delicate one separating the ribs and moving the left lung to one side.

Then the stony coating was lifted from the heart as an orange is peeled.

Immediately the pressure of the heart was reduced, and it responded by expanding and pumping normally.

"I feel a thousand per cent better already," said the patient soon after the operation.

In the Old Testament in the book of Ezekiel we read how the prophet speaking on behalf of God says:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ez 36:26)

Our hearts develop a hard protective coating because of accidents and incidents in life.

They are coated by the deposits of a thousand deceits and rebuffs.

They are hardened by the pressure of circumstance.

Inevitably, they become smothered and insensitive to the divine.

Ever so easily we find it easier to sneer than to pray.

It becomes simpler to work than to worship.

Self-satisfied, proud, often cynical, our hearts need a spiritual operation that only Christ can perform when we dare to surrender our hearts’ burden.

In our Gospel reading today, we see Zacchaeus the tax collector had such a stony heart.

You couldn’t rise to be the Chief Tax Collector in Jericho without having a thick skin

Yet when Jesus came to his home, the encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus forever

His heart of stone became a heart of flesh.

Zacchaeus was I believe curious to find out more about Jesus firsthand.

He had heard many stories no doubt and wanted to see for himself

But he was too small to look above the Crowd.

So he did something that was very undignified for a top Roman tax official .

Imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer shinning up a tree to get a view of Jesus!!

That’s how undignified it was!

But Zacchaeus 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 things:

1. Zaccheus looked for Jesus

2. He invited Jesus into his house

3. And when he met Jesus, Jesus changed his heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.

And we can see the result of that change of heart by what Zaccheus did

My first point is that

1. Zacchaeus looked for Jesus

Zacchaeus lived in Jericho.

As a tax collector he was extremely unpopular.

And perhaps very lonely

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 tax bill on the local population – 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.

12 Tax 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

Zacchaeus was a hard businessman

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.

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