Summary: This sermon looks at the story of Zacchaeus and the lessons it teaches us
Zachary S. (Zackie to his friends) seemed to have it made. He had a fancy apartment with a shiny yellow sports car out front. Zackie had a comfortable government job, earning good money. Some people said his job was a little too comfortable, that the money was too good. They couldn’t see how he could live that lifestyle on a civil servant’s income.
And things did seem to get done a whole lot faster for Zackie’s “friends” (he had a lot of friends). Rumor was that a little cash could go a long way with Zackie. But Zackie said that he was only doing his job.
Unfortunately, the folks at Zackie’s church didn’t see it that way. The last time he was there, people made him feel pretty uncomfortable. He had to sit through 12 verses of "Just As I Am" with the preacher standing and staring straight at him. As soon as the song was over, Jackie made a break for the exit.
So Zackie usually just stayed home and watched his favorite preacher on TV.
One day Zackie heard that the TV preacher was coming to town. Zackie just had to go see him. When Zackie got to the airport, there were so many people that he couldn’t even get near enough to see. Zackie decided to wait outside the airport. He climbed up on top of a dumpster so that he could see better.
When the preacher came out, he looked right at Zackie and said, “Hey, Zackie. Come down from there. You and I are having lunch together.” Had Zackie heard right? Was the preacher talking to him? Yes! The preacher wanted to have lunch with him!
Seeing this man on TV was one thing… spending time with him was another. Before lunch was over, Zackie S. had made a solemn promise to turn his life around and give it to God.
Okay, most of you have probably figured out that the story of Zackie S. is a retelling of the story of Zacchaeus. Now let’s look at the real story:
Luke 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Luke 19:7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”
Luke 19:8 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.”
Luke 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
We need to remember that tax collectors in Jesus day had a really bad reputation. For one thing, these were men who collaborated with the enemy, that helped the hated Romans in their continuing occupation of Judea.
Secondly, the Roman tax system was open to abuse. All that the Romans cared about was that the money came in; if the tax collectors made a few extra bucks on the side, the Romans really couldn’t care less. Corruption was so widespread that archaeologists have found a monument to an honest tax collector! Tax collectors could not participate in the synagogue and their testimony was invalid in court. They were outcasts in society, "sinners" in the eyes of their fellow men.
Zacchaeus was no ordinary tax collector. He was a tax collector with tax collectors under him. And he openly recognized that, even if he may not have done anything, it was almost certainly that people had been robbed under his authority.
But Jesus had a habit of going to the people who needed Him the most. If he were here today, I think he would be reaching out to drug addicts, prostitutes, and drunkards.
We also have to remember that receiving someone in your house, of sitting at table with them, was an act of great significance in that culture. You were not only providing a bed; you were endorsing their ideas and entering into a bond with that person. The fact that Jesus ate and drank with sinners was of great significance. And the people around Him noticed. Noticed that Jesus never let criticism keep Him from doing what was right.