Summary: Every Christian is to be zealous for the things of God
Zeal for God:
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Are you thrilled about spiritual things? Are you zealous for the things of God? Do you have an intense yearning for the word of God? Do you hunger for the salvation of lost souls? How often do you meet with God’s people on Sunday morning? Do you make every effort to meet with the saints? Do you allow the least obstacle to hinder you in your walk with the Lord? How often do you attend Bible studies? Do you hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God? Are you lukewarm? Do you meditate upon God’s word day and night? How often do you read and reflect and study the Holy Scriptures? If your responses to the above questions are negative, then you need to reevaluate your spiritual standing.
SINNER IN JERICHO: ZACCHAEUS THE TAX COLLECTOR
Perhaps everyone here today recalls the story of Zacchaeus’ desire to see Jesus. This longing was so intense that he was willing to climb a “sycamore-fig tree” (Luke 19:4). How many of you have this same kind of craving? Has your faith degenerated into a kind of formality? Or has your faith reached the boiling point? Which? How do you compare with the zeal that Zacchaeus manifested in his determination to see Jesus? Even though Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man, nevertheless, he put forth exertion to see this man. And, as a result of this kind of determination, Jesus says to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (19:5). How did he react? Luke informs his readers: “he came down at once and welcomed him gladly” (19:6).
One cannot help but wonder how this wealthy tax collector responded in his mind when Jesus called him by name. Surely a commotion of thoughts and feelings must have surged through his heart—Jesus was coming to his house. Zacchaeus knew that Jesus had just read his heart even as Nathanael knew it and confessed it when Jesus uttered that one word to him about his being under the fig tree. Nathanael, too, was filled with bewilderment about how Jesus knew him; he asked Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48). As a result of this revelation, Nathanael responded by saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (1:49).
As one wonders about these two men—one without guile and the other a notorious tax collector—one witnesses that Jesus is not a respecter of persons. He calls all into His service—the respectable and the unrespectable. When Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, He detected his guileless character; on the other hand, when He saw Zacchaeus in the tree, He perceived his guilty character. Nevertheless, Jesus called him just as he called Nathanael into His service. One witnesses an act of divine grace. The people were astounded that Jesus would go the house of a sinner. Luke captures this interaction on the part of the people: “All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner’” (Luke 19:7). Luke concludes this pericope (narrative) by saying: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (19:10).
Zacchaeus Boiled With Zeal
Zacchaeus boiled with zeal as a result of his encounter with Jesus. He told 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” (19:8). Jesus acts in response by saying: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (19:9-10). If you had lived in Jericho, would you have written Zacchaeus off? He made his money through dishonest dealings; he loved money; he was the cause of much injustice. Yet God saved him just as He saved you. Since God has saved you, do you boil with zeal for the Lord? Has God made a transformation in your life?
As stated earlier, Jesus knew him and called him by his name. This event must have caught his attention, especially when a stranger calls him by his name—Zacchaeus. When this happens, one’s ears perk up and one senses become more alert. From this story about Jesus and Zacchaeus, one surmises that there is one person that the Lord sees—the man or woman who is seeking Him. Are you looking for Jesus? Are you reaching out to Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords? Paul tells the Corinthians: “the man who loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:3). Zeal for God involves a conversion in one’s way of life. This change demands repentance. Jesus says, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Listen to the words of Isaiah: Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Jesus extended an invitation to Zacchaeus and He is also extending an appeal to you: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Do you intensively yearn for the Lord?