31st Sunday – C

Wis 11:22–12:2; 2 Thes 1:11–2:2. Lk 19:1- 10

The taxman was surprised to receive a letter which read, “Dear Sir, Last year I cheated on my tax and I can’t sleep for thinking about it. I am therefore enclosing a check for $2,000. If I find that I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance.”

It’s easy to find out who is going to become a tax collector. In the nursery, give all the kids lemons. The one who squeezes it dry is going to work for the IRS.

Today we’re focusing on a high-ranking IRS man who cheated not on his return, but on everyone else’s. He had figured out a way to skim some money off the top and squeeze the last drop from people’s wallets.

I want to use a very simple outline this morning: I. The Searching Sinner (19:2-4) II. The Seeking Savior (19:5) III. The Spectacular Salvation (19:6-10)

I. Searching Sinner: In verse two, we see that Zacchaeus was a man of some prominence. His name in Hebrew means, “pure and righteous,” but he was not thought of as being anywhere close to righteous because of the job he had. As a tax collector, he worked for Rome and was considered a traitor by the Jewish people. The fact that he worked for the Roman IRS indicated to others that he was more interested in money than anything else.

In verse 3 we notice that while Zack is very wealthy and successful by the world’s standards, he knew something was missing. Even people today, if they are honest, will eventually admit that there’s more to life than just trying to make money and obtain possessions.

Notice that it doesn’t say that Zack just wanted to see Jesus. No. He wanted to see who Jesus was. He wanted to figure out what it was that made Jesus different from everyone else. He was drawn to this man who had just given sight to the blind beggar on the outskirts of Jericho. Now this healer was walking through his town. He may not have fully understood what was going on in his heart, but Zack had a desperate need to get to Jesus. He probably couldn’t even explain what drew him to see who Jesus was.

Zack had at least two problems that day: The first was that he was a short man. With all the crowds pressing in, there was no way for him to get close enough to Jesus. His second problem was spiritual ­ his sins were keeping him from Jesus. Not only was Zack of short stature, he, like us, was not able to measure up to God’s standards. He was short on integrity and tall on sin. I love verse 4: “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” Zack was short, but he wasn’t slow! He ran ahead of the crowd, looking for a way that he could see Jesus. This picture is a bit amusing, isn’t it?

Zack did not allow anything, not the crowd or his condition, to stand between him and his desire to see the Lord Jesus. What about you? Are you ready to take a break from the daily routines of your life order to see Jesus? Are you ready to run to Him?

II. The Seeking Savior: In verse 5 we see that while Zacchaeus may have been searching, it was really Jesus who was seeking him: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Jesus took note of Zacchaeus, although we are not told why. He stopped, looked up, called him by name, and told him that He must come to His house. Again we see that while Jesus has set his face toward the Cross, he stops and ministers to a searching sinner. He knew right where Zack was because He knew all about him ­ and He was filled with compassion toward him.

He then gives Zack a two-fold command: “Come down immediately.” Get out of the tree, Zack. Right now. There’s always a sense of urgency about following Christ. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “…Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” And then Jesus gives the second part of the command: “I must stay at your house today.”

III. The Spectacular Salvation: Zacchaeus didn’t waste any time getting out of the tree. “So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Jesus said, “jump” and Zack jumped. He came down right away and welcomed Jesus joyfully and with great excitement. He got way more than he asked for ­ he just wanted to get a closer look at the Savior but now He was coming over for dinner! He was overwhelmed with joy! The word “gladly” carries with it the idea of “jubilant exultation

After the meal and conversation with Jesus, I think we can safely conclude that Zack was converted during the meal. Zack pushes himself away from the table and says to Jesus, “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.” Zack’s public confession shows the sincerity of his repentance. As part of his repentance, Zack wants to right his wrongs.

Now we come to verse 10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” The mission of Jesus is very clear: He came to seek and save what was lost. Jesus is still on a search and save mission. Can you hear Him? He knocks and then he waits for you to open the door. Revelation 3:20 says that, “…If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

When he knocks, he speaks your name out loud. He knows everything about you and has been pursuing a relationship with you for a long time. He knows your pain, your dreams, and all the details of your life. He knows your failures and your sins. He has seen and felt them all. And, He’s been trying to get your attention. You may be hearing His voice right now in your heart. Just as He called out to Zacchaeus so too he is calling out to you: “Come to me right now, for I must come into your life.”

How are we going to respond? Zack responded quickly and received more than he wanted. How about you and me?