In today's world - who would be the most vile person to you personally? The one who just gets your stomach aching and heart rate jumping? The person who, in your deepest hiding places of your heart - wishes they were even dead. For many it's the person of the opposite political party. The person with an "R" or "D" next to their name is the villain! Or could it be someone like Jerry Sandusky, who for over a period of years if not decades raped young boys and even created such a sinister plot where he made a home for at risk boys...only to collect his next victim in this "safe place". Or maybe it's the leader of a country that allows and even participates in slave-trade of young girls. Innocent young girls who become sex objects for rich and depraved men. For each of us this list would be different yet the thoughts we have about those people are the same...we're repulsed by them.
I don't know about you, but some of these folks would give me the creeps just being near them. Imagine that one of your neighbors or even family members as involved in such a "career". Would you go over to their home at Thanksgiving? Send them an invitation to your child's birthday party? Ask them out to a casual dinner with your spouse?
Well in Jesus' day there was such a man....his name was Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector. A tax collector was the worst kind of human scum known to man in those days. He would be thought of like anyone of the folks described above. But it gets worse.
Zacchaeus was so hated that according to Jewish law, he wasn't even a human being. Zacchaeus was a very very rich "non-person" who sold out his countrymen and his family for money. He was hated and he was never invited to the family reunions...never.
Tax collectors helped raise the taxes so as to finance the brutal repression of God's people by the Romans...the pagan ugly godless Romans! Obviously, these dogs were beyond the pale, repugnant to all decent, God-fearing religious people.
Oh - there is one more thing we know about Zacchaeus - he was a short man who wasn't even allowed in the front row of the crowds who were there to see Jesus. They kicked him to the back of the crowd where he was unable to see anything but the backsides of men. But this scum of humanity wanted to see this Jesus...
|Many thanks to JD Greear for his insights into Zacchaeus' life|
Re-read the text above. Read it again. Are you moved to joy? Awe? Repentance? All of these emotions and more? Let's break this apart quickly (but keep in mind today's "Zacchaeus'").
- This great sinner was a "seeker" of Jesus (v3). He heard about Him and wanted more information. Nothing was going to get in his way either. Not the fear of the religious crowds or a lack of a view.
- As he sat on the tree, Jesus came to him and called him and Zacchaeus didn't hesitate. He was called by Jesus (5)!
- Jesus was not repulsed by this man's sins...He embraced Zacchaeus in spite of his sins. He was NOT cleaned up.
- They ate together and it ticked off the "religious" folk (v8). Jesus does it again...eats, invites, heals, picks food in the fields...just to demonstrate His grace to the "outsiders".
- Now the next thing is very interesting. We next read that Zacchaeus was not only going to make good on his debts and payback those from whom he stole but he was giving extra. But where did that come from? There is no recording of rules from Jesus or laws or "what you now must do..."
- Finally we see the mission of Jesus and the mission of the church: seek and save the lost.
The law made Zacchaeus a man of lawlessness and made others legalists and Pharisees. Both had no need for Jesus until Jesus called Zacchaeus and gave him something the law couldn't do...grace and love. And this man full of grace and love named Jesus change him from a tax collector to a man of integrity. This same grace changed our lives and can change those in our lives whom we despise like the Jews did Zacchaeus. Lets go seek em out!