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Oct 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 9, 2011

And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, ad was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. Luke 19:2-3 (read verses 1-27)

INTRO: These stories of personal encounters with Jesus build our faith in a way that is unique to anything else in the New Testament

Jesus in front of the crowds is the Founder of our religion
– but Jesus one-to-one with people is the foundation of our hope

It isn’t simply that Jesus had time for individuals
– but these encounters reveal the essence our life with God
– it consists of ongoing interaction with Jesus Christ

The heart of Christian spirituality is knowing Jesus
– but there is more to it than knowing him – there is living the life of Christ

Verses 1-6, Someone who wanted to see Jesus

On his way into Jericho, Jesus healed a blind man
– now we come to this story where sight is an underlying theme: “trying to see,” “in order to see,” “looked up,” “they saw,” “Behold”

What was it Zaccheus wanted to see? Who Jesus was
– what is the significance of this statement?
Later, Herod will also be delighted to see Jesus, but his delight quickly turns to disappointment
Lk. 23:8, “Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some [miracle] performed by Him.”
– but Zaccheus wasn’t looking for a miracle — or a parable, or a profound sermon
– he wanted to see the man, who he was
– somehow he knew the real power was not in the miracle or the teaching,
but in the Person who performed the miracle and spoke the word

What is the question Zaccheus wanted answered?
– probably the same we’ve heard already, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life ?” (Lk. 10:25; 18:18)
– only for Zaccheus I think it went more like this:
“Can this man, this teacher, really show us the way to God? Can he bridge the gap? Can he fix everything between us and God? And if he can, is he willing to take on a scoundrel like me?”
– that’s the question burning in his heart as he sits in tree, eagerly watching the road

He wanted to see Jesus, but he was unable for two reasons:

  1. “he was small in stature” – mikros, same word is translated “little ones” in Luke 17:2
    – he was one of those insignificant people on the margin of society — feared perhaps, but certainly not loved
  2. “because of the crowd” – i.e., the crowd was the cause, people were intentionally blocking him

We have seen these gatekeepers before – first blocking children from Jesus and then the blind beggar
– and that is what sent Zaccheus up a tree

Luke uses a literary device that today is referred to as polysyndeton — when a writer uses a conjunction repeatedly to connect one clause to the next
– Verse 1 begins with the word “and,” then continues to add one statement to the next with “and” (the New American Standard version actually leaves out five instances of and in this passage!)
– the effect that this creates, is that it increases the pace and heightens the tension of the story
– all of Zaccheus’ efforts, the sacrifice of his dignity, and his desperation tell us that he is a man on a quest

Zaccheus caught his first glimpse of Jesus – I suppose he was staring at the Lord as he approached
– suddenly Jesus was looking right at him and calling his name
– this is the surprise! – Zaccheus wanted to see who Jesus was, but Jesus already knew who Zaccheus was

Who was looking for whom?
– “trying to see” in verse 3 is literally, “seeking to see”
– the same word, “seek,” occurs again in verse 9, regarding Jesus coming to “seek and to save that which was lost”

Zaccheus discovered who Jesus was
– the One who already knew him – the One looking for him — the One who saw him, not as a tax collector or sinner, but as a person
“Everyone else looks through me. Or they sneer at me in anger. To them I am small – a micron – a nobody. But to Jesus I am somebody – somebody worth looking for and saving.

Verse 7, This part of the story is all too familiar

If you follow Jesus rather than dogma, you’ll be judged and slandered
– the people doing this are not at all interested in the truth
– denigrating others is what makes them feel important, spiritual, righteous

A lot of nonsense has been spread across the Internet about me
– it’s a strange way to learn things about yourself: I’ve read that I am New Age, Roman Catholic, Emergent, and that my dad is either broken-hearted over me or else responsible for the way I’ve turned out
– some of this slander is based on articles written by others (as if we can trust journalists to accurately report interviews), some of it is based on selective reading of articles, books, or blogs I’ve written, and some of it has no basis at all
– but not one of those who slandered me has tried to contact me to learn the truth or ask if I had an explanation for what they imagined I have said or done
– they saw a photo or read someone else’s article and they think they know the truth about me

Socializing with a sinner did not make Jesus a sinner
– reading a book by a New Age author doesn’t make the reader New Age, any more than reading the Bible makes a person a Christian or Christ-like

Luke doesn’t specify who is doing the grumbling
– he simply refers to them as “they”
– it doesn’t matter who they are, they’re always around, always watching, judging, and condemning
– there will always be religious people who slip into this role, who think they have God all figured out, who he looks for and comes for and who he rejects — and those people will always be the ones that they reject

Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth century preacher in London once said:

“Well, what does it matter what you said or what they said? Very likely it is not worth repeating . . . . Much of what is said may be summed up in the Dunottar Castle motto—


It all comes to nothing! It is only breath vainly spent, which would be far more wisely expended if it were, as the poet Cowper said—‘To Heaven in supplication sent.’ . . . If we would speak twice to God and only once to men, or if we even reached so happy a proportion as at least to say as much to God as we say to our fellow men, how much healthier, happier, stronger, more heavenly and more holy would we become!”

Verses8-10, Zaccheus’ response was exactly the Lord’s objective

This brief encounter with Jesus has already changed him
– Jesus made the first move
– Jesus accepted Zaccheus as he was

What did Jesus want to see in those who received him?
– above all else, Love – and love in truth, in action!
– Jesus did not have to tell Zaccheus “sell all you have”
– with his heart changed, letting go came spontaneously — so did generosity
The evidence that Zaccheus was a new person was not a sudden change in his doctrine
– it was relational rather than religiously ritual or legal
– his actions went way beyond what the law required
– this is the heart that has been truly transformed by Christ
– this is the person who has seen Jesus for who he is

It was not a miracle that changed Zaccheus, it was not a sermon
– it was Jesus himself
That’s why in verse 9, salvation is personified
– Jesus had said, “today I must stay at your house,” now he says, “Today salvation has come to this house” — Jesus is salvation

Verses 11-27, Two lessons are wrapped into one story

Jesus addresses problems related to popular expectations
– the disciples were shocked when Jesus got to Jerusalem but did not ring in God’s new government
– after the resurrection and shock wore off and they were with him again, what was their most pressing question?

“Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:7)

– the space between now and then — the first and second coming of Jesus — creates tension for his followers
– I think that’s why it’s such a strong temptation to believe he is coming in our own lifetime and set dates
– but compare the delay of kingdom with the “Today” in verses 5 and 9
– the fullness of the kingdom is still future, but salvation is always today (2 Cor. 6:1-3)

The lessons Jesus taught through this parable:

  • First: It is important to be productive during this in-between time with the gifts God has given you
  • Second: People who don’t want Jesus to rule will be excluded from his kingdom
    – those who look for Jesus discover he has been looking for them
    – those who reject Jesus, discover they are rejected by him

CONC: This last week my son-in-law was out of town, so I went to visit with my oldest daughter, Jennifer, and play with her kids

I asked if Sid had called and she said, “We Skyped first three days”
– Skype is a registered computer application that allows people to see and speak to each other over the Internet in real time

Is it possible to maintain a strong, healthy relationship with someone who is not physically present?
– yes, if you can resolve the communication gap

Relationship with Jesus is our salvation – and walking with him is what sustains our day-to-day life
– the Spirit of God resolves the communication gap – across here and there, then and now
– Jesus’ last words at end of Matthew, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (28:20)
– the Spirit keeps us in vital contact with this same Jesus whose brief encounter with Zaccheus transformed the tax collector

Write Jesus into your week
– you can be what you are with him – tired, fearful, stressed
– you can be what you are, but on your way to something better

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