(A sermon preached in the county jail.)
Were it not for Dr. Luke, we would not have known about Zacchaeus, for his story is only recorded here. Let's see what we can learn about him.
He lived in Jericho. This was a city that was cursed by Joshua (Joshua 6:26) after the walls fell down and the Israelites killed all the inhabitants. Joshua predicted that if the town were ever built again, the person responsible would lose his first-born and youngest sons. That curse came true when Hiel of Bethel built Jericho again (1 Kings 16:34).
On this day, the Lord passed through Jericho, and honored it with His presence, for the gospel takes away the curse.
His occupation was the chief tax collector. You may be more familiar with the term publican. The Jews despised these men, seeing them as deputies of Rome. The Pharisees especially avoided any contact with them and lumped them in the same class as sinners, or women of ill repute. As the chief of the tax collectors, Zacchaeus was the one for whom the other tax collectors worked. He was the manager. In his position, he could skim off a considerable amount of the collected taxes, making him a very rich man.
He was not a tall man, but a man of short stature. This probably enhanced his position, for he no doubt had a Napoleon complex, as many short people do. He was probably a ruthless man, which would have been one way he compensated for his shortness.
Jesus, who was famous by now, was passing through the city, on His way to Bethany. He was traveling from the other side of the Jordan to Bethany, where He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Zacchaeus knew the route that Jesus would take. In order to see this famous person, he climbed up into a sycamore tree. Zach thought that he was putting himself into a place where he could accomplish his purpose, but as we will see, he actually was putting himself into a place where Jesus could accomplish His purpose.
No doubt, many of you are here today because of some crime you committed. You may not have given it any further thought, but consider this: There is no coincidence with Christ! You are here today, hearing this message, and you have a purpose that God has for you. You may not have your freedom, as we do, but you have a purpose.
Notice what happened when Jesus came to the place. To the amazement of the people and the absolute surprise of Zacchaeus, Jesus stopped and looked up. As their eyes met, Zach knew that he was looking into the eyes of One who loved him. There was something special about that look.
Notice that Jesus knew Zach's name! Jesus needs no introduction. He created you. He knows you. He knows you better than you know yourself! He loves you. He loves you in spite of what you have done and who you have become!
Jesus told him to make haste and come down. Zacchaeus had put himself in the way of Christ, to see Him, but he never once thought that this great Man would give him anything more than a glance, at best. Little did he realize that he was the reason Jesus came by that way that day!
Zacchaeus made haste and came down. Not one to miss an opportunity such as this, Zach immediately obeyed the Lord. This is a wonderful example of the efficacious call of Christ on the soul of a man.
Question: Have you ever heard the call of Christ to make haste and come down? The Scripture is very plain, stating that God's Spirit will not always strive with man. There is no man here whose soul is so hard that Christ cannot break it. But, you must act with haste.
And received Him joyfully. There is no joy like the joy of receiving Christ.
Notice the complaint against Christ. The religious leaders did not care about Zacchaeus. They did not care about other sinners. In fact, they judged with a complaining spirit whenever a person associated with such people.
Jesus is not afraid to be associated with sinners. He is not afraid to be identified with us. Oh, we can praise God for that!
At the dinner celebration, Zacchaeus made some public statements. He stood and said to the Lord&ldots;His confession was unsought and came freely from his heart.
Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor. There are three things we need to note about this statement.
First, he addressed Jesus as Lord. The Scripture says that no one can do that unless they have been born-again by the Spirit. Now, what it means is that no one can, from his or her free heart, confess Jesus as Lord.
Second, He admitted that he had excess. I give half my goods, indicating that he had much and more to spare.
Third, note to whom he was giving it, the poor. This indicates that his conscience was dictating his action, for he had doubtless obtained his wealth by extortion of the poor.
If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore it fourfold. Sometimes, when a person is confronted with sin, and feigns repentance by saying, "If I have done so-and-so&ldots;" but here, Jesus accepted Zacchaeus' confession as real and genuine. I think what he was saying was, "I don't know exactly whom I may have defrauded, but as I discover them, I will restore to them fourfold."
The importance of all this is that his confession was freely given, revealing a heart that was already changed. Clearly, when the Lord confronts a person, the change is immediate and effective.
In response to Zach's confession, Jesus Himself declared, Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.
How much faith does it take to become a Christian? Not much. In fact, the slightest response from a heart awakened by the Lord is sufficient. And, what a precious sound it is to hear the Lord pronounce, "Today salvation has come to this house!"
Each of you live in a cursed place. The County Jail is not a place that any of you want to reside in. But, like Jericho, when the gospel comes, the curse is taken away.
You are here because you have sinned in the commission of some crime. You may not realize it, but this is a divine appointment for you. He has orchestrated your life to bring you to this place today.
Jesus has gone out of His way to pass by your place. We are here ministering to you in His name, not because we enjoy taking time from our Sunday to meet with you, but because the Lord has commissioned us to bring the gospel to you today.
Jesus is looking up at you and saying, "Make haste" and come to Me today.
Invite Him to come into your heart, to be your Lord and Savior, and then He will say, "Today, salvation has come to this house."
Copyright © 2002, by John E.
Bible text is from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
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