St. Andrews Parish Church
Third Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are introduced today to a man with a physical impediment – he was short! But his greater deficiency was spiritual. He was a official of the Roman government who may have over-charged more than once in his tax collections. It is one of the astounding properties of God to use our short-comings (no pun intended) to gain an advantageous audience with Christ. We will see that this is the case in the matter of Zacchaeus.
1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:1-10)
One salient point in this narrative today is that God knows us long before we know Him. Today is Father’s Day and I daresay that our earthly fathers knew and loved us long before we knew and loved him. The case holds true with our Father God. This being Father’s Day, we should know that there is a sure-fire way to know if we are on solid ground with our Lord: That is answered in the virtue of love that we have for God. If we love Him, you can be assured that He loves you else we could not love Him. “We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (KJV)
This Gospel of the Third Sunday after Trinity is one of my favorites. It illustrates how we may be called by our names before we ever knew Christ intimately. It demonstrates that regardless our backgrounds, or our stature, we can be received by Christ if we are zealous in seeking Him.
We should note some characteristic that identify Zacchaeus before proceeding: 1) he was a man of short stature; 2) he was rich; 3) he was not well liked among the people for he was a chief publican, or tax collector. He held the same respect of the people as a red-neck bar keeper; and 4) he was persistent in all that he did. That probably explains why he was a chief tax collector. His coming to Christ enabled the salvation of his entire family.
He was drawn by an invisible power to Christ. That power was the Holy Spirit, though Zacchaeus considered his motive to be one of outright curiosity. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature If you have come to Christ, it is likely that you came by the same power.
There were many, many people thronging Christ, so many that Zacchaeus could neither see over their tall heads, or break through the crowd. Quite often those who seem nearest to Christ seem to be the very ones that prevent others from approaching Him. It is true in the ordinary walk of life, and it is true in many churches.
People who are short learn to overcome that handicap through years of effort. Actually, medical science informs us that shorter people live longer, but that is not a part of our focus. Zacchaeus was determined to see Christ, and he would do whatever was necessary to accomplish that purpose. He had heard many stories and rumors about this miracle worker. He may have doubted them, but he had to see for himself! I wish more Christian people would not simply allow their starving souls to be fed by one sermon on Sunday, but would want to see God’s mysteries, and discover them, for themselves through diligent study.
What could poor Zacchaeus do? If he lived in modern America, there would probably be a government answer to overcome his handicap. Perhaps every sycamore tree would have a ladder, or streets would be lined, according to city ordinances, so that there were banks on either side upon which short people could walk and see as well as every body else. But the American socialist model had not reached Jericho, and Zacchaeus had no such provision. He must find a solution on his own….and he did!
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. Short legs can often run faster than long, gangly ones if the drive and determination are there. Zacchaeus had become quite clever in his thinking after a lifetime of having to overcome his little handicap. Sometimes the thing that we consider to be a handicap turns out to be a blessing. Zaachaeus assayed the direction the multitude was moving and ran ahead to a sycamore tree that the Holy Ghost had conveniently placed there many years before the need of Zacchaeus arose.
Zacchaeus was not considered a good man by anyone. He was not only shorter than most men were, but he was lower than most in character as well. If you are in low places most of your life, you learn to rise above the common crowd. This Zaccaeus did. If you are low, the only way to move is UP. Zacchaeus went UP into the sycamore tree. Now he could see well, and even better than those who flocked about Christ. He was satisfied just to be able to see Jesus. The fact that Christ would be dining in his house that evening never crossed the mind of Zacchaeus. Many sinners awake from bed in the morning never realizing that their evening meal will be with Christ!
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. I would have liked being a fly on the limb of the sycamore tree to see the face of Zacchaeus when Christ stopped beneath him and looked up at him. Perhaps he expected a reprimand for the dreadful life he had led. Certainly, he did not expect Jesus to call his name. How would Jesus know HIS name? How, indeed! We learn here that regardless of our astonishment, when Jesus calls us, we respond with haste. The next breath is not a guarantee. We must act while light remains. We learn, too, that, although we have put ourselves up higher up in prayer to see Christ, we must descend from our high station with humble obedience when we go before Christ. “Come down,” is the command Christ gives all who would follow and dine with Him.
What amazement to Zacchaeus that Christ would abide in his house that day. When Christ comes into our hearts, He does not make a temporary visit – He comes to Abide (live there forever).
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. Friend, have you descended from your high perch and received Christ joyfully as this poor sinner, Zacchaeus, has done?
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. Don’t we always have the murmurrers among us in the church. They judge the dress, the hair, the shoes, the walk – everything of a stranger who comes into their company. Had they, themselves, not been grievous sinners, and were not most of them still in that condition?
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. The Roman law required this compensation for fraud, but the Jewish law required only the principal plus one fifth. Zacchaeus determined to satisfy both laws. This was not asked of Zacchaeus by Christ, but Zacchaeus was living by a different standard now – it was his desire to undo as much wrong as it was possible for him to do. He now had Christ in his home, and in his heart.
Now follows a beautiful expression of the covenant relationship that exists in the family of the man or woman who follows Christ: 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Salvation had come to the whole HOUSE of Zacchaeus – including the children. Zacchaeus may have been a lowly publican, but he was now fully a son of Abraham both in body and soul, for all who receive the Seed of Promise (Jesus Christ) are the true sons and daughters of Abraham and entitled to all rights and privileges of the Israel of God.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Lost when? Lost at the ill-winded Tree in Eden. When they opened there eyes in birth, and all since the fall of Adam in the Garden at Eden. Christ comes to save that which was lost, and He is there for the most dreadful of sinners, and even those who presume themselves to be morally good. What of your soul, friend? Have you climbed a tree just for a glimpse of Christ, or have you folded your Bible after worship last Sunday and just now opened it for a glimpse? Zacchaeus got more than a glimpse, and so will all who earnestly seek Him!