Merritt Island Presbyterian Church
“He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief toll-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him , ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, For this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’”
I arrived at the Fall Festival at 6 last night–and I could hardly believe my eyes! Children were roaming all over the church grounds, dressed as Tinker Bells, Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, princesses and witches.
I even saw a little baby in a stroller dressed as the Flash!
The adult costumes were great, too! Jim asked me, “Have you seen Pat Smith? I saw Sterling, but I don’t see Pat.” He had walked right past Pat in her witch’s get up, without realizing who she was!
I talked to parents as little Trick-or-Treaters wandered from car trunk to car trunk in our circular drive, cautiously accepting candy from strangers and whispering, “Thank you,” as their mothers prompted them.
I stepped into the fellowship hall, and I am sure my jaw dropped. It was packed!! I greeted children, parents and grandparents–many of whom I recognized from Kids Klub and the MIPC Preschool and Childcare center. Our members were busy serving in a variety of ways! Greeting, cooking and serving hotdogs and chips, helping kids decorate bags and cupcakes, taking photos, cleaning up, and running the games–ring toss, ping pong ball toss, fishing, and needle in a haystack. Courtney was painting faces. Caitlyn gave me a Hello Kitty tattoo.
We ate through 104 hotdogs–and would have eaten more, but the dogs were gone before the people stopped coming!
All I could think was, “Wow, thank you, God! And thank you to all our hardworking volunteers!” We prayed for children and families to come. And they came. And our church was there–loving, giving, and serving–sharing our joy.
What our congregation did last night for the community, the church and the Lord was to be a good steward of our gifts and talents, time and energy and other resources–all that we have and all that we are. All that God has made us to be. For Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”
I am excited to see what the Lord is doing in and through us! I can’t wait to see how God will use us next to build His Kingdom!
The story of Zacchaeus is something that children sing about–the “wee little man… (who) climbed up sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” And though it IS a HAPPY story, a JOYFUL story, don’t be distracted and miss that it’s about stewardship– giving of ourselves TO the Lord, giving what we have FOR the Lord. The example of the good and faithful steward is a person of low status, employed in a job that makes his neighbors LOATHE him. As a toll collector, he takes money from the Jewish community and pays it to the Roman Empire. Jewish people who worked as toll collectors came from low status backgrounds; they weren’t born to families with land and money. This man– Zacchaeus– is a kind of entrepreneur, a self-made man. He is a “chief toll collector”–an expression only Luke uses and only found in this one NT passage. He supervises other toll collectors.
At this point in Luke, when his audience learns that he is a) a toll collector and b) rich, they are prepared to hate Zacchaeus, too! Up to now, though, Luke portrays toll collectors as people who are Jesus’ friends–people who are receptive to the Good News and are faithful. But Luke does NOT normally portray rich people favorably. In Luke 18:18, Jesus encounters a ruler who asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus recites some of the 10 Commandments. When the ruler answers, “I have kept all these since my youth,” Jesus says there is one thing lacking. “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the man hears this, “he became sad; for he was very rich.” Jesus looks at him and says, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
After we learn he is rich, we find out that Zacchaeus is short–another mark against him in his competitive, macho, Greek society that worships beautiful, muscular, big, powerful bodies.
Luke continues to startle his first audience when the short, rich, chief toll collector is willing to humiliate himself and his family by running and climbing a large tree –something that wealthy, adult men did not do! His behavior reveals Zacchaeus’ heart– he is eager not only to “see Jesus” but to know him!! He yearns to meet the Lord who eats and drinks with and befriends outcasts– “sinners” like him.
Then comes the personal invitation–and the revelation that not only is Zaccheaus looking for Jesus; Jesus is looking for him!! He knows his name, even though Jesus has never met him. And I love this thought–the Son of God wants to come into his home. What an intimate thing we do when we enter into another’s home and eat their food! Jesus, though he is only passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem and his life-giving sacrifice on a cross–will take time away from his public ministry to lodge with Zacchaeus overnight. Jesus wants a relationship with Zacchaeus! Jesus wants to personally bring Zacchaeus–and ALL sinners–his salvation!
Jesus says, “Zacchaeus. Hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”
Zacchaeus joyfully obeys and is “happy to welcome him” or literally, “rejoicing, he welcomed him.” He is the opposite of the crowd that grumbles, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
The next scene is when Zacchaeus is standing–presumably in his home–and sharing his heart with the Lord. The verbs in this passage aren’t future tense, as the NRSV translates! They are present tense. What he really says is, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor.” This means he is already going way beyond the Old Testament tithe of 10% of the increase. Zacchaeus gives 50%! He goes on, “And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.”
Hearing of Zacchaeus’ integrity and generosity to the poor, Jesus declares, “Today, salvation has come to this house!” It isn’t because of what Zacchaeus does that earns him salvation, just as it isn’t our good works that earn us God’s forgiveness and eternal life. Zacchaeus’ giving reveals his faith! He knows to whom he belongs–and that his life is not his own. Jesus holds him up as an example to those who profess to be God’s children because they are descendants of Abraham, but fail to live by faith. They don’t give; they don’t love. This is what Christ means by, “For this man, too, is a son of Abraham!” Zacchaeus embodies all the qualities of those fit for the Kingdom of God.
Friends, make sure the Lord really is number one in your life! Does your giving reveal a strong faith? With God’s help, let us seek to be good stewards of all God’s gifts to us! Let us keep on revealing our faith not just by our words but through acts of lovingkindness and generosity. We will be blessed, as we were last night!
We are still sinners, in need of God’s grace. We are far from perfect! The Good News is that Christ loves sinners and desires to be in loving relationship with us! God knows our names! He wants to GIVE us ALL salvation through His Son, who gave himself for us!
Will you welcome him into your home? Will you welcome Him into your heart?
Seek the Lord eagerly! You will find that Christ is eagerly seeking you!
He calls out to us, like he did to Zaccheaus, “I must stay at your house today!”
Let us pray. Holy One, thank you for seeking us eagerly, for knowing us so well and calling us by name. Thank you for forgiving us for our sins and for desiring to live in our hearts and in our homes and be in loving relationship with us! Thank you, Lord, for using us to serve the community through wonderful outreach events such as our Fall Festival and for stirring many children and families to come and be blessed. Thank you for the kind volunteers who willingly and faithfully give of their time, talents, hearts and minds, money and other resources so that we may continue our ministries through this congregation. Help us, Lord, to touch the world by giving and loving, more and more, sharing the joy of your salvation–a free gift to all who believe, accept and receive it. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer and Lord. Amen.