Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and a sinner. People certainly didn't expect Jesus to go
and visit with him and to stay at his house. But what made Zacchaeus such a sinner. Was it the fact that he was a tax collector? Well, certainly in the eyes of the people he was
working for the empire. He was collecting taxes that overburdened the people, often hurting them to a point where they struggled to survive. So in the eyes of the church, or
organized religion of the day, yes, Zacchaeus was hurting the people by collecting for the state. Tax collectors generally made their living by charging a little more on top of
what the people already couldn't pay. They became rich by defrauding the people, by asking for more, maybe twice as much or three times as much, and having the power of the state
to imprison them for not being able to pay. So people like Zacchaeus became rich off the hardworking backs of others, often bringing them to their own demise because they were
unable to pay what Zacchaeus demanded. So according to the church, or organized religion of the day, yes, Zacchaeus was a sinner. He worked for the empire which had many gods,
not following the one God, and he defrauded people right and left so that he could become wealthy.
And so how is it that when Jesus comes to town he decides he is going to go to Zacchaeus' house? Certainly it's a great honor for Jesus to come to
anyone's house. I imagine if Jesus walked in the door today, any one of us would be astonished and fall over if Jesus said, "I'm coming to your house today for lunch." But Jesus,
seeing Zacchaeus dangling from a tree...could that be the very reason that Jesus decided to pick him and go to his house? I imagine from time to time there may have been children
in those trees as Jesus came to town as they also could not see over the crowd. And it probably was unlikely to see a man dangling from the tree just so he could see Jesus. But
it also says something about him wanting to know who Jesus was or maybe, knowing who Jesus was, being desperate to see him. However it happens, Jesus sees him. Maybe Jesus knows
what's going on in Zacchaeus' heart at the time. Jesus says, "Zacchaeus, come on down. I'm coming to your house today." You can imagine Zacchaeus being both thrilled and
completely frightened. "What am I to do?" The crowd, on the other hand, is very angry, "Why Jesus, would you go with this man who's a sinner? Come to my house. I've been going to
church, I've been paying my tithe, I've done the sacrifices." So they're grumbling and they're angry because this person is unworthy to be hosting Jesus. But Jesus doesn't care
about that. Jesus goes to Zacchaeus' house.
On the way to his house, Zacchaeus isn't sure what he's going to do or say, but he realizes it's going to be something of great gravity and he decides
he's going to make things right. He says, "Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much."
Paying back what he has defrauded people of may seem like that might be enough, but for Zacchaeus who was so honored to have Jesus standing in front of him and eating at his
house, even he recognizes the immensity of his own sinful behavior. And within him wells up the Spirit. "If I've defrauded anyone, I'm going to pay them back four times as much
as I have taken." That's probably a lot of money. And you can imagine if he made his living and achieved his wealth by defrauding people, he was going to be left with very
little. But did that really matter to Zacchaeus? It's hard to say. We don't read much more about that in the lesson, but what we hear is Jesus' response. "Today, salvation has
come to this house."
How has it come? How did salvation come into the house of this sinner? Quite simply, he had a complete and utter change of heart. He was completely
changed in spirit, completely changed with who he was and who he was going to be in the future. He was someone who was going to live differently, not to do these things again. So
how had salvation come? Was it simply Jesus, the salvation of life, stepping into his home or could it be because Zacchaeus himself had made the changes necessary to give life to
others? I'll stand on both sides of that aisle. But step back onto the side of the aisle of the change of heart being one of the big things that brought salvation into Zacchaeus'
life and reflect on how salvation may have come into our lives or into our house. When have we recognized that we have had a change of heart? When have we recognized that God
truly has forgiven us, shown us the error of our ways, and with joy and thanksgiving changed ourselves to be someone different with the hope and knowledge that God is going to
continue to go with us in the Spirit to help us to do that. That is a moment of salvation coming into our lives. I can give you Communion, holy food and drink, the cup of
salvation. And, yes, the Spirit leaps within us as we partake of the bread and the cup. But salvation becomes that much more apparent in us when we experience and live out a
change of heart, a change for the better. That is what the story today is telling us, to look for those areas in our lives like Zacchaeus how salvation may have come to our
house, how salvation may have come into our lives.
What area in your life was the area where you first recognized that salvation has come to you? Think about that. Pray on that. Reflect upon it. The season
of Thanksgiving is at hand. In the next couple of weeks, we will be giving thanks in many ways. Today, giving thanks for life, for this life and the life to come, but in future
days to give thanks for things like when salvation came into our life, thanks for the wonderful things that God has done in the Spirit in us to motivate us, to inspire us to
truly be the saints in light. Meditate on that. And, if you get a chance, scribble it down. Put it on the refrigerator to remind yourself and leave it there until the time comes
when you can't remember why it is that you go to church, why it is that you listen to Pastor Steve's messages, or why it is that we continue to follow this faith, which is truly
a faith of hope. Do that. We may find ourselves blessed.
Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve