FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
21st SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 3RD 2019
TEXTS: LUKE 19: 1 – 10
THEME: JESUS CALLS “COME DOWN.”.
Today is All Saints Sunday and we like to remember all those who have gone home to be with the Lord in past year. We will hold on to the good memories that they left behind until when we meet again when the Lord calls us home. The table cloth you see underneath our communion table is full of these names that we keep in our memories. So, when we commune today, we hope to be re-united spiritually with these people we love and miss in this physical world we live in. Take a moment to reflect and remember. Today we also pray for the persecuted church all over the world. We know for sure that religious freedom is not honored in all the countries. In some countries people get killed because of their faith. It could be Christian faith, Islamic faith or any other faith.
Jesus was getting popular by the time he encountered Zacchaeus on his way to Jericho. Jericho was also known as the city of Palms. Jesus had performed many miracles by this time. Jesus never judged people he was willing to welcome them the fold. He treated them as sheep that had gone astray and needed to come back to the fold. Being lost in the biblical sense it’s when we wonder away from God. It is when we are away from where we are supposed to be. In this story we find Zacchaeus do something that was not commonly done by grown men in that culture and that was to run. Grown up men just walked to the destination they never would run especially in public. Here Zacchaeus break this rule and runs ahead of Jesus and climbed a tree to see Jesus. The other part that we see a grown-up man run in the bible was the father who was waiting for his lost son (Prodigal son story – Luke 15: 11 – 31) and when he saw him from far coming home, he run to meet him and welcome him. Maybe Zacchaeus was at the home of Matthew sometimes called Levi when Jesus called him to be his disciple. We are told Matthew invited his tax collectors’ friends to join him to welcome Jesus at his home (Matthew 9:9 – 13, Luke: 5: 27 – 32) There are other attributes that we can connect with Zacchaeus. a) Though he was rich he was lonely that why he was happy to find a new friend in Jesus. He was trying to reach out after the love of God. That why he runs ahead and climb on a tree. b) By him willing to pay 4 times he was going over and above what the law required of him. This demonstrated the change that had taken place inside and now was acted on the outside. c) We also learn that Zacchaeus was also a child of Abraham like all the other Jews, but we also know that having a good lineage (child of bishop, king, queen, rich, famous or royal person) does not save you. It is only the heart that accept Christ in their life that would be saved. The Jews thought they had a guaranteed special place in God’s kingdom and that where they were wrong. In this story we can draw a number of lessons:
- Zacchaeus was disadvantaged: The bible tells us he was a short man (I would call him a little man) and this made it difficult for him to see Jesus who was always surrounded by the multitude. He may have tried several times with no success, then he came with this good idea of climbing a tree and from there he would see Jesus. In order to get to the tree before Jesus could get there he had to run. This has to have been so important to him that he broke the traditional culture where grown man was not supposed to run in public. Especially if you were rich it made it serious to run in public. He must have already heard the kind of work Jesus was doing. Jesus had been invited Matthew (Levi) the tax collector to his home. Jesus had even given this tax collector a special place to be one of the 12 disciples. Zacchaeus figured he must be a special man worth the effort of climbing a tree. He was reaching after the love of God. We have to believe that climbing trees was not one of the things that grown up people did especially a grown-up Jew man just to see Jesus pass by. This part of Zacchaeus reminds us that we might be living with some form of life that you feel disadvantaged. This man height seemed to be a good excuse not to be able to see Jesus but I would like you to know that you don’t have to be tall for Jesus to notice you. The truth was that Zacchaeus had wondered away from the love of God through his lifestyle. All you need is to seek Jesus and he will be there for you. Remember the story of the woman who touched the helm of Jesus garment and she was healed. Jesus stopped and met her need (Luke 8: 43 -50).
- Jesus is not too busy to notice: Jesus send a special message to people around him then and to us today. The message is simple Jesus is not too busy to fail to notice your struggles. Stop and think what were the odd for Jesus to look up the tree, see him and invite Zacchaeus by name? Jesus was truly God for he was able to see this man up the tree before he even got there. Jesus ministry was full of examples of where he noticed people with different needs when the world ignored them. He healed people that were not regarded highly in the community and reached out to those rejected. When the woman who had the flow of blood for 12 years reached out to the helm of his gown he stopped and responded to her need. Today some of us may have climbed a tree to see Jesus at a safe distance but Jesus is saying I can see you come down. We have to be willing to come down from those things that put a distance between us and Jesus. We have to climb down from our unbelief, climb down from holding back our gifts and talent, climb down from the fear of failing, rejection. Come down from the struggles of addiction, of hate. Jesus want to fellowship with us. Stop wondering around come home.
- Zacchaeus was willing to pay back: Zacchaeus willingness to pay back what he had taken wrongfully from people, give half his possession to the poor, repay four times those he might have cheated. This was over and above what was required by the Jewish law. Zacchaeus offered to do this without being asked because the love of God had changed him from inside and was now acting from the outside. But when God calls us, he expects us to leave the baggage behind. You have to notice that Jesus never asked Zacchaeus to repay people what he owed or give anything to the poor, but he chose that himself because of the change that took place from the inside. There are some past mistakes we can’t reverse (murder, neglect, omissions…..) and we leave that to Jesus. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28). We are to lay everything to the feet of Jesus because he has paid it all. We have nothing to worry when we turn our lives to Jesus for, he paid it all through his blood on the cross. Jesus welcomes us to his family and askes us to leave everything behind. When we come to Jesus, we become a new person. We can say with Paul “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
- Jesus came to seek and save: To Zacchaeus all he needed was to see Jesus. He was satisfied in climbing his tree and see Jesus pass hoping that this will make him feel better. But Jesus had a better plan for him. He wanted to have a fellowship with Zacchaeus not only at his home but in his heart, He wanted to be his friend. Though Zacchaeus was rich he was lonely hence needed a companion. Zacchaeus represented the lost and those needing saving. According to the Jews in those days Zacchaeus represented the sinners who have sinned against his people as well as God by being a tax collector to the oppressing regime. They never saw him as a child of Abraham like them. Jesus had to remind them that Zacchaeus was also a child of Abraham. “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men -robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all a I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:10 – 13). Jesus is here today seeking you and me. He came for the sick and we are all sick
As I think of Zacchaeus and his struggle to see Jesus I wonder if there might be those among us in this church who have only seen Jesus when they are up the tree of safety and distance but have not invited Jesus in their heart? Jesus is inviting us to come down from those comfort zones we have created for our selves and meet Jesus in a very personal way. It is very easy to find a tree where we climb just to see Jesus as he passes. We could be up the tree of doubt, tree of fear, tree of hopelessness, tree of pain, a tree of hate, a tree of judging others, a tree of prejudice, a tree of self-centeredness, a tree of laziness and the list can go on. Let us invite Jesus not only in our homes, church buildings, work places, but also in our hearts. Until Jesus is invited in our hearts his presence in other places does not change who we are. There are sinners who thrive in those so called “holy places” for church history can back this assertio