19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
19:5 When 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.”
19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
19:8 Zacchaeus 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.”
19:9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.
19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
May the Words of my mouth and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our Rock, our strength and our Redeemer. AMEN.
I was so excited when I saw the Gospel that I was assigned to preach on today. Zacchaeus has
always been a person in the bible that has intrigued me. He is a curious sort of guy, a complex
character. He was a chief tax-collector in Jericho, a descendant of Abraham and the biblical account
gives us an example of Jesus’ personal, earthly mission to bring salvation to the lost.
We have to remember that tax collectors were despised as traitors. They worked for the Roman
Empire, not for their Jewish community, so this is context of the readings today. The people thought of
him as corrupt. I found out in one of my Church History texts that in Jericho at that time in history the
lucrative production and export of balsam was centered in Jericho, so you can imagine that tax
collection would have carried both importance and wealth.
So here is this short, wealth guy, who decided to climb a Sycamore tree to see Jesus in the midst
of the crowd. I wondered why the tree specifics were named in the Gospel reading, and I know nothing
about Sycamores – so a bit of snooping told me that they grow to 20 m tall and they have a considerable
spread with a dense round crown of branches. So this tree was probably fairly substantial to hold a
person. In the Bible, the sycamore is referred to seven times in the Old Testament and once in the New
Testament. Though it was not as common in Palestine, the sycamore was a very popular and valuable
fruit tree in Jericho and Canaan. In Kenya the Sycamore tree is considered sacred. It was often called
“Tree of Life”, or “Origin”. Another interesting fact, the Gikuyu Tribe of Kenya have been thought to
have been slaves in Egypt – when they fled the Pharaoh they fled North, while Moses and his people fled
So why name the Sycamore Tree in the gospel story? I think it is named because roots run deep
to sustain such a tree and this tree is rooted in history to the time of old testament and the people of
that time. Zacchaeus climbed a sacred tree to look upon Jesus Christ. He hung out on a limb to see
Jesus and he wanted Jesus to see him too.
Jesus called Zacchaeus by name. He made eye contact, and spoke to him face to face. He was
glad to see him – at least that is the tone I take from the Gospel today. This was not an interruption in
the Messiah’s schedule.
Jesus calls out to him – he has time for those who seek Him.
Getting that attention, oh yes, some of us are better at that than others, this is true.
We have 5 small grand kids all under 5, so you can imagine when we have a family get together there is
a lot of activity, noise, and if the grandkids are all talking at the same time, it is tough for me to give
them individual attention.
One of my grandsons, he is the loudest of them all and in the middle of the
age group, will take his little hands and put them on my face and say “Grandma…… “
This may happen in the midst of Lorne and I getting supper for 14 on the table – he will search us out
and basically say by his gesture “Listen to ME” not them. ME. Very sweet, very direct, and yes, I
stop what I am doing and I give him my total attention. He knows how to communicate in a busy
environment. – JUST LIKE ZACCHAEUS
LOOK at ME !!!- Zacchaeus did the same thing. Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a
look at Jesus, but he also wanted Jesus to look at him. The Savior did look. He showed his Love by
acknowledging this short guy hanging out on a limb in the Sycamore tree. When Jesus reached the spot,
he looked up into the branches, addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he
intended to visit his house. The crowd was shocked that Jesus, a Jew, would consider being a guest of a
tax collector – WHAT!!! You have got to be kidding!!! This thought was certainly being murmured
around the crowd.
Zacchaeus was curious….. that is a good trait, even if you are a tax collector.
Maybe, especially if you are a tax collector. I think that God has placed in the soul of every human being a desire to
connect to the Creator. Steve Andrews a baptist pastor says it very well:
Some fight it, ignore it, and deny it, but the Scripture is clear. Human beings
are spiritual beings and no amount of worldly success or possessions can satisfy
the deepest longing of the soul to know God.
The gospel indicates to us that God chose to associate with (and to save) this man whom He
knew to be an unworthy sinner. The others people were not pleased about this. They were angry,
because they did not see themselves as sinners, but as the righteous. Earlier this month we discussed
wealth and how it is not a sign of God’s favor. We talked about Jesus declaring that it is nearly
impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
This gospel brings balance – a story about another rich man who receives Jesus with joy, who promises to give half of his wealth to the poor and to restore
fourfold any amount to those he may have defrauded. It is not about wealth, it is not about worthiness,
it is about saying YES Lord – LOOK AT ME, Change my heart, and welcome me in – a sinner.
We need to see in this gospel message that Jesus came to save those who are unworthy, those who are sinners. Yes Jesus responds….. I see you. Come to me….. Yes I have time for you…. Even you.
Let us Pray:
In your Son you seek out and save the lost, O God,
and invite us to the banquet of your eternal home.
Visit your people with the joy of salvation.
Help us to be curious and rejoice in the riches of your forgiveness.
Help us to reach out and be a welcoming community, willing to share with others the fest of your love. Amen.