Luke 19: 1-10
He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus.
He was a chief tax collector and was rich.
And he was seeking to see who Jesus was,
but on account of the crowd he could not,
because he was small in stature.
So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree
to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
And 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.”
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they[the crowd] all grumbled,
“He[that Jesus] has gone in to be the guest of a man
a man who is a sinner.”
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord,
the half of my goods I give to the poor.
And if I have defrauded anyone of anything,
I restore it fourfold.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house,
since he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man came to
seek and to save the lost.”
It was an annual summer tradition.
All the children, ages 3 – 11, the Youth Group and Adult
Volunteers would gather in the mornings of Bible School
and sing our favorite church songs.
A group favorite was the Zaccheaus.
His song not only told the story, but it had motions to go along
with the words.
Zaccheaus was as wee little Man and wee little man was he,
he climbed up in the sycamore tree
The Lord he wanted to see
And as the savior passed that way he looked up in the tree
And he said: Zaccheaus, you come down
for I m going to your house to day,
I am going to your house today.
Always a favorite – on a side note
After one morning gathering a Pre-school teacher pulling me aside.
She explained, in a caring teacher-like manner, that the
pre-school children are concrete thinkers.
“When you hold up your hand and motion that Zaccheaus was a
wew little man – That while using my thumb and finger as a
visual, the children had the impression that
“wee” Zacchaeus is literally 2 inches tall.
Lesson # 123 in my service w/children. Love a good teacher!
“Wee” Zacchaeus is such a peculiar little man.
He was a social outcast, yet since then
he has been made into charming, familiar story
a character of folklore and children’s songs.
In ten short verses (lol, no pun intended)
we learn a lot about this little man from Jericho.
Not only is he rich, as the chief tax collector,
he is patricianly despised by his fellow Jews.
The chief collector was known for
scheming with Roman government official and for
taking advantage of others to make a good profit
for themselves – similar to
corrupt subprime mortgage agents on steroids.
If you were reading the gospel of Luke
from the beginning in one sitting, you would definitely
not expect this story,
you would definitely not expect this story
to end happily for our “wee little man”.
Luke has a list of “not nice things” to say about rich people
before this story comes along.
- Jesus blessed the poor, but warns the rich
- He tells the parable of the rich famer who hoped to build bigger barns in which to store all his crops, but….it didn’t work out.
- Then there is Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell.
- In chapter 18 just before today’s’ reading,
the rich young ruler walks away from Jesus disatified.
Now, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to
face his death when he
encounters this crowd and a curious man
(small in stature) looking down from a tree.
If you enjoy art – take some time this week and go to google
images. You will see the variety of tapestries, paintings,
etchings and other ways this failiar ancient scripture has
been depicted of the centuries.
Zaccheasu is a man, based on the theme of the previous chapters
of the gospel of Luke, we would expect Jesus to rebuke,
reprimand, admonish for his alliance with the corrupt
systems of the Empire.
But, just when we think we have Jesus figured out,
Jesus catches us ‘off guard’
If Zacchaeus had been “puffed up”, overly righteous,
pompous or obviously arrogant,
Jesus might have just passed right by.
However, this community shunned (rightfully so perhaps)
businessman did something extraordinary.
Having heard about this man Jesus,
Zaccheaus stepped outside his normal role, he took a chance
listened to the voice of Jesus and
and entered toe crowd. His every move exposed
for everyone to see.
This is a scene, a community or public gathering
where he would not be welcome.
This is crowd who would shun his presence. It was a pretty good
idea to hide up in the branches of the sycamore tree and peer
out at Jesus from a hidden perch.
Think about all the movement in this story:
Jesus walking, people gathering around Jesus, following him
as he is walking into town, running to seem him,
dust and dirt and the usual sounds of a village/community
You know Zacchaues – the rich currup chief collector is ano a spry young boy or teenager that can just climb a try.I can imagein he had to work to get up in that perch. And then Jesus “calls him out”
You know what it is like to be “called out” by teacher, parent or coach. All goes quiet and All of a sudden all eyes are on YOU.
Zaccheaus must have been frozen on that branch. I am not s sure he really had to move ata all, but he did.He responded to the commanding voice of jesus. He climbed down that tree and again put himself out there for all to see.
Bear with me as I connect all the movement here to another
another favorite childhood song
which has a punch line written with Zaccheaus in mind.
You know the song:
You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in and you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around:
That’s what it’s all about!
And the last stanza:
You put your whole self in,
You put your whole self out,
You put your whole self in and you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around:
That’s what it’s all about!
Zacceaus didn’t just put in one foot or arm,
He put his WHOLE SELF IN
And then, after he puts his whole self in and out
in front of the Jesus AND the crowd,
Jesus takes it a step further and
requests that Zacchaeus take him
– not to his offce or place of business,
but to his house.
To break bread and dine in his home.
When the crowd hears, they are confused.
This gesture on the part of Jesus and Zaccaeus
seems to go against everything they
thought was right.
This man is an unrighteous not good sinner.
No Jesus you canNOT go with him.
We have been working so hard to follow you<
patiently standing here, running ad to see you,
to follow you to figure out how we can be your
disciples and you are going to his house?
Zaccaeus, who has whole fully presented himself before Jesus,
responds to the anger and resentment of the crowd and
the request from Jesus…. with JOY!
You see, he made a choice
to put aside everything he “had” represented for,
all the identity given to him by his work,
his place in policy life,
his role in the community and
his whole self before the son of God.
In that moment – he did not know –
that while he risked to be seen by Jesus,
that Jesus was in turn seeking him.
Someone once said
“You only truly possess what you can give away.
Everything else possesses you.” Repeat
Barbara Brown Taylor on this scripture story writes:
“It’s one of the hardest sayings in the whole bible, one that
strikes fear in the heart of would be Christians
everywhere because we hear it as as a command
But it isn’t that. It’s an invitation – an invitation to become a new
person, defined in a new way, to trade in all the words that
have described him up to now – rich, respected,
cultured, educated, obedient – to trade them in for
one radically different word, which is free.
Not poor, but free.
Zaccheaus was possessed.
He was not free. Until this moment he could
not put his whole self in.
And when he did, put “his whole self in”
he experienced “divine extravagance” – salvation form God.
We often focus on the portion of the story
where the “wee” Zaccaeus then “gives it all away” –
thinking that is the message for us to take away.
But much like the message of the widow at the gate – giving all that she had or the sotry of Mary McLeod Buthuen
it is not how much is given
it is the heart of the giver.
I want the widow’s heart, I want to be like “wee” Zaccheaus.
Who having put his whole life in, then wanted to give
all that he had, putting his whole self in.
I want her generous heart. I want his courage to walk,
run, climb up and down, and withstand before Jesus.
Whether we give away ten thousand coins or only two
does not matter in God’s eyes.
What matters is how we give.
Do we only give what I’ll never miss?
Do we give whatever it is I have left over after we have|
purchased everything we need or want?
Or do we give my whole self even if it means
doing without something we really, really want?
Do we put our selves “out there” – exposed as followers?
Or keep a little part to the side
just case of an emergency?
(Sherri’s story, using the name Terri)
My new friend Terri describes it this way:
She and her husband moved from Cincinnati to SC
They went to church, but never fully put their whole selves in
He died suddenly of a heart attack
Then her father died
She was in shock
As she tells her story, it was the Holy Spirit that surrounded her with a new family – a church family and a deepened enriched understanding of the love of Jesus Christ that saved her in one of the most difficult parts of her life.
She said, I am not the same person I was when I lived in Cincinnati.
I fully belong to God and look at the world in a whole new way.
My friend don’t know what to do with me.
Here is the part that so reminded me of our text today
She said, “you know before, I knew who God was
“in my head but not fully in my heart.
I kind of held back a part of myself – never really fully let God
control my life. I kept myself first, but no more.
Remember, Jesus loves all – those who are holding back
the rich tax collector – who put himself out there
and the poor widow –
Loved them then, loves them still.
Doesn’t even love one more than the other.
Putting your whole-self-in is not about earning God’s love.
It is about accepting divine extravagance,
participating in the dance
putting your whole self in, becoming one of God’s own.
That is what it is to be free. “let go and let God.
That is what it means put your whole self in and
be turned around.
Ask yourself, “What part of me am I holding back?”
Am you living your faith at a safe distance – perched on a
branch or looking from the sidelines?
We heard the story of Zaccheaus. We know we he would say:
Put your whole self in!