Zacchaeus has something going for him. Zacchaeus is fascinated by Jesus. He’s heard of Jesus, he wants to just be able to see Jesus. But Zacchaeus also has a problem. The problem is the crowd. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. Zacchaeus could not see Jesus. Like the song says, he’s a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. But he is, despite this, a chief tax collector. Now being short won’t keep you from a parade. You just gotta get up front. Problem is, this is the righteous crowd. This crowd is full of the fans of Jesus. The synagogue attendees. They have their perfect attendance pins on. And they’re not going to make room for someone like Zacchaeus, wee little man or not. They feel someone trying to push their way through, they say “Oh, it’s Zacchaeus,” they’re blocking him at every turn. They’re not going to make room for someone like Zacchaeus. The crowd of Jesus fans. “He’s our Jesus.” They were the good people. They have their bibles, they pay their tithes. They go to church. “He belongs to us. We’re pro life, we vote the right way. We’re not going to let any sinners in here.”
Because of the crowd, Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus. The sanctimonious crowd won’t make room for someone like Zacchaeus. The sanctimonious, belligerent crowd turned out to be very inhospitable ti sinners. If we’re not careful, we can become a sanctimonious, belligerent crowd, we fans of Jesus. Instead of helping people discover Jesus we become an impediment to them. When we are a sanctimonious, belligerent crowd, we become an impediment. They can’t see Jesus because of the crowd.
This is what happened to the American church when we started fighting for political power. A politicized Church became a belligerent crowd preventing outsiders from seeing Jesus. That’s a problem.
Fortunately Zacchaeus was not one to be easily deterred. He was chief tax collector after all. He was resourceful, a determined man, used to getting his way. He was going to see Jesus.
So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. So he goes ahead in his Armani suit, his Gucci shoes (he is the richest man in town), he knows the route Jesus going to take. He goes ahead and climbs that sycamore tree. He’s got a perfect view of Jesus. His expectations were modest, he only wanted to see Jesus. And something wonderful happens. 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.” If you set your heart on seeing Jesus, you will usually get more than you bargained for.. not only does he see Jesus, Jesus sees him. Not only does Jesus see him, he invites himself over for dinner. He says I must stay at your house today.
No doubt the president of the synagogue had planned a meal, a dinner. But Jesus must have dinner at Zacchaeus house today. Why MUST Jesus have stayed with Zacchaeus.
Because tomorrow Jesus goes to Jerusalem and the deal is about to go down. And ONE MORE TIME he wanted to enact the kingdom of god. One more time he wants to show what it’s all about. Maybe this time they’ll get it. One more timr he wants to show them the Kingdom of God. Who is the last person in Jericho people think will be a part of God’s new thing?
Zacchaeus. He’s a tax collector. He’s excommunicated. He’s banished. He’s outcast. He’s a chief tax collector for crying out loud. If you were to ask people is God on the move??? “Oh yes, yes.” Do you feel the kingdom of god is on the verge? Do you feel like God is about to break through as do a new thing?? Of course, yes, yes!!!
And who is not going to be a part of it?? Sinners!!! Tax collectors, prostitutes. CHIEF tax collectors! We got one right in this town!! He’s the richest man in town and he’s very wicked, very evil, and he will be totally outside of it. Zacchaeus will not be a part of what God is doing.
That’s why Jesus says I must share the table with that man, because I need to show the people what the kingdom of God is like. I must share this table with the outcast for one more enactment of the kingdom of God.
As soon as Jesus says “Come on Zacchaeus, I want to go to your house,” the crowd began to grumble. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” They don’t like it. He’s our jesus, what’s he doing going with one of them?
Luke’s gospel is all about the radical hospitality of Jesus in his table practice. This just keeps coming up. Jesus will share his table with anyone who will share it with him. He lives in a culture that is very sensitive to these things. It’s a taboo culture. It’s a kosher culture. It’s a culture where some are permissible, some are clean. But some are impermissible, some cannot be allowed at the table, they are unkosher, unclean. Jesus is crashing through all those boundaries. Jesus will share the table with anyone who will share it with him, and this is radical.
Hear this – Pharisees, Sadduccees, tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, prodigal sons, elder brothers, secularists, believers, skeptics, church goers, conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Jesus doesn’t care!! If you’re willing to sit with Jesus, Jesus is willing to sit with you.
Jesus touches the untouchable. The leper and the unclean, Jesus touches them. Jesus loves the unlovable, the tax collector and the prostitute. Jesus includes the excluded, the Samaritan and the prostitute. Jesus welcomes the banished, the prodigal and the scapegoat.
He even welcomes you. But – are you willing to sit down with them?
“He 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 all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, 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.””
Luke 19:1-10 ESV