Sunday Sermon: ‘God Knows Our Name’ (Salvation Series)

Standard

Luke 19:1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to: seek and to save that which was lost.

The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most famous stories in all the Bible. Every child who has ever attended Sunday School has heard the story and sang the song about the ‘wee little man.’ But as enchanting as this story is, it is also rich with meaning.

I. Who Was Zacchaeus?

I suppose the first question we should answer is, ‘Who was Zacchaeus?’ The Bible tells us some interesting things about him.

A. He Was a Publican (Tax Collector)

First of all the Bible tells us that he was a ‘publican,’ which is a word derived from the Latin word for ‘tax collector.’ Zacchaeus worked for the Roman IRS.

Actually, Zacchaeus was a Jew who worked for the Roman IRS. History teaches us that the Romans taxed its citizens pretty heavily. With their tax money they built roads and massive buildings and funded a huge army. They were the first to finance a program of rebuilding the infrastructure of their society.

In order to collect their taxes, the Romans devised a system where they would farm out areas of their empire to the highest bidder. If I understand it right, Roman business men would bid on the amount of taxes they could collect from a region. In order to receive the contract, the highest bidder had to sign on the dotted line, guaranteeing the Roman government that he would collect the full amount from the people.

Whoever won the bid would then hire citizens of that country to collect the taxes. There were some ordinary common men such as Matthew Levi who became one of Christ’s disciples, and then other men like Zacchaeus who would oversee an entire region of tax collecting. Notice that scripture says –

Luke 19:2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

‘Chief among the publicans’ means that Zacchaeus was a supervisor of lesser tax collectors. There’s a possibility that at one time, Matthew worked for Zacchaeus. According to John MacArthur [1], there were three great tax centers in ancient Palestine: one was at Capernaum on the northern port of Israel; one at Caesarea which covered the middle portion of Israel; and one at Jericho which covered the lower part of Israel, including the city of Jerusalem. Zacchaeus was not only responsible for collecting the Roman taxes in Jericho, he also oversaw the collecting of taxes in Jerusalem and other towns and villages of that region.

The Bible says that Zacchaeus was rich. How did he make all of his money? The tax collector on the street could charge each citizen an additional amount for his own profit. In addition to padding his own pocket, he also had to compensate those over him. Therefore, Zacchaeus, being a chief tax collector, received a kickback from every man working under him.

B. He Was the Most Despised Man in Jericho

Zacchaeus was not only one of the richest men in Jericho, he was also one of the most hated.

1. He Was Despised Because He Collected Taxes

2. He Was Despised Because He Collected Taxes ‘for Rome’ 

In the eyes of the average Jew, a man like Zacchaeus was a traitor to his country.

3. He Was Despised Because He Lived a Sinful Lifestyle

Men like Zacchaeus were hated because of the lifestyles they lived. If you’ve read your New Testament much you know that tax collectors were often grouped in with others known as ‘sinners.’ The friends of the average tax collector in Israel were some of the most sinful people in society. Why was that?

Tax collectors were often shunned by their fellow countrymen. I’ve read that they were so hated, they weren’t allowed to enter into a Jewish synagogue. In addition, tax collectors often had a pocket full of money. Therefore, the kind of people they often attracted were some of the most sinful in society. Sometimes they are also grouped in with women who were harlots. The average tax collector lived a pretty wild lifestyle.

C. Someone Who Was Searching For Something Meaningful

Probably most people would have considered a man like Zacchaeus to be the last person in Israel to be interested in spiritual things. Yet in today’s story we see him as someone who was willing to do some pretty drastic things in order to get a glimpse of the man called Jesus.

1. Shocking That a Man Like Zacchaeus Would Be Interested in Jesus

Try to get this picture in your mind. Here’s a man with a pocket full of money, wearing expensive clothing, sitting up in a tree.

The Bible says that Zacchaeus had to climb the tree because he was a man of little statue and therefore he couldn’t see over the crowd. Traveling with Jesus that day were hundreds Jewish pilgrims who were going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Therefore, being a man of small statue, the odds of Zacchaeus being able to see Jesus were slim to none.

But why was Zacchaeus so interested in Jesus? Was he seeking a miracle of healing as so many others? There’s nothing in the text that says that Zacchaeus or anyone he knew was sick. Was it for food like the massive crowds often did? The Bible says Zacchaeus was rich and therefore I’m sure he could have bought all the food he needed. So what made this little man do something so bizarre?

Centuries ago a man by the name of Augustine wrote these words – “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” (Augustine, Confessions)

Though Zacchaeus didn’t know what he was searching for, he knew that he was searching for something. He, like Augustine, had a restless heart. Do you have a restless heart? Are you searching for something significant? That’s what happened to me many years ago. I was in my early twenties and I thought that I had the world by the tail. But then the Lord began to stir inside of me and He created a thirst for more of Him. One day I woke up and realized that God wasn’t my enemy. He was the One who made me and that only by knowing Him could I find true peace and satisfaction.

What’s really amazing is that Zacchaeus wasn’t the only tax collector and sinner who had a restless heart. A few chapters earlier in the gospel of Luke we read –

Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him…

Perhaps it was emptiness in their souls that drew people like Zacchaeus and his friends. Perhaps there was a void inside of them that they needed to fill. Perhaps what they desired the most was the opportunity to be made clean.

2. Shocking That Jesus Would Be Drawn to a Man Like Zacchaeus

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.

I’m sure that almost everyone in the crowd saw Zacchaeus sitting there in his flamboyant clothing. How could you miss him? Probably some of the Jews spit on the ground with disgust as they looked up at him. Perhaps some saw it as an opportunity to mock him and get a little revenge.

But then something strange happened that no one could have imagined. Jesus stopped right in front of the tree and called out to Zacchaeus. Jesus called him by his name!

Does Jesus know our name?

“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  Who are you Lord?” “I’m Jesus…” (Acts 9:4-5)

“Elijah, what are you doing here all alone in this cave?”(1 Kings 19:9)

“Samuel, Samuel… Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening…” (1 Samuel 3:9)

“Adam, where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9)

God knows our name and He speaks to each of us individually. Perhaps He is calling your name today and inviting you to come.

Luke 19:5 …Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.

That word ‘abide’ is an important word. It refers to more than a brief, casual visit. It means to remain at someone’s house. We read from the book of Revelation –

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.

a. Why Would Jesus Bother With a Man Like Zacchaeus?

Why would someone as righteous and holy as Jesus associate Himself with a sinful man like Zacchaeus? That’s the question that many  were asking that day.

Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 

The word ‘murmur’ means to grumble or speak negatively. No doubt many were speaking negatively of Zacchaeus. “He’s sinful man!” some cried out. They wanted Jesus to condemn Zacchaeus. If Jesus had stood at the base of that tree and told Zacchaeus that he was going to split hell wide open, there would be a shout of ‘Amens!’ But when Jesus requested to spend the night at Zacchaeus’ home, many shook their head in disbelief. No doubt some leaned over to their friend and said, “If Jesus is as righteous as everyone says He is, why is He willing to enter the home of Zacchaeus?” That’s a good question.

i. Was Jesus Endorsing the Sinful Lifestyle Zacchaeus Had Been Living? 

By entering into the home of Zacchaeus, was Jesus saying that Zacchaeus’ lifestyle was acceptable? Obviously the answer to that question is no. Even Zacchaeus knew that.

Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

ii. Can You Love People Without Endorsing Their Lifestyles?       

Can you love people without endorsing their sinful lifestyles? Apparently yes because that’s exactly what Jesus often did. Jesus was sometimes called ‘a Friend of publicans and sinners.’ (see Luke 7:34) Jesus was not their friend because He approved of how they were living. He was their friend because He loved them and wanted to see them change and become the children of God.

b. Jesus Wanted to See Another Prodigal Son Come Home

In verse 10, Jesus explained why He would associate with someone like Zacchaeus.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to: seek and to save that which was lost.

i. Jesus Came to Seek the Lost

The word ‘seek’ means to search for something diligently. On an earlier occasion Jesus told a couple of parables to help illustrate the desire of God to see men saved.

Luke 15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

Luke 15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

Finding that which was lost was the top priority of both the shepherd and the housewife. The shepherd was willing to risk his life by going out into the wilderness and find his lost sheep. The woman was willing to stay up all night if necessary in order to find her lost coin.

The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Finding us was so important to God that He sent His Son to search for us.

i. Jesus Came to Save the Lost

Jesus said that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. We often hear the word ‘saved’ used in regards to a relationship with Jesus, but what does that term mean to be saved? The word ‘saved’ as Jesus used it means to rescue someone from danger.

Jesus knew that if Zacchaeus was headed down a road that would lead him to eternal destruction. Jesus knew what would happen to Zacchaeus when he one day had to stand before a holy God and give an account for his sin. Therefore, Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost.

That’s the primary mission of the church. It’s not about our own pleasure and comfort. It’s about God using us to rescue the perishing. The Apostle Paul wrote –

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We plead with you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God. (author’s translation)

II. How Did Zacchaeus Respond to Christ’s Call to Come?

It’s no telling who was the most amazed when Jesus called out Zacchaeus’ name. I’m sure that the entire crowd must have stopped and stood in silence. Does Jesus know who Zacchaeus is? What is Jesus going to say to him? Probably the man most shocked was Zacchaeus himself.

Luke 19:5 …Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

There are three important truths concerning the way Zacchaeus responded.

A. Zacchaeus Responded With Urgency

Jesus cried out with urgency and Zacchaeus responded with urgency. In the blink of an eye Zacchaeus was out of the tree and at the feet of Jesus.

B. Zacchaeus Responded With Joy

Zacchaeus was ecstatic that Jesus would be willing to spend the evening with him. He had only hoped to get a glimpse of Jesus, and now Jesus was asking to be his guest.

If you have to twist someone’s arm to come to Christ, they probably aren’t coming to Christ. They’re only mouthing some words to get you off of their back.

A genuine salvation experience is real and it produces joy unspeakable and full of glory. (see 1 Peter 1:8)

C. Zacchaeus Responded With Repentance

Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

What was Zacchaeus doing? He was doing what I believe every person does when they truly receive Christ as their Savior. Zacchaeus was repenting of the sin in his life. Why was he repenting? It was because he wanted to be clean.

I believe that what’s missing in many people’s profession of faith is the decision and the desire to repent of their sin and be made clean. Scripture teaches us that unless we repent, we will perish. (see Luke 13:5) There is no genuine salvation without repentance. Peter says that a person who professes to know Christ without repentance will eventually return to their sin, even as a pig does to the mire. (see 2 Peter 2:22)

We should note that Jesus didn’t tell Zacchaeus that he needed to repent. Zacchaeus already knew it in his heart. He knew that he had been living a sinful lifestyle and he wanted to be made whole.

Was Zacchaeus’ salvation real? Consider how Jesus responded.

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

I have to wonder if Zacchaeus had been a part of the publicans and sinners who earlier had Jesus tell the parable about the prodigal son. If so, perhaps he thought, “That’s me. I’ve wasted my life on trying to find happiness in the wrong things.” But then, when Jesus called his name, he thought, “Here’s my chance to come home!”

Is Jesus calling your name today? Is He calling for you to come home? If so, I invite you to come quickly and without delay.

_________________________________

[1] https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-35/jesus-the-seeking-savior-part-2 March 3, 2017

Comments are closed.