Zacchaeus - Westlake Church, Switzerland

Zacchaeus - Westlake Church, Switzerland


Series on "Following Jesus"

Peter... Adventurous Faith

For the last three weeks we have been looking at three biblical characters who

encountered Jesus, and chose to follow him. Peter was literally minding his own business,

when Jesus got into his boat and taught him how to fish, then invited him to become a

fisher of men. Peter left everything to follow Jesus. His life was never the same again.

When Jesus invites us to follow him, he never tells us where we are going. If Peter had

known that he was going to walk on water, raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out

demons, preach to thousands of people on the day of Pentecost, preach to the

Sanhedrin, be put in prison, eat prohibited Jewish foods, encounter some angels, write

letters to churches, and die a violent death, I’m sure he would have said “Ah, thanks

Jesus, but no thanks.” Following Jesus means a life of adventurous faith that can be very


Matthew...New Relationships

Matthew was invited to follow Jesus. For Matthew, following Jesus meant giving up a

comfortable lifestyle and a lucrative income to follow a man who had no place to lay his

head. It also meant having to learn to get along with people that he would never choose

to associate with. People who would normally want to have nothing to do with him.

People like Simon the Zealot, who before he met Jesus, would have gladly stuck a knife

into Matthews ribs. Following Jesus means a whole new attitude to relationships, for

Jesus chooses who he puts us with, and he not only expects us to get along together, but

he expects us to love one another.

Paul ... A New Way Of Thinking

For Paul, following Jesus meant a whole new way of thinking. Almost everything he had

believed in got turned on its head. His whole worldview underwent a radical change.

Everything he once believed had to be re-examined in the light of Jesus. For the teaching

of Jesus challenges the very foundations of the way we see the world. What was true for

Peter, and Matthew, and Paul is also true of us. Following Jesus means a life of

adventurous faith. It means a whole new attitude to relationships. It means a whole new

way of thinking. Today we are going to look at one more biblical character who followed

Jesus. His name is Zacchaeus. Depending where you first heard this story, it’s either

ZACChaeus or ZaccHAEus.

Luke is the only Gospel writer who gives us the account of Jesus and Zacchaeus.

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name

of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see

who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he

ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming

that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,

Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he

came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began

to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” But Zacchaeus stood up

and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to


the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four

times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house,

because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek

and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)

Zacchaeus…Social Outcast

When I was speaking about Matthew a couple of weeks ago, I talked about how tax

collectors were doubly hated. They were hated because they were collaborators with the

Romans. They were hated because they made huge amounts of money by ripping off the

poor. We marvel today at all the wonders of Rome. The Coliseum. The Arenas. The

Aqueducts. The triumphal arches. The houses with central heating. All these amazing

buildings all over the empire, including the remains of what we see in Nyon. Where do

you think the money came from to build all that? It came from hard working people who

were taxed until they bled. And who collected the taxes? Collaborators like Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus wasn’t just an ordinary tax collector. He was the chief tax collector. He was at

the top of the pyramid. He got a cut from all the tax collectors beneath him. He was

scamming the scammers. When I heard this story in Sunday School, I was taught that

the reason Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree was because he was so short, and he

couldn’t see over the crowd. But that’s not it. Short people find a way to get to the front.

So why didn’t Zacchaeus wriggle his way to the front? If he had tried that, he would have

been dead. Someone would have stuck a knife into him. Zacchaeus was up that tree

because it was the safest place to be. He wanted to see Jesus, but he couldn’t at ground

level. But he did two things no wealthy Middle Eastern man would do. He ran through a

crowd, and he climbed a tree. Running was undignified. Climbing trees was what little

boys might do in crowds, but not well-known men. And here’s the thing. People like

Zacchaeus that are social outcasts, need someone to come looking for them. Jesus said

he came to seek the lost. If we follow Jesus, he’s going to teach us to do what he did – to

seek the lost. Following Jesus means that we are going to be led to places we wouldn’t

normally go. We are going to meet people we wouldn’t normally meet. We are going to

be standing up for people that are despised and rejected by society. That’s what Jesus

did. If we follow him, we are in for an uncomfortable ride.

For Peter, following Jesus meant a life of adventurous faith. For Matthew it meant a

whole new world of relationships. For Paul, it meant a whole new way of thinking. What

did it mean for Zacchaeus to follow Jesus?

Zacchaeus ... A Generous Heart

How do we know that? There are two things that shine out from this story that make it

very clear that his heart had changed. One is restitution. The other is generosity.

Restitution...The Evidence Of True Repentance

The word repentance isn’t mentioned once in this account of Zacchaeus and Jesus, yet

the story has repentance written all over it. Zacchaeus declared to Jesus in front of all his

friends that he would pay back four times the amount that he had cheated people. Do

you think he said that on the spur of the moment? I don’t think so. This guy is an

accountant. He’s been dealing with money all his life. This isn’t some emotional response

to Jesus, or an effort to impress his friends. Zacchaeus had been convicted by the Holy

Spirit. His heart had changed. This was repentance in action. He was genuinely wanting

to make restitution for all the damage he’d caused to so many people. Jewish law said

that he should pay back the original amount, plus one fifth. But his repentance was such


that he wanted to go far beyond the law. He paid back four times as much. Something

happened in this man’s heart. No one forced him to do this. He did it because the power

of God had changed him. Following Jesus is not an easy option. Following Jesus means

acknowledging our sins and wherever possible, repairing the damage we have caused to

other people. It means making things right. Jesus said “Produce fruit in keeping with

repentance.” (Matthew 3:8 NIV)

It’s the fruit that convinces people that our hearts have really changed. Can you picture

the reaction when Zacchaeus goes door to door in his home town, giving back the money

to people he has cheated? A tax man giving out money? Unheard of! But a tax man not

only giving back what he has stolen from people, but giving back four times what he has

stolen from people? The word would be going around the town like wildfire that Jesus had

changed this man’s heart. It’s not what Zacchaeus said that would have convinced

people. It’s what he did. Is there obvious evidence in your life and mine that we have

been changed by Jesus? Can you point to the fruit of repentance? Or is it all just words?

Talk is cheap. Repentance and restitution speaks much louder than words. For

Zacchaeus, the fruit of his repentance was that he made restitution with the people he

wronged. And there was another thing.

Generosity... The Evidence Of A Changed Heart

Jewish law required people to tithe, which meant giving ten percent of their income. In

the days of Jesus, a person who gave away twenty percent of their possessions was

regarded as being very generous. When Zacchaeus encountered Jesus, something

changed in his heart. Instead of amassing wealth for himself, he gave away not ten

percent or twenty percent, but half of all his possessions to the poor. It was Albert

Schweitzer who said “If you own something that you cannot give away, then you don’t

own it, it owns you.” Was Zacchaeus giving away half his possessions to earn his

salvation? No, he was doing it because followers of Jesus get their whole value systems

turned upside down. Greedy people become generous people. Selfish people become

giving people. People who carry grudges become forgivers. Today I want to play another

video clip. This is another of the Alpha interviews with Nicky Gumbell. I’m not playing

these because I’m advertising an Alpha course, but because these are people who are

telling how Jesus changed their life. Listen as Laura Oakes tells her story.

Video Clip – Discharged from the Priory – Laura Oakes

Start: At beginning of clip - End: At end of clip - Time: 3mins 41seconds.

Did you get what Laura said about how her life has changed? She said “I love life for the

first time. And I love people. I’m absolutely bubbling over with love for people.” That’s

what Jesus saw in Zacchaeus. His repentance was real. His generosity was real.

Something inside him had been released. And Jesus makes the wonderful declaration

“Today salvation has come to this house.” Jesus could see that Zacchaeus had changed.

Sometimes, it’s the small Christ-like things we do that make the biggest impact on the

lives of others.

The African Bishop, Desmond Tutu, was once asked why he became an Anglican rather

than joining some other denomination. He replied that in the days of apartheid, when a

black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was

expected to step aside to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture


of respect. "One day" Tutu said, "when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were

walking down the street when a tall white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us.

Before my mother and I could step off the footpath, as was expected of us, this man

stepped off the footpath and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of

respect to her! I was more than surprised at what had happened and I asked my mother,

‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a

man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I

decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I

wanted to be a man of God."

David McChesney

Westlake Church in Nyon, Switzerland


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