Please open your Bibles to Luke chapter 19. Last Sabbath I shared with you a message focused on Bartemaeus, a man who lived in Jericho, and today I will share with you the story of another man who lived in Jericho. Luke 19:1. Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
Many times, Jesus had to pass through Jericho just because it was the way in the way to the north between Jerusalem and Capernaum. There was a major highway the kings rode going from Egypt in the south to Damascus in the north. And there was another main road going from east to west and Jericho was in the intersection of these two main roads. Because of its strategic location, Jericho was a station for travelers. It was an oasis in a very hot, hot area. About eight hundred meters below sea level. The name, Jericho means, "Fragrance," a sweet smell. Maybe because of the palm trees. It was also known as the city of roses. Well, maybe someone, some entrepreneur had decided to establish a flower business, I don't know. The fact is that Jesus went through Jericho. Then He met a man named, Zacchaeus. Luke 19:2, (NAS). And there was a man called Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd for he was of short stature.
Zacchaeus had five impediments, hindrances, obstacles to go to where Jesus was. First of all, Zacchaeus had four or five problems. He was a tax collector, a publican. I don't like paying taxes, but I have to do it. But in a special way in those days, tax collectors were not the most popular people in town because they were known to be collaborators with the enemy. They were considered to be traitors to their nation. And they were hated very much. Just for you to have an idea in the Talmud, which is the collection of Jewish traditions and teachings. There is an instruction: "If you see a tax collector falling in a pit, you should not help him out of the pit." That was a clear instruction. Let him die, otherwise you will be a traitor to our nation. That was what the Talmud, the collection of traditions instructed to Jewish people.
But, Zacchaeus had another problem. He was the chief tax collector. He was the head of the I.R.S. in this important city. As I said last Sabbath: until today, Jericho is a very well known city. The chief tax collector. Somehow, Zacchaeus had managed to climb the social ladder. He had reached the top. But he was lonely at the top. And this is very common among sucessful people. Zacchaeus was a lonely man. He did not have friends.
There was another problem. He was rich. Nothing wrong with money. Well, money is the root of all evil (see 1 Timothy 6:10) according to the Bible. Love of money - that's the problem. And that was Zacchaeus' problem. He had become rich at the expense of others, because publicans were known as thieves. Everybody knew that tax collectors charged more than they should and they kept a good portion of the money they got from people. And his money did not make him happy. He was not a happy man.
For several years I lived in the Philippines, for six years, and I had a vehicle. It did not have a window. When they got broken in Manila, I had to abandon the car. I left the car. Three days later I returned the car was still there. Who would want to touch that old car of mine? Nobody was interested in a car, fifteen years old in the third world. Nobody was interested in touching ... But imagine if I had a Mercedes-Benz! How could I watch day and night, making sure that nobody would approach my car? I don't have, today, the problems that Zacchaeus had. I don't have much that thieves can take from me. But, Zacchaeus was a rich man. And he was not able to sleep well. And in his nights of insomnia, Zacchaeus dreamed, thought about how to secure, how to have peace of mind.
He had learned about Jesus. Jesus was in town and the news had spread in Jericho that Jesus was coming. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus because the news had spread among tax collectors that one tax collector in Capernaum, named Matthew, had become a disciple of Jesus. Matthew had abandoned his office just to follow this carpenter. There was something in this carpenter, now a preacher. There was something that had caused Matthew to change his career. Money was not a priority in his life. Now, Matthew was a smiling preacher. "I envy him. I wish, I wish I could know what changed my fellow worker, my fellow publican." And he wanted to see Jesus as Jesus moved slowly through main street. And he attempted many times to see Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus, but more than that, he wanted to know what this Man was. He was something very different.
It is one thing to know things about someone. For instance, I know about a man named Bill Clinton. I know many things about him. But, you know what? I don't know him and he doesn't know me. He's not my friend. He never calls me. He never says, "Hi, Carlos. Happy Sabbath." - never, never! He doesn't even know there is a little known man named Carlos. Of course he doesn't. We are not friends.
It's one thing to know Jesus, to know things about Jesus, and another thing is to be His friend, to know Him. Zacchaeus wanted to know Who this Man was. He already knew things about Jesus, but he wanted to know Him.
But there was another problem. The crowd. There was a crowd surrounding Jesus. It happened very often. Even His mother tried to approach Him, but she could not because of the crowd. And you know what? It happens with me. Sometimes I am too crowded. I am doing too many things. My schedule is too crowded. I don't have time for Jesus.
But Zacchaeus had another problem. He was very short. And people made fun of his stature. The people also make fun of his name. Zacchaeus means righteous or pure, and everybody in town knew that Zacchaeus was not righteous nor pure.
Then we read in verse four, So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him for he knew He was going to pass that way. Zacchaeus got a crazy idea. You know the story--he ran ahead, climbed a tree--you do crazy things only in very special circumstances. You need a strong motivation. You see this man who usually walked very slowly because he was an officer, an important man. Now he was climbing a tree. Maybe there were some children there booing. And there he was perched on the tree. Now he could see Jesus because he knew that Jesus was going to pass this way. But there was something that Zacchaeus did not know--that this was the last time that Jesus was passing this way because the story took place on a Friday and one week later Jesus died on the cross. It was the last time that Jesus was passing that way and Zacchaeus did not know it.
Finally Jesus approached and Zacchaeus' heart missed a beat when Jesus stopped just under the tree. Zacchaeus was a little afraid that someone would notice him, but suddenly his fears became a reality. When Jesus looked up, everybody looked up and they saw Zacchaeus perched on a tree. Now everybody began to laugh. Zacchaeus had climbed a tree trying to find a solution to his problem. Now he had become the laughing stock of Jericho. "Look! Zacchaeus what are you doing there so ridiculous." Zacchaeus was red faced and he didn't know what to do. But Jesus transformed that uncomfortable situation into a victory when Jesus said, "Zacchaeus, I have arrived. Zacchaeus (verse 5). He said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down for today I must stay at your house." How could Jesus know Zacchaeus by name? They have never met. Of course, Jesus knows much more than your name. Jesus knows many things about you that you don't know about yourself. How many hairs do you have in your head? You don't know? Jesus knows. Jesus does. Jesus knows you much more than you can even imagine. "Zacchaeus, I know you, I know your heart. Come down Zacchaeus, make haste. You don't belong up there."
Many people feel that they are above the others. And even from this high platform, I am tempted to look down on you. You are the preacher. "No, Carlos, come down, you don't belong there. The only one who belongs up there is and sitting on a throne is God. You come down. Humble yourself. Come down. Zacchaeus, I need to go to your house." Jesus invited himself.
And this is where salvation begins. If we love Him it is because He first loved us. Salvation is God's initiative. "Zacchaeus, make haste, come down. I cannot wait." Sometimes children say to their parents, "Wait a minute, I'm busy." "Mary, come, hurry up." "Wait a minute." And she is playing with her dolls. Imagine if angels would obey that way. A child is falling off a cliff. And God says to an angel who is playing the harp and singing praises, "Help that boy." And this angel says, "Wait a minute, I will sing the stanza." Imagine the ridiculous situation. No, no angels cannot wait. Angels obey quickly, immediately. And Zacchaeus (verse six says), he made haste and came down and received him joyfully. And this is how angels obey. Angels obey with a smile. This is how we need to obey our mommy and our father, with joy because our parents want our best for us and this is why we should obey our Father who is in heaven joyfully. Jesus always demands joyful obedience. Jesus never leads us to disobedience. He wants us to obey immediately--to apply what we are learning, what we know.
I have to finish. When they saw that--all complained. "Oh look, Jesus has gone to be a guest with the man who is a sinner. And they murmured and they criticized Jesus. And I have not yet arrived to the main point of my sermon. But I will do it in two minutes. To shorten the story, Jesus spoke a long time with Zacchaeus that afternoon. Mrs. Zacchaeus was preparing the food for 13 hungry people--13 hungry men. While Mrs. Zacchaeus was busy, Jesus spoke with Zacchaeus. And Zacchaeus stood up and said, "I will follow You." And He stood up so that everybody could see him. There was a crowd in his house. He stood up and made the decision to follow Jesus. And Jesus, with a smile, said, "Today salvation has come to this house." Ellen White, commenting on this phrase, says, "Many think that salvation is a matter of the future. Just because the Bible says, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." But, she explains, you shall be saved when you do what Zacchaeus did. At that moment when a sinner receives Jesus, he is saved." And you will be saved as long as you maintain a personal relationship with Jesus.
This is something that many Seventh-day Adventists should be reminded of. If I ask you the question, "are you saved?" Meaning do you have a meaningful relationship with Jesus. I hope that all of you would say, "Yes." Otherwise, if you are not, you are in trouble. Because the other option is that if you are not safe in Jesus' hands, you are lost. Even if you are a church member. You are lost in the church. Another question that many Seventh-day Adventists feel difficult to answer. "Do you already have eternal life?" 1 John 5:13. I have written these things unto you that you may know that you already have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. If you have accepted Jesus as Zacchaeus did, if you have received Him, your name is already written in the Book of Life, and you already have eternal life. You are a citizen of God's kingdom.
And another last question that many Seventh-day Adventists cannot answer is, "Are all your sins already forgiven?" The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If all your sins are not yet forgiven, you are in trouble. Not because God is not able and willing to do it--just because you have not asked for it. 1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteous.
Hymn of Praise: #229, All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name Scripture: I John 5:11-13 Hymn of Response: #309, All to Jesus I Surrender
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last updated 10/6/2002 by Bob Beckett.