Gracious redemption – Zaccheus - 24 July 2020
By Louise Gevers
Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” While the people were listening to this, Jesus continued and told them a parable. He was now almost at Jerusalem, and they supposed that the Kingdom of God was just about to appear. So he said, “There was once a man of high rank who was going to a country far away to be made king, after which he planned to come back home. Before he left, he called his ten servants and gave them each a gold coin and told them, ‘See what you can earn with this while I am gone.’ Now, his own people hated him, and so they sent messengers after him to say, ‘We don't want this man to be our king.’ “The man was made king and came back. At once he ordered his servants to appear before him, in order to find out how much they had earned. The first one came and said, ‘Sir, I have earned ten gold coins with the one you gave me.’ ‘Well done,’ he said; ‘you are a good servant! Since you were faithful in small matters, I will put you in charge of ten cities.’ The second servant came and said, ‘Sir, I have earned five gold coins with the one you gave me.’ To this one he said, ‘You will be in charge of five cities.’ “Another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it hidden in a handkerchief. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take what is not yours and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘You bad servant! I will use your own words to condemn you! You know that I am a hard man, taking what is not mine and reaping what I have not sown. Well, then, why didn't you put my money in the bank? Then I would have received it back with interest when I returned.’ “Then he said to those who were standing there, ‘Take the gold coin away from him and give it to the servant who has ten coins.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he already has ten coins!’ ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘that to all those who have something, even more will be given; but those who have nothing, even the little that they have will be taken away from them. Now, as for those enemies of mine who did not want me to be their king, bring them here and kill them in my presence!’ ” After Jesus said this, he went on ahead of them to Jerusalem. As he came near Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you; as you go in, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If someone asks you why you are untying it, tell him that the Master needs it.” They went on their way and found everything just as Jesus had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying it?” “The Master needs it,” they answered, and they took the colt to Jesus. Then they threw their cloaks over the animal and helped Jesus get on. As he rode on, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen: “God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!” Then some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “command your disciples to be quiet!” Jesus answered, “I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will start shouting.” He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!” Then Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out the merchants, saying to them, “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer.’ But you have turned it into a hideout for thieves!” Every day Jesus taught in the Temple. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the leaders of the people wanted to kill him, but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people kept listening to him, not wanting to miss a single word. One day when Jesus was in the Temple teaching the people and preaching the Good News, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, together with the elders, came and said to him, “Tell us, what right have you to do these things? Who gave you this right?” Jesus answered them, “Now let me ask you a question. Tell me, did John's right to baptize come from God or from human beings?” They started to argue among themselves, “What shall we say? If we say, ‘From God,’ he will say, ‘Why, then, did you not believe John?’ But if we say ‘From human beings,’ this whole crowd here will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered, “We don't know where it came from.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you, then, by what right I do these things.” Then Jesus told the people this parable: “There was once a man who planted a vineyard, let it out to tenants, and then left home for a long time. When the time came to gather the grapes, he sent a slave to the tenants to receive from them his share of the harvest. But the tenants beat the slave and sent him back without a thing. So he sent another slave; but the tenants beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him back without a thing. Then he sent a third slave; the tenants wounded him, too, and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my own dear son; surely they will respect him!’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to one another, ‘This is the owner's son. Let's kill him, and his property will be ours!’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to the tenants?” Jesus asked. “He will come and kill those men, and hand the vineyard over to other tenants.” When the people heard this, they said, “Surely not!” Jesus looked at them and asked, “What, then, does this scripture mean? ‘The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all.’ Everyone who falls on that stone will be cut to pieces; and if that stone falls on someone, it will crush him to dust.” The teachers of the Law and the chief priests tried to arrest Jesus on the spot, because they knew that he had told this parable against them; but they were afraid of the people. So they looked for an opportunity. They bribed some men to pretend they were sincere, and they sent them to trap Jesus with questions, so that they could hand him over to the authority and power of the Roman Governor. These spies said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is right. We know that you pay no attention to anyone's status, but teach the truth about God's will for people. Tell us, is it against our Law for us to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor, or not?” But Jesus saw through their trick and said to them, “Show me a silver coin. Whose face and name are these on it?” “The Emperor's,” they answered. So Jesus said, “Well, then, pay the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay God what belongs to God.” There before the people they could not catch him out in anything, so they kept quiet, amazed at his answer. Then some Sadducees, who say that people will not rise from death, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, Moses wrote this law for us: ‘If a man dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man's brother must marry the widow so that they can have children who will be considered the dead man's children.’ Once there were seven brothers; the eldest got married and died without having children. Then the second one married the woman, and then the third. The same thing happened to all seven — they died without having children. Last of all, the woman died. Now, on the day when the dead rise to life, whose wife will she be? All seven of them had married her.” Jesus answered them, “The men and women of this age marry, but the men and women who are worthy to rise from death and live in the age to come will not then marry. They will be like angels and cannot die. They are the children of God, because they have risen from death. And Moses clearly proves that the dead are raised to life. In the passage about the burning bush he speaks of the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is the God of the living, not of the dead, for to him all are alive.” Some of the teachers of the Law spoke up, “A good answer, Teacher!” For they did not dare ask him any more questions. Jesus asked them, “How can it be said that the Messiah will be the descendant of David? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit here on my right until I put your enemies as a footstool under your feet.’ David called him ‘Lord’; how, then, can the Messiah be David's descendant?” As all the people listened to him, Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on your guard against the teachers of the Law, who like to walk about in their long robes and love to be greeted with respect in the market place; who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts; who take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers! Their punishment will be all the worse!” Jesus looked round and saw rich people dropping their gifts in the temple treasury, and he also saw a very poor widow dropping in two little copper coins. He said, “I tell you that this poor widow put in more than all the others. For the others offered their gifts from what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, gave all she had to live on.” Some of the disciples were talking about the Temple, how beautiful it looked with its fine stones and the gifts offered to God. Jesus said, “All this you see — the time will come when not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one will be thrown down.” “Teacher,” they asked, “when will this be? And what will happen in order to show that the time has come for it to take place?” Jesus said, “Be on guard; don't be deceived. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time has come!’ But don't follow them. Don't be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen first, but they do not mean that the end is near.” He went on to say, “Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and plagues everywhere; there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky. Before all these things take place, however, you will be arrested and persecuted; you will be handed over to be tried in synagogues and be put in prison; you will be brought before kings and rulers for my sake. This will be your chance to tell the Good News. Make up your minds beforehand not to worry about how you will defend yourselves, because I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to refute or contradict what you say. You will be handed over by your parents, your brothers, your relatives, and your friends; and some of you will be put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a single hair from your heads will be lost. Stand firm, and you will save yourselves. “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that it will soon be destroyed. Then those who are in Judea must run away to the hills; those who are in the city must leave, and those who are out in the country must not go into the city. For those will be ‘The Days of Punishment’, to make all that the Scriptures say come true. How terrible it will be in those days for women who are pregnant and for mothers with little babies! Terrible distress will come upon this land, and God's punishment will fall on this people. Some will be killed by the sword, and others will be taken as prisoners to all countries; and the heathen will trample over Jerusalem until their time is up. “There will be strange things happening to the sun, the moon, and the stars. On earth whole countries will be in despair, afraid of the roar of the sea and the raging tides. People will faint from fear as they wait for what is coming over the whole earth, for the powers in space will be driven from their courses. Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in a cloud with great power and glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is near.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Think of the fig tree and all the other trees. When you see their leaves beginning to appear, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you will know that the Kingdom of God is about to come. “Remember that all these things will take place before the people now living have all died. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “Be on your guard! Don't let yourselves become occupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life, or that Day may suddenly catch you like a trap. For it will come upon all people everywhere on earth. Be on the alert and pray always that you will have the strength to go safely through all those things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” Jesus spent those days teaching in the Temple, and when evening came, he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives. Early each morning all the people went to the Temple to listen to him. The time was near for the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law were afraid of the people, and so they were trying to find a way of putting Jesus to death secretly. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples. So Judas went off and spoke with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard about how he could betray Jesus to them. They were pleased and offered to pay him money. Judas agreed to it and started looking for a good chance to hand Jesus over to them without the people knowing about it. The day came during the Festival of Unleavened Bread when the lambs for the Passover meal were to be killed. Jesus sent off Peter and John with these instructions: “Go and get the Passover meal ready for us to eat.” “Where do you want us to get it ready?” they asked him. He answered, “As you go into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house: ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the room where my disciples and I will eat the Passover meal?’ He will show you a large furnished room upstairs, where you will get everything ready.” They went off and found everything just as Jesus had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is God's new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you. “But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!” Then they began to ask among themselves which one of them it could be who was going to do this. An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People’. But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant. Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves? The one who sits down, of course. But I am among you as one who serves. “You have stayed with me all through my trials; and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. “Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.” Peter answered, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and to die with you!” “I tell you, Peter,” Jesus said, “the cock will not crow tonight until you have said three times that you do not know me.” Then Jesus asked his disciples, “When I sent you out that time without purse, bag, or shoes, did you lack anything?” “Not a thing,” they answered. “But now,” Jesus said, “whoever has a purse or a bag must take it; and whoever has no sword must sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that the scripture which says, ‘He shared the fate of criminals,’ must come true about me, because what was written about me is coming true.” The disciples said, “Look! Here are two swords, Lord!” “That is enough!” he replied. Jesus left the city and went, as he usually did, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples went with him. When he arrived at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Then he went off from them about the distance of a stone's throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” he said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Rising from his prayer, he went back to the disciples and found them asleep, worn out by their grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Jesus was still speaking when a crowd arrived, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. He came up to Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man?” When the disciples who were with Jesus saw what was going to happen, they asked, “Shall we use our swords, Lord?” And one of them struck the High Priest's slave and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “Enough of this!” He touched the man's ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and the elders who had come there to get him, “Did you have to come with swords and clubs, as though I were an outlaw? I was with you in the Temple every day, and you did not try to arrest me. But this is your hour to act, when the power of darkness rules.” They arrested Jesus and took him away into the house of the High Priest; and Peter followed at a distance. A fire had been lit in the centre of the courtyard, and Peter joined those who were sitting round it. When one of the servant women saw him sitting there at the fire, she looked straight at him and said, “This man too was with Jesus!” But Peter denied it, “Woman, I don't even know him!” After a little while a man noticed Peter and said, “You are one of them, too!” But Peter answered, “Man, I am not!” And about an hour later another man insisted strongly, “There isn't any doubt that this man was with Jesus, because he also is a Galilean!” But Peter answered, “Man, I don't know what you are talking about!” At once, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. The Lord turned round and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, “Before the cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” Peter went out and wept bitterly. The men who were guarding Jesus mocked him and beat him. They blindfolded him and asked him, “Who hit you? Guess!” And they said many other insulting things to him. When day came, the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law met together, and Jesus was brought before the Council. “Tell us,” they said, “are you the Messiah?” He answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me; and if I ask you a question, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated on the right of Almighty God.” They all said, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He answered them, “You say that I am.” And they said, “We don't need any witnesses! We ourselves have heard what he said!” The whole group rose up and took Jesus before Pilate, where they began to accuse him: “We caught this man misleading our people, telling them not to pay taxes to the Emperor and claiming that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “So you say,” answered Jesus. Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no reason to condemn this man.”
What would you do if you were so short that you couldn’t see over the heads of others in a crowd; especially when there was something spectacular to see?
As a child, I was fascinated by the account of an adult Zaccheus having to climb a tree to see Jesus because he was so short. I was short, and loved climbing trees, so it made a lot of sense to me. I was just as fascinated (and delighted) that Jesus should want to go to his house, and wondered if Jesus had chosen to do that because He could see him better up the tree than He could everyone else on the ground.
What would you have thought?
Zaccheus was a man with a mission. Reports of the charismatic Teacher and his miracles had reached him, and he knew that he needed to see him for himself; he needed answers, but many people would be lining the roads and thronging around him. As chief tax-collector he was despised anyway; he couldn’t be concerned with the reactions of others at this crucial time. He would see Jesus at any cost, and didn’t care if the means he used brought him ridicule.
Jesus didn’t disappoint him; He not only saw Zacchaeus, but reached out in an unexpected way to the grown man up the sycamore tree. With grace and kindness, Jesus told the corrupt, unpopular man, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5) amidst much protest from the people who saw Zaccheus as a ‘sinner’; but Jesus has a divine appointment with every sinner.
Jesus’ appointment with Zaccheus immediately changed his heart and attitude. The years of wrong dissolved and overjoyed, he promised to give half his possessions to the poor, and pay back four times as much to anybody he’d cheated. This is real redemption that everyone needs.
Only through His love and acceptance does Jesus change what we are unable to change in ourselves: the ‘Zacchaeus’ in society, as well the ‘good’ crowd. There is no one ‘too bad’, and no one ‘too good’ for Jesus to redeem. There are no tall people in Jesus’ Presence – we are all short – but a real experience of His redeeming power is waiting for those who climb the tree.
Prayer: Lord, what welcome words for us sinners to hear: Today your sins are forgiven; you, and your family, are true Believers. Thank You for Your mercy and transforming grace. Amen