Choir director. Fear enough for any man; the attempt to squeeze music out of a
collection of three year olds, knowing full well that not one can carry a tune
– and all their parents are listening.
favorite of such directors is the song, “Zaccheus was a wee little man.” The
song comes with a series of motions for the little darlings, most of whom will
be looking at the kid next to them and copying his movements. The whole thing
usually produces the laughter that comes when cute kids try.
is, however, no humor in the man they are singing about. Zaccheus was not only
a “wee little man” – he was a social outcast.
entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name
of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying
to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in
stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see
Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place,
He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and
come down, for today I must stay at your house." And he hurried and
came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be
the guest of a man who is a sinner." Zaccheus stopped and said to the
Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and
if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."
And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come
to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that
which was lost."
(Luk 19:1-10 NASB)
understand the passage, we must begin with the generally low esteem given to
tax collectors of any time. Taxpayers of any time are prone to revolt
(remember Proposition 13?), so means must be devised to prevent that. The
Romans had an elegant system: they recruited some Jews to tax all the rest of
them. They also made it very lucrative to do so – especially when the tax law
is complex (do you do your own?) and cheating the taxpayer an easy thing to
do. The system was designed to produce traitors and toads, and it was quite
good at it. The closest I have seen to it in modern life is the system of “trusty”
and racial enmity found in our prisons.
outcasts have dignity?
an outcast develops dignity, he soon becomes a laughingstock. We raise our
children to be cool, with it and (hopefully) on their way to being adults.
Adulthood enforces the same message: you’re either in the right crowd – or an
outcast. What’s it like to be an outcast?
such people are considered worthless. Suppose you are planning an
activity, say, a church picnic. The questions of menu and location come
quickly; it is dangerous to pick these things by yourself. Whose opinion
do you value? It’s a social occasion; you listen to social people. The
outcast is lucky to hear about the event.
the outcast is easy to hate. Hatred plays a major role in things
political (see how the press treats George Bush). If someone is
worthless, that same someone is easy to despise. (The politically correct
have mastered this weapon.)
the most part, such people are lone and lonely. It makes them miserable –
which is what most of us think they should be.
you think this an unreasonable thought? Let me test your understanding with a
you seen what the teenage girls are wearing to church these days? The
“fashion” of the moment is to look like a prostitute. (A seventh grade
girl wearing fishnet hose can be a fright). Dressing modestly makes you
surely that wouldn’t affect the church, would it? Look on our website;
one of the great things listed about our New Song worship is that “casual
attire is emphasized.” Emphasized?
we might take a clue from the younger generation and ask, What Would Jesus Do?
We might start here with the grace Jesus shows to an outcast.
to his credit, understands money – and repentance. Money has been running his
life; it’s what he’s good at. So when he repents, he does so in gold:
means restoring. Zaccheus exceeds the requirements of the Law of Moses
means doing the good you can. Money he had in abundance; as the poor of Jericho will now see.
means taking on a new Lord. Zaccheus exchanged a poor master (money) for
the reaction of Jesus. There is no formula; no baptism, no words to be
repeated. Why?? Because Jesus knows the truth in his heart; and when man
repents sincerely, God will forgive. Right now. Today, salvation has come to
certainly has its rewards, to be sure. The poor of Jericho no doubt had
occasion to bless the name of Zaccheus. Those he defrauded might be taken
aback by the change – but they’ll take the money. There’s even a blessing to
us today, for Christ must speak of the coming kingdom of God – and what better
example to use in front of Zaccheus than one that involves money:
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was
lost." While they were
listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near
Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear
immediately. So He said, "A nobleman went to a
distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. "And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten
minas and said to them, 'Do business with this until I come back.' "But his citizens hated
him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign
over us.' "When he returned, after
receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the
money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. "The first appeared, saying, 'Master, your mina
has made ten minas more.' "And he said to
him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little
thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.' "The second came, saying, 'Your mina, master, has made
five minas.' "And he said to him also, 'And
you are to be over five cities.' "Another
came, saying, 'Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a
handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because
you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what
you did not sow.' "He *said to him, 'By
your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an
exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? 'Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and
having come, I would have collected it with interest?' "Then he said to the bystanders, 'Take the mina away
from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.' "And they said to him, 'Master, he has ten minas already.' "I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be
given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be
taken away. "But these enemies of mine, who
did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my
(Luk 19:10-27 NASB)
must understand this parable in the light of the moment Christ uses it. Many
of those around Jesus think that the Son of David is ready to restore David’s
throne. It is a political and military solution, but that’s what they expected
from the Prince of Peace. Others around him saw things as much more
difficult. They correctly estimated the reaction of the religious
authorities. Zaccheus repented; the religious authorities saw no reason for
their own repentance. But the repentance of Zaccheus could be seen as the
opening move of a political scheme to unite the twelve tribes again and begin
point his followers to the truth, Jesus tells them a parable – one which would
be very familiar to his hearers. Here’s why:
“man” in the parable is doing what Herod the Great did. When the Romans
conquered a territory, it was their custom to install puppet royalty. The
royalty got a cut of the take; Rome needed far fewer troops to enforce their
wishes. Herod went to Rome to be crowned king. This didn’t sit well with the
Jews – especially since Herod was not even native Jewish. Upon his return, he
set in motion a series of murders and deaths which consolidated his grip on the
throne. He had no problem with this. Of course, this is the man who ordered
the slaughter of the infants at the time of Jesus’ birth. (The Herod reigning
at this time was the grandson of that Herod.)
not too familiar with the royalty of that day, but the parable has real meaning
the “good and faithful,” the return of Christ will be a time of reward –
which will be all out of proportion to our efforts. Faithful in little,
faithful in much.
those who did not work, there will be no reward. Paul describes such
people as being like those who escaped a house fire – and lost everything
but the clothes on their backs.
for those who are Christ’s enemies, there will be nothing but death,
destruction and hell.
is not popular to preach and teach this. Its sole virtue is that it’s true.
May it give the reader reason to reflect upon his or her own actions.