The following transcription, submitted by Scott J. Toney, is of a sermon based on the story of Zacchaeus. Due to its length, part 1 is presented below. To find the original 14-page e-book, click here.
Pulpit to Page, Issue 1: Zacchaeus
Copyright 2013 by Scott J. Toney, Published by Breakwater Harbor Books
This is a sermon given by Rev. Lance King at Chestnut Grove and scribed by Scott J. Toney, so that it may be a blessing. Full permission to scribe this sermon is given by Lance King and 50% of all revenue is donated to Chestnut Grove so that it may be used toward Church ministries.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 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.”
How many of you have ever found yourself in the midst of a giant crowd and you seem to almost be engulfed by just a mass of people? Has that ever happened to you before?
In 1998 my wife Tanya and I were in Paris, France, and it was during the World Cup and we were on the Chantelise, which is an eight lane road about three miles long that stretches from the arch de triumph all the way down to the Louvre. And we’re there and within just a few minutes after the game is over, this semifinal round of the world cup, the whole Chantelise is completely packed with people, eight lanes of people side to side, stores on either side, and it is this mass of humanity the likes of which I have never seen before.
And Tanya and I, two Americans in Paris, are being just swallowed by this group of festive, celebratory soccer fans who are rejoicing over this major victory and a little Parisian man came to us and he’s a little concerned for our safety I think and he said ‘Excuse me, may I take you home in my car, I am not sure you are safe here.’
And so we were, it was very exciting. We rode it out and we made it but we were so inundated with this humanity. Have you ever had an experience similar to that?
Have you ever been to the inauguration on the DC mall? Every four years we celebrate the peaceful election of a brand new president and the time that Tanya and I went the crowd was so vast that I was concerned for losing her for fear that I might not ever find her again, or at least until we got home. And the crowd was so huge that you were reluctant to even go to the bathroom for fear that you wouldn’t make it back to the place you had squeezed into to begin with.
How many of you have ever been to a concert or some sort of gathering where the emotion is so strong that you’re infected by it, that it takes over how you’re thinking or maybe you would do some things that you wouldn’t normally do or you act in a way that is unusual for you but you’re controlled somehow by a large crowd? Is that familiar to you?
Well today we have a story of a man who knows about the power of a crowd. And yet it is in the midst of that crowd, or how he navigates the crowd, that he finds God. Or better, Zacchaeus is a man who gets found by God for how he deals with the crowd.
Open your Bibles if you would to Luke Chapter 19 and we’ll find his story.
Now, today you heard the story about Zacchaeus. How many of you know about Zacchaeus? How many of you know the song about Zacchaeus? Well let’s just hear it.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.
Perfect. Zacchaeus is a man you know. And what you know about Zacchaeus, even if you don’t know anything else, is you know that he was a wee little man, right, and so you probably have a cartoon image in your head that you got in second grade about Zacchaeus. This is the little tiny guy that climbed a tree, right?
Well I invite you today to consider suspending what you think you know about Zacchaeus. Epic Tettus taught that you can teach a person anything except that which they think they already know. Many of you think you know Zacchaeus. Luke introduces five characteristics about Zacchaeus that I hope will challenge what you think about him. And today’s text tells the story. In Chapter 19, Verse 2, we have the first of five.
One thing we know about Zacchaeus. It’s something about what he did. We see that a man was there in Jericho named Zacchaeus and he was a chief Tax Collector. Zacchaeus lived in a town, Jericho, where there was lots of commerce. It was on a trade route, lots of business, so there would have been lots of tolls and taxes to collect. Zacchaeus would have been a prominent figure. He was a business owner. He was someone who had some social status in the community. He wouldn’t have been liked by others because he had a legal legitimacy, a power legally to go to the ordinary folks and say you owe twelve coins, but I want fourteen or else I’m gonna turn you in or steal your sheep or something like that. He had the power legally to do that. That kind of power generally creates a kind of awkwardness socially. If I said that to you you’d think, I’m not so sure I want to be around that fella. Zacchaeus was that guy. He was known by everyone and liked by almost no one. He was a chief tax collector, a man of status in Jericho. His relationship with the crowd socially would have been tenuous at best and tumultuous at worst.
The second thing we know about Zacchaeus, is that Zacchaeus was rich. So I ask you, is that a positive or a negative, to be rich? Hmm, I don’t know, well so far in Luke’s gospel the rich have not fared very well in Jesus’ teaching and in his perspective. If you go back to Luke Chapter 12 you remember Jesus tells a story about the kingdom of God and he tells a story about a rich farmer whose crops have had a bumper year and he has so many goods that he decides to build a bigger barn to store his stuff.
‘I’ll tear down my old little barns and I’ll build a bigger one so that I can store all my stuff.’ In this story Jesus has God’s voice, saying to that guy, ‘You fool, you have attended to the wrong things and tonight your life is required of you.’
Another story about the rich in Luke would be in chapter 16. There was a rich man and Lazarus, richy-rich and lowlife lazy Lazarus, and they lived on opposite sides of the gate of the gated community. The rich man finds that his wealth did not convey well into the afterlife. What richy-rich learned is that his insulation from the poor actually became his sentence to hell in the afterlife and at that place he looked up and saw lazy lowlife Lazarus being the recipient of relief and he learns in that place that his wealth was not an asset to his soul.
In the text immediately preceding today’s story we have the tale of the third rich man. This is the one that we like to call the rich young ruler. This is the guy who goes to Jesus and he has the right question. He says ‘So, Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ It’s a good question, no? Well, Jesus says you have to have a different agenda than you have right now. Sadly the rich young ruler is dejected and he walks away sad and we have not only one sad person but two because it’s in response to that man’s response that Jesus offers this phrase in Chapter 18, Verse 25, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
The rich have not fared well in Luke’s story so far and Zacchaeus is rich. Is that a positive or a negative? I’ll let you decide.
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of this transcript. Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a message in the comment section below. Part 2 will be posted Wednesday, March 21. Don't forget, the original e-book version is available on Amazon.
About Scott J. Toney: Singer, Father, Husband and Author, Scott J. Toney is a family man first and a great lover of the written word. With over 45,000 copies distributed he tackles Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Christian genres, using his Journalism and Public Relations background in constructing characters and worlds. Scott joins forces with other authors as a member of Breakwater Harbor Books and is enthusiastic about the worlds and stories to come! Visit his writing blog here.