The following transcription, submitted by Scott J. Toney, is part 2 of a sermon based on the story of Zacchaeus. To find the original 14-page e-book, click here. Click to read Part 1.
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.
We go on to Chapter 3 and we learn a third thing about Zacchaeus, and that is that Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was. Now, Luke wrote this in a way that suggests that Zacchaeus is more than just curious. He’s interested in more than what kind of clothes Jesus wears. He’s interested in more than whether or not Jesus has a beard or what his hair looks like. He wants to see who Jesus actually is. He has a kind of longing, an inner hunger, Luke is communicating to us. Now why is it you think that Zacchaeus would be so interested, so longing to see who Jesus was? Zacchaeus was a prominent business person, at the top of the paramount of a lot of people, who’s in power. I wonder if for Zacchaeus he had had enough of all of that and he had some kind of deeper longing.
Maybe Zacchaeus was really curious about this man who he heard was coming that was rumored to have raised a man from the dead just a few miles down the road. Remember that story of Lazarus of Bethany. Maybe Zacchaeus was curious to meet the guy who had fed a massive crowd with this abnormal food supply. Or maybe Zacchaeus wanted to meet the man who had often been mocked for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. We don’t know exactly what is going on in Zacchaeus’ mind but what we do know is Luke tells us that he is trying. He is making an effort to see who this Jesus is that’s coming his way.
It seems to me that there’s another couple of things that we can find easily from this text.
One, that even though he is trying to see Jesus there’s a problem. What’s the problem? Ah, he’s short, or the crowd, depending on how you read this verse. This is the verse that hung with me all week. Jesus was trying to see the crowd, trying to see Jesus, but he’s obstructed by the crowd. How many of you have ever been obstructed from doing something because of the crowd. See, little Zacchaeus is interested. He’s trying. He wants to see. He’s hungry. He has some kind of longing but he can’t see because the crowd is in his way.
Many of you will say the problem is he’s short. I would say that’s the 5th thing, he’s short of stature. Interestingly that word, stature, is used eight times in the New Testament. The Greek word is hellochia. He’s short in hellochia, stature. Every time in the New Testament that word is used it is never used to refer to physical height. It is always used to talk about maturity or development. So what we see about Zacchaeus is he’s short in stature. He’s short in development. He’s short in maturity. He’s lacking the full growth of maybe who he should be.
Let me give you a few examples of this word hellochia. In Luke, in Chapter 2, he uses this word to talk about Jesus. He says Jesus grew in wisdom and hellochia or stature and in favor with God and men. Do you think Luke was talking about Jesus growing taller? No, he grew in hellochia. Another verse, in Luke 12: 25, Jesus asks this question. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your hellochia? Your life, your development, your maturity. Who by worrying can grow up more? Jesus says don’t do that.
We look at John and Ephesians we find some more examples of this. When it comes to Zacchaeus we see that climbing the tree might suggest he was short in stature, but I think that Luke might suggest that he might be short in development also. He’s a business owner. He’s at the peak of the economical or professional life, but there is an incompleteness about him, an immaturity about him that Luke comments that Zacchaeus ,the wee little man, in not as mature as he ought to be.
My premise is this, that the more lacking that we are in hellochia, the more likely the crowd has a lot of control over us. Does that make sense? The more we lack in maturity the better able the crowd is to control us. How many of you have ever been controlled by a crowd in one way or another? Today is a story of Zacchaeus being controlled. Zacchaeus … Well let me ask you this way, how many of you can think of a time when you’ve been discouraged or dissuaded or obstructed from doing something you wanted to do because of the people around you?
I’ll give you a couple of examples. How many of you have colleagues or classmates or followers or friends and because of their input they have kept you, discouraged you, from doing something you’d like to do? Maybe you have colleagues or classmates and their language might be language that you don’t wish to use yourself. Or their sense of humor might be riddled with prejudice or their the jokes they tell are rants or their whole perspective is so cynical that whenever you’re in their presence the environment is not what you’re looking for for yourself and you find yourself reluctant to tell a happy story or an optimistic thing or a joke that doesn’t have a bad word in it. And you find yourself not wanting to do it because the environment they create isn’t friendly to that kind of thing.
Zacchaeus is in a crowd of people here and the group dynamic may be bringing him down.
There’s a favorite book of mine. It’s a children’s book called ‘A Bad Case of the Stripes’. This is a story of crowd control. See, this little girl, she loves lima beans. It’s her favorite dish. But she goes to school and what she finds is that her classmates all think lima beans are gross. Blach. They are all really vocal in what they think of lima beans. So this little girl, short in stature perhaps, finds herself giving into the power of the crowd though she loves lima beans. They’re her favorite thing ever. Because of the crowd she becomes symptomatic.
I won’t ruin the story for you. I want you to read it yourself, but here’s a story about crowd control and Zacchaeus seems to know something about this. You see Zacchaeus is stuck in this place where he’s looking at the backs and the butts of the crowd. This little girl knows about that. How many of you have ever been discouraged or dissuaded or obstructed from doing something you want to do because of the power of the crowd? It’s easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, Lance, the masses of people they’re icky and they have an ugly agenda and they’re so worldly and they drag me down into doing all this stuff I don’t want to do.’
How many of you would say you’ve actually be dissuaded or discouraged or obstructed by the crowd of people that claim to be following Jesus? You see, if you remember, the crowd of people following Jesus in Luke Chapter 19 is made up of the Pharisees, who are the religious experts, and the Disciples, who have already proclaimed to follow Jesus. You may remember the pendulum teaching of the last few weeks. Jesus is teaching the Pharisees and the Disciples are listening, and he is teaching the Disciples and the Pharisees are listening. And this whole crowd of people who seem to be in Zacchaeus way are a crowd of people who are following Jesus. And I wonder if you have ever been dissuaded or obstructed by the so called Jesus followers. Friends, I wonder sometimes if it’s ever this crowd of people who are claiming to be Christians who might be the most difficult crowd of all.
Some of you have heard of Thomas Merton, one of the great authors of the 20th century, and he speaks about this crowd phenomenon of so-called Christians. He invites us, I think, and I’ll share these words and you see what you think. Merton says that the great tragedy of our age is the fact that there are so many godless Christians, Christians that is whose religion is a matter or pure conformism and expediency. Their quote faith is little more than a permanent evasion of reality or a compromise with life in order to avoid admitting the uncomfortable truth that they no longer have any real need for God or an vital faith in god. They conform to the outward conduct of others like themselves and these believers, they cling together offering another an apparent justification of lives that are essentially the same as the lives of their materialistic neighbors. Merton suggests that sometimes the lives of Jesus followers become simply a community of those who agree to conform to a certain behavior standard, that ultimately we are godless people. And I wonder if that’s something you’ve ever seen among Jesus followers. It seems to me that this group following Jesus in Luke 19 Zacchaeus sees as an obstacle. And these are the people that say, ‘I’m following Jesus and I’m making decisions.’
Sometimes the religious crowd can be an obstacle. If you look at the story in First Kings of King Saul, do you know this story, he gets elected or anointed and picked directly from God to be the first king of Israel and he has this powerful reign and he’s doing a good job but then the religious crowd gets to him and he starts listening to the religious crowd instead of doing the things that God has shown him to do and it leads to God withdrawing the blessing from Saul. And it is the scariest story in the whole of the bible to me, that sometimes the religious crowd is the obstacle to keep you from doing what you really need to do with God in the first place.
That seems to be Zacchaeus’ problem here. But in spite of the crowd, in spite of what they’re thinking or how they’re conforming or whatever they’re doing, Zacchaeus in verse 4, he makes a move. He makes a move and he does something kind of radical. It says in verse 4 that he ran and he climbed a tree in order that he might see Jesus who is coming his way. Now how many of you have ever seen a guy dressed like me running somewhere? Wouldn’t you suggest almost immediately that there might be a problem? If a person dressed like this is running you just identify that immediately. The crowd would have seen in Zacchaeus there’s something wrong. A business leader with that kind of stature would never run in public. It would have been a disgraceful thing to do. It would have been an undignified thing to do and doubly undignified for him to climb a tree. Have you ever seen a grown woman in heels climb a tree? You would have thought wha... you don’t do that in heals, at least take your heels off. There would be some sort of social conventions preventing that from happening and yet Zacchaeus does this thing and I think the reason why is because for the first time Zacchaeus attended to this soul longing. And he had this longing in his soul for something more. And finally for Zacchaeus that soul longing trumped the social customs of the crowd. Finally Zacchaeus’ thirst for God got a little bit more than his concern for what the crowd would think and Zacchaeus took this bold move of running and climbing a tree, and it is in that moment that Zacchaeus finally finds breakthrough. It’s when he finally has what it takes to break away from the crowd, yeah even the religious crowd, when Zacchaeus can finally make a move or take a stand and do something that’s not kosher. It wouldn’t have been looked on fondly. It wasn’t acceptable. It wouldn’t have been liked on Facebook by others looking. It would have been something unacceptable and not widely welcomed, but it’s there that Zacchaeus had a breakthrough in his life.
I hope you enjoyed part 2 of this transcript. Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a message in the comment section below. Part 3 will be posted Wednesday, March 28. 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.