Sermon: “Changed Perspective”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from October 30, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors
I want to talk a little bit this morning about this story that most of us learned as a young child with a bad song, with bad theology. You know that Zacchaeus was a we little man, a we little man was he…
Zacchaeus you come down! Yeah. Uh, you just proved my point.
But what really is going on in this story of Zacchaeus? Let's start with the fact that Jesus was going through Jericho. Now, Jericho was not a Jewish town. Jericho was a, was a Goyam town. It was others. It was not. It was more Samaritan than it was Jewish, but Zacchaeus is a Jewish name, so we have that little issue there.
Second of all, Zacchaeus was a tax collector, not just a tax collector. He was the chief tax collector, which means he got his money from all the people that were collecting taxes. And of course, in that time period, if you were collecting taxes, you were an agent of the Roman government, which of course made you not welcome in a lot of places.
And you made your living by adding to whatever the official tax was and whatever you could collect over and above the official tax was your income. So even if the tax collector was only collecting a little bit more than they were supposed to, they were seen as fraudsters, people that were robbing the people of their money.
So, Zacchaeus is a pariah. People don't like Zacchaeus because he represents everything that they don't like about Rome.
Now, Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming through town and so he wants to see this person, Jesus. Now we don't know why. He wanted to see this person, Jesus. Now, our scripture does not say he was a wee little man. It says he was short in stature, but there are many ways of being short of stature that are not physical.
Yes, he may have been short, but he also may have just lacked stature in the community because he was such a pariah. And you can imagine that if there are crowds moving up to the side of the road to see this renowned teacher healer coming through, that they're not going to be really open to parting ways to letting somebody that's a pariah get through to where they can see.
And so, Zacchaeus. Who already has no stature in town other than his official capacity, already has no respect from the people that live there. Does something that is considered very not worthy of respect and hikes up his robes enough that he can run ahead and climb a tree.
Now you can just imagine that it, you know, the robes were full length. They'd go all the way down to the feet. So, to climb a tree, he'd have to hike it up, tie it up between his legs, over his sash so that he could freely move to climb the tree. So, he is debasing himself even further into the community's eyes by running ahead and climbing the tree.
Now we have Jesus that comes through. And you know, we say, okay, well what made Jesus single out Zacchaeus? What made Jesus single out Zacchaeus? There were hundreds probably of people in the crowds there that would've loved to have hosted Jesus for the day. Think about that. You know, here's this person that is becoming well known for their healing and their teaching and their ministry to people, and what an honor to be able to have them at your house that day.
I think most of us would've stepped up and done the same thing. We would voluntarily, Hey, Jesus, come stay with me!
But instead, Jesus seeks out the one who is being, who is outside the community, who is doing something different. We say, well, you know, how did he know Zacchaeus name? Well, my guess is it probably wasn't really hard to find out the man's name. All he would've had to have done would be to ask anybody who that was up in the tree.
They all would've known. So, Jesus comes along, and he says, Zacchaeus, come down out of the tree, he goes, I need to come to your house. So, what's going on here? Jesus is taking this person who is an outcast, who is ostracized by the community, who is willing to debase himself a little further by climbing a tree and saying, I'm going to honor you and come to your house.
I'm going to honor you and come to your house. So, there's really two things here. We say, well, of course Jesus was seeking out the loss, right? That was the message and that I have come to seek and save the loss. That's the last verse there. But we have to remember that the previous reading in Luke was about the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple.
And the Pharisee in the way he was praying and saying, At least I'm not like this tax collector over here, and the tax collector in return, his prayer was, God, forgive me, have mercy on me. And so now we have this story in the Gospel of Luke that puts a name to a tax collector, and personalizes this relationship with Jesus.
But we have Jesus who we say we're seeking out the lost, but we also have Zacchaeus who is seeking out Jesus. And that says something to us. It is a two-way street. And that we have to seek out Jesus just as much as Jesus has to seek out us, and by us, I mean all of humanity. All of humanity. But there are other characters in this story.
You see most of us focus on Zacchaeus, starting with the song. And we know Jesus' response there. You know, Jesus comes to his house and Zacchaeus of course says, You know, I have, I will give away half of my possessions, and if I have wronged anyone, I will pay him back double. Now, we have nothing in this story that says Zacchaeus has wronged anybody.
There is nothing there. Remember he didn't actually collect the taxes. He'd got the taxes from the tax collectors.
If I have wronged to anyone, I will pay them back double, and I will give half of all of my, all of my money to the poor. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? He sounds like a pretty righteous person.
Jesus, publicly says today, salvation has come to your house because this man too is a son of Abraham. So what Jesus is doing here is he is pointing out to the crowd that Zacchaeus is just as much a son of Abraham as any of them, just as much a son of Abraham as any of them. And he is basically restoring Zacchaeus to his place in the community, in his words.
Now, I said that there were other people in the story. The other people, of course, are the crowds. The crowds that made it so Zacchaeus couldn't get to Jesus. The crowds that made it so Zacchaeus was not welcome. The crowds that made it, so Zacchaeus had to run ahead and climb a tree to even get a chance to see Jesus. And the crowds that complained about Jesus when he said he was going to Zacchaeus house.
And unfortunately, too often we are part of the crowd. We keep other people from coming to Jesus. We do little things, you know like saying that we're Christians, but that that group is sinful.
We do things like that. We say all are welcome, but then when somebody that's a little different comes in the doors, we either look at stance or just totally ignore them.
Those are the things the church does. The church talks about loving your neighbors as yourself, and then the church says, unless you're one of these people, or one of those people, or one of those people. And we become the crowd that is keeping Zacchaeus from getting to Jesus or accusing Jesus of something that we know nothing about.
And so we have to find ways of getting out of the way and actually helping people that are seeking to help meet Jesus.
Kind of appropriate that, on All Saints Sunday, I would bring up Mother Teresa. You know, in the Presbyterian church we don't necessarily have saints like in the Catholic tradition, but you know, it wasn't that many years ago that Mother Teresa passed away and was very rapidly beatified, named as a Saint, in the Catholic church.
Mother Teresa did everything in her power to make it so that those who needed to seek Jesus could meet Jesus. And she did it by saying that when she looked into the face of another person, she saw the face of Jesus in them. And that's how she treated them.
We should all be that kind of a saint. We should all be the ones that when we look at somebody else, regardless of whether they're like us or not, we see the face of Jesus and we treat them that way. And in so doing, we get ourselves out of the way and we let the two meet. not criticizing Christ and not blocking the one that is seeking,
How often do we come across people in this world that really are searching, you know, survey after survey is showing that the youngest generation replies to questions on faith that as being spiritual but not religious. They're spiritual but not religious. They're looking for something to believe in, but they don't want to be part of organized religion. Why?
Probably because organized religion over generations and over eons has made it difficult for people to be spiritual.
We've gotten in the way. We've been the crowd. We have done and said things that exclude and putting up barriers. We've been going so far as chopping down the trees so they can't climb up to see.
And it is time to start thinking along the lines of the saints that have gone before us and have worked to build up the church, not the religion, but the church, the body of Christ. In such a way that others can see Jesus, and Jesus is available to them. And we need to step out of the way and not say, well, why would Christ visit them?
Why would Jesus, why would Jesus care about them. Why would Jesus care about that homeless person that stinks and smelly and is dirty and maybe is a little mentally off?
Why would Jesus care about that person who is questioning their sexuality? Why would Jesus care about that person that claims another faith.
And it's time for us as the church to get out of the way, and instead to be building up things for those people to climb up on in a way that they're honored so that they can meet the living Christ. And it's time for us to help bring the living Christ to them. And when we start doing that as Christians, the Kingdom of God will happen so much better, so much faster.
Today, salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham. When the church starts acknowledging, who the sons and daughters of Abraham are, in reality, not who we wanted to define them as, but who they really are, then the kingdom of God will be that much stronger. Let us pray.