Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jesus Showed Love to Zacchaeus
(Luke 19:1-10)

The basic truths of the Bible can, at times, be the most difficult to practice in our daily lives. Just think about those people you encountered this week who were difficult to love. For that matter, think about those around you this week who might have considered you to be, at least at times, difficult to love. Are you daily showing that you love Jesus?

Luke 19:2 describes Zacchaeus as a chief tax collector in Jericho. Tax collectors were contracted by the Roman government to gather and send money to Rome. As a Jew collecting taxes for the Romans, the occupying government, Zacchaeus quite naturally had a bad reputation among his fellow Jews. Zacchaeus is described as a chief collector, implying that he was responsible for all the taxes of Jericho and that he had other collectors working under him. Zacchaeus' position in itself would have guaranteed him great wealth. But we must understand that the taxing system was open to abuse and extortion was common. Rome required that it get all of its tax, but didn't necessarily mind if its collectors kept extra for themselves in the collection process. We do not know whether Zacchaeus abused the system, but if he had, his position would have given him a greater opportunity to abuse system and gain even more personal wealth.

The people of Jericho heard that Jesus was coming to their town. Like everyone else in Jericho, Zacchaeus wanted to get at least a glimpse of Him. But Zacchaeus had a few things going against him in pursuit of his goal. Firstly, he was short. Secondly he was not well loved by the townspeople. Even so, Zacchaeus persevered. He found a way to see Jesus by climbing a tree near the road. This must have been a humbling and undignified act for Zacchaeus, but doing it suggests that he was motivated by more than just curiosity.

Jesus stopped under the tree and looked up. Since Jesus' disciple Matthew was a tax collector, he may have told Jesus about Zacchaeus. It is also possible that Jesus could have asked someone the name of the person in the tree. Whatever the case, Jesus called Zacchaeus by name and He told Zacchaeus to come down because He was going to stay at Zacchaeus' home that afternoon. Zacchaeus was ecstatic. He came down as fast as he could and gladly welcomed Jesus to his home.

The Bible does not tell us what Jesus and Zacchaeus said and did together, but we can be pretty certain that Jesus communicated love to Zacchaeus. And we can see that Zacchaeus responded to that love. On the spot, Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor. In addition, he would repay out of his remaining half anyone from whom he had stolen. Zacchaeus may have already known that the law required as written in Leviticus 6:5 and Numbers 5:6-7) that anyone who steals must repay and include one-fifth more, or 120 percent. Zacchaeus went way beyond the legal requirement by committing to pay back four times what was stolen, or 400 percent.

Jesus loved Zacchaeus, a man whom others despised. Do you know someone who is difficult to love or like? Ask God to help you show Jesus' love to all that you meet.

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