I am preparing to teach this Sunday’s children’s message and thought that I would share it with you here as I think through the process. The message is about Zacchaeus. This month has really emphasized the fact that we must learn to know God, and when we do get to know Him, our lives as well as our purpose in life, are both forever changed. In order to get to this point, we learned about how Eli mentored Samuel and how Samuel learned to know God and began to serve others because of that knowledge. God used Samuel to impact many lives in a positive manner. In fact, Samuel acted as the final Judge in the history of the nation of Israel. He was used by God to choose the second king of Israel. This past week, we examined the lives of Mary and Martha, learning the importance of sitting at the feet of Jesus so that we can be properly prepared to love and serve the people around us.
All of us have a past. All of us have our “B.C.” days (before meeting Christ). We are born sinners separated from God and that separation shows up in our lives via sin. Sin is missing God’s mark of what is right and wrong. Sin manifests itself in different ways in people’s lives. I would like to take a look at Zacchaeus and see what his life was like before Christ, how he met Christ, and how that meeting transformed his life.
I. Zacchaeus’ B.C. days
Zacchaeus was born a sinner, as we all are. He was no different. Zacchaeus did not have a relationship with God and that separation manifested itself in specific sins. Let’s take a look at a passage and see if we can determine the specific sins in Zacchaeus’ life.
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus ; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. 3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 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. 5 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.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 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.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19)
From the text we learn a few important things about Zacchaeus.
- He is a sinner and everyone knows it. (7)
- He is a tax collector (2)
- He has become rich by defrauding people (2,8)
- He does not care about the needs of the people around him (8)
- He uses people to get what he wants (2,8)
- Defraud has multiple meanings of which can be; lying, false accusation, spreading rumors, tricking people out of their possessions.
- He became rich by taking advantage of the people around him.
Zacchaeus needs salvation. Zacchaeus needs to be changed by God so that his relationship can be restored with God and he views people the way God does.
Are you in any way like Zacchaeus? Do you seek to take advantage of the people around you? Do you use others for your own personal gains? Do you in any way falsely accuse others, spread rumors about them, trick them out of their money? Do you view people the way God does or do you see them as the means to be used to get what you want? Do the needs of others matter to you?
II. Zacchaeus has an encounter with Christ
Jesus does not wait for us to clean up our act so that we can come to Him. He meets us where we are with the purpose of changing us. As people, we do not have the power to change ourselves. I cannot clean my act up. If that were the case then there would be no need for Christ. Since I am lost without Christ and cannot overcome my sin, I need Christ to meet me where I am. Praise God, Jesus comes in search of us. He offers to teach us and transform us. He searched out for Zacchaeus. He wanted to be a part of Zacchaeus’ life. When Zacchaeus accepted Christ’s invitation, his life was transformed. He accepted Christ. He received salvation. He was made into a new man. That transformation manifested itself in Zacchaeus’ new view of the people around him.
III. Zacchaeus wants to serve people for their own benefit
Did you notice what happened to Zacchaeus? He was a changed man. His view of people completely changed. He went from wanting to use people for his own greedy gains to a person who wanted to be used by God to meet the needs of others. He immediately saw his possessions and wealth as an opportunity to help the people around him. Zacchaeus began to see the needs of the hurting people around him. He had come to terms with the fact that he had used and abused people to get his wealth and he wanted to make restitution for the wrongs that he had done. Zacchaeus did not want to do good deeds to gain salvation. He wanted to do good deeds because of his salvation. He was a new man, a man whose life and priorities had been transformed by Christ.
Have you ever had an experience like Zacchaeus’ experience? The Bible calls this experience “being born again“. Jesus taught this concept in John 3, the same passage where we get John 3:16. When you met Christ, or came to Christ, as we like to say, were your priorities changed? Did you begin to view people the way that God does?
I pray that we can learn from Zacchaeus’ example and become true followers of Christ, not just the hearers who deceive themselves. The world is full of people who claim to be followers of Christ yet do not live according to what He teaches in the Bible. I do not want to be a person like that and I do not want the people whom I teach to be like that. May the Lord help us apply what He teaches us in His Word.