Reviled. Hated. Transformed.
Who could have imagined the joy that that day would hold? I mean, when he got up in the morning, he embodied most of the things that a mother tries to keep her son from becoming. He was not a role model. He was educated and he was wealthy, to be sure, and for some folks, that's all they want for their kids, but beyond that, the best way to describe him was probably, he's a slam ball. Zacchaeus was the tax code. He set the tax rates, he did the tax collecting, often doing it door to door. There was no court of appeal, and worst of all, he got a commission on every dollar he collected. Corruption was a way of life.
He had no incident of, whatsoever, to be fair or to hold taxes in check. Zacchaeus was a turncoat, a trader. There was no way around it. A Jewish man, living in Israel but working for the Roman government, the foreigners who occupied their land. He was the kind of man that every Jewish mother [inaudible]. Children hid, doors slammed, windows locked when Zacchaeus was in the neighborhood. He was a corrupt turncoat, earning an exuberant income off the backs of his former friends and neighbors. What made him do it? What made him go to see Jesus? Why did he endure the loathing of his neighbors to go into town that day on Main Street in Jericho? To see the procession, the parade. Jesus of Nazareth was coming through. And Zacchaeus went to go see him. Why did he go? What was his motive? Maybe it was guilt. Maybe he was finally coming to terms with his own corruption and the betrayal of his own people. Maybe it was loneliness. Maybe he was looking for something to do or somebody to notice him, the friendliness, rich turncoat. Or maybe it was just curiosity. Not a lot going on in Jericho. [laughter] Have you ever been there? Just kind of a weigh station on the road to Jerusalem, only remembered for Joshua centuries before. Maybe Zacchaeus was just hoping for a little entertainment in the small town. All we know is that he was seeking Jesus, and it took some effort, because the crowd was large. And he was a small man. Don't hate on small men. He was a small man, [laughter] so he avoided the crowd and he climbed into a tree on the roadside, just like kids on the store rooftops at the Christmas parade. Whatever he did worked. He was seeking Jesus. And evidently, Jesus was seeking him.
When Jesus looked up and saw the grown little man perched in a tree, he called him by name, "Zacchaeus, come down from that tree for I'm going to your house today." The crowd was shocked. Not sure which was worse, Zacchaeus daring to go out in public and pretend like he was normal, or Jesus having the nerve to know him and even go to his house. A tax collector, what are you doing? What was the matter with Jesus? People grumbled and murmured. After that, Jesus does next to nothing. Zacchaeus is just overcome. Simply meeting Jesus, something happened. Something happened, and it's called grace. [laughter] With grace comes transformation. With transformation comes generosity. I've never met [inaudible] stingy saint. Nobody wants their patron saint to be Saint Stingy. And Zacchaeus clearly was overcome. He blurted out, "Today, half of my goods, I give to the poor. And if I have cheated anybody, I'm going to restore it four-fold." Not sure what, but something clearly happened. Jesus didn't ask him for anything. He didn't even mention money. No one told Zacchaeus that he wasn't allowed to remain rich. Something happened inside of him. You know what it was? The impossible. [laughter] The impossible happened. A rich man had entered the kingdom of God. Unlike the rich ruler who came and went away sad, unable to separate himself from his possessions, a prisoner of his own accumulation, all these years, Zacchaeus had been devoting himself to acquiring, extorting, accumulating, hoarding, convinced that he had-- better get all that he could while the getting was good. All of a sudden, Zacchaeus was totally converted completely. Totally converted spiritually, socially, physically, financially. Zacchaeus converted simply by meeting Jesus. He converted so much that he far exceeded what the Bible is expected of a man who had cheated people. He restored it four-fold when the norm was one to two times. He far exceeded what the Bible had taught about tithing. Instead of giving 10%, he gave 50%. Zacchaeus met Jesus, the son of God, the source. The source of light, the source of salvation, the source of every good and perfect gift. All these years, Zacchaeus had thought that he was the source of his wealth. Now he knew Jesus is the source. And Zacchaeus became a sprinkler. A sprinkler doesn't produce its own water, it merely distributes the water that comes its way. It distributes it liberally and generously, spreading blessings under thirsty grass and dry plants. Zacchaeus finally understood he wasn't the source of the water. He finally noticed the needs of others. He finally noticed the Kingdom of God all around him. Zacchaeus finally discovered that his task simply was to share what the source had provided him, to share it joyfully, to share it generously. Zacchaeus realized his task was to use his possessions, not merely to possess them.
That day in Jericho, the impossible happened. Rich, little Zacchaeus became a new man. He met the source. He gave over his life. And Zacchaeus entered the Kingdom of God. [music]