Lessons from the Story of Zacchaeus

John J. Blanchard
August 15, 2015 (listen to audio)

Good morning, brethren. The title of today’s sermon is Lessons From the Story of Zacchaeus. What I would like to do as an introduction is literally read the story of Zacchaeus, and that’s in Luke chapter 19. There is a very interesting interlude in the life of Jesus Christ and His ministry.

Read Luke chapter 19:1-10.

Is this just a cute little story about a short, rich tax collector? It’s only a cute story about a man’s excitement to see Jesus until more Scriptural dots are connected. Of course, it’s an interesting story. It is cute that this man was all excited to see Christ and was willing to climb a tree in order to do so. But there has to be more to the story than just that. What we need to do is find the context that this all takes place in, and what Jesus said surrounding and pursuant to this event. What I want to do now is continue reading in Luke 19, and I want to go into the Parable of the Minas. Let’s read the Parable of the Minas completely, and then we can talk about it in more detail.

Read Luke chapter 19:11-27.

It is very interesting. This is what Christ had to say after the incident of Zacchaeus. Now let’s flip back a page to Luke chapter 18, and we see here that a blind man had received his sight. We won’t read the whole incident, but he was blessed and given his sight. There is something about blindness, and there is something about a parable involving money—minas. We need to determine what Jesus Christ was trying to convey to the people. There are actually a lot of lessons here. Some of them are wonderful. Others are very sad. It is all better understood in the light of Zacchaeus’ story. Let’s examine the Parable of the Minas.

In verse 11 of Luke 19, we read: “Now as they heard these things He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”

Notice the people present thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. The first point I want to make is the kingdom did not appear or show itself or was instituted at that time, so they couldn’t see that the kingdom in the form of Jesus Christ was present. Nor did they understand that someday it would be fulfilled in its physical entirety across the whole earth. They wanted to see the kingdom right then.

Point number two is in verse 12 of Luke 19: “Therefore He said: ‘A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.’”

Christ is the nobleman, and He was going to be gone for a while to receive His kingdom.

Point number three is in verse 13 of Luke 19: “So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’”

CHRIST GAVE TRUTH TO THE MINISTRY

The nobleman, Jesus Christ, called ten of His servants together and delivered them ten minas. What exactly did Christ give them, and who were they?

First of all they were His servants. They were priests and teachers. The definition of the word “delivered” is very interesting because He delivered these minas—this money—to them (pounds in the King James Version). The word for delivered in the Greek is exegeiro (#1825, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means to rouse fully, by example to resuscitate as if from death, and to release from affliction.

What Christ gave them was the truth and the knowledge of how to have their eyes opened and see the truth. He gave them knowledge of how to keep it, and that’s the Ten Commandments. He gave them understanding of the law, so that they could see what they needed to do to gain the kingdom of God, and He opened their eyes to it. Plus there was something else here.

CHRIST GAVE TITHES TO THE MINISTRY

The second thing He gave them was the wherewithal to share this knowledge. As His teachers, as His priests and ministers of the time, He gave them the treasury of the temple, which is God’s tithes. These tithes are the tithes that they collected. With these tithes they could share the truth of God and spread the knowledge of the Ten Commandments. They could teach the people, and do the priestly duties.

Each was given, interestingly enough, a tenth of the whole amount of money, which is why I think Christ uses the idea of ten servants that He called on. They each got a tenth to do business with one mina. They collected God’s tithe as servants of God, just like Zacchaeus collected taxes. You get the connection.

The servants at that time had the right to collect the tithes from the people that they owed and put them into the treasury of the temple. It’s important to get the concept that these men knew at least that Jesus Christ was sent by God and was a teacher. That’s very easy to establish. Keep your fingers in Luke because we will be going there again, obviously. Turn to John chapter 3.

John chapter 3, verse 1: “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’”

He was speaking, in other words, for the rest of the Pharisees, which means the Levites—the priests as well—this educated teaching class and servants of God. He said, we know you are at least sent by God because of the signs that You do. These servants knew they were dealing with at least a prophet, if not the Messiah. That’s important because it means they are without excuse for being against Jesus Christ.

We see the fourth point I want to make in verse 14 of Luke 19 where Christ says: “But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’”

These Pharisees and servants knew Jesus Christ was at least a prophet. They knew He was sent by God, and they did not want Him to rule over them. It says here in verse 10, we do not want Him to rule over us, and they hated Him. This is obvious because eventually they had Him killed, so they hated Jesus Christ.

The word “delegation” in the King James Version is message, and there is a reason why. You get the idea that they sent a delegation after Him, but also they came with a message. When you look up the Greek word for message or delegation, it’s presbeia (#4242, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) and presbeuo (#4243, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means seniority or eldership, representative preachers. They sent their preachers and teachers to test Christ repeatedly and to ask Him questions to trap Him. Eventually they set up the whole scheme that got Him killed. They were the servants and the ministry of that time. That’s that word delegation. These were men who came with another message that was against Jesus Christ because they hated Him, and they kept trying to turn the people against Christ.

MINISTERS ARE ACCOUNTABLE

Point number five is in verses 15-22. Let’s start in Luke 19, verse 15: “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.”

In other words, there was accountability. He is going to measure what they did with this wherewithal and the truth that He had given them.

Continuing in verse 16 of Luke 19: “Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina had earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.’”

The nobleman, Jesus Christ, is going to measure what these servants did with the two things He gave them. He gave them the truth of God—the ten minas. You could say the Ten Commandments—the law. And He gave them the treasury to use to spread the truth. He wanted to see what they had gained by this trading. In other words, their reward is going to be based on the fruit of their efforts on what they did with the truth to spread it and how they used the tithes of the treasury to do the work.

Note verse 23 of Luke 19 which is a very interesting verse. He tells this wicked servant in verse 23: “Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?”

In other words, He was saying, if you were afraid of Me or if you didn’t know what to do with the resources I had given you, why didn’t you put it back into the treasury, into the bank? Someone else could have borrowed it to use. Someone else could have dipped into the treasury and used that to do the work of God. He said then I would have at last gotten some interest off it. I would have gained something from what you didn’t use. There is a lesson that could be learned from this and that’s to use God’s truth, and specifically the Ten Commandments—the Law—and the tithes to spread it wisely.

CHRIST WILL DWELL IN ORDINARY PEOPLE

Let’s go back to the story of Zacchaeus.   We see first of all that he loved the Lord and sought to see Him. Secondly, he was willing to climb a tree, which means clinging to its trunk and its branches, because he was just a little man. From previous Bible study and research we know trees represent teachers. He wanted to learn about Jesus Christ being, of course, the tree of life Himself.

He is willing to cling to the knowledge he had gained from teachers, in essence, climb the tree in order to see Christ. He was just a little man, just an average person. He wasn’t a servant. He wasn’t a Pharisee. He wasn’t a leader. He wasn’t a Levite. He was just an ordinary person.

Thirdly, Christ said to him, I will dwell with you in your house. We know we are each a house for the Holy Spirit and a house for Jesus Christ to dwell in, so Christ made it quite apparent that He was willing to dwell in this man’s mind and heart. If we drop down to the end of the story of Zacchaeus, verses 9-10, Christ says exactly that.

Luke 19, verse 9: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’”

Christ was saying salvation has come to your house because of your attitude.

Now we can see why this story is here. You have a story of a tax collector who was just a little man, not just in physical stature but in his position in life. He did things well with what he was given. Read verse 8.

After Jesus got to his house and Zacchaeus got to talk to Him, we are told in verse 8 of Luke 19: “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’”

Here you see a humble man willing to admit his sins and pay fourfold restitution for any offense that he may have caused. We could go back to read about offenses. Offenses cause blindness. If you have a sliver in your own eye, take it out first so you can see clearly. This man was willing to deal with his offenses and admit his sins. But look at those who observed him and those who were the servants of God. Back up once again to verse 7.

CONTRASTING ATTITUDES

When they saw that Jesus Christ was willing to visit this fellow, we read this in Luke 19, verse 7: “But when they saw it, they all complained saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’”

We see the difference in attitude! It is huge! One was a self-righteous attitude that said, we don’t need what Jesus Christ has to offer. We hate Him! Another was a man who said, I know I have sins, but I know I have been blessed with money. I am a tax collector. My job is to take these taxes from people, but he says I do all I can to restore it to them. I give half of it back to the poor, and if I offend anybody, I liberally repay them. Christ said, because of your attitude, I am bringing salvation to your house! What a wonderful lesson to be learned.

Point number six is that at the end of the parable Christ relates the punishment of citizens who did not want Christ to rule over them and who taught a false message.

Let’s go back to the end of the Parable of the Minas. We are going to go down to verse 26 of Luke 19. “For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.”

The lesson is: if we aren’t humble enough to admit our sins, there is punishment. If we don’t wisely use the law of God and the truth of the knowledge of the Ten Commandments, and if we don’t wisely use the tithes that we are responsible to either give to the treasury or use from the treasury, there is punishment. There is something that will be exacted, and it can be quite severe, especially for servants who have abused the truth of God and who gave the wrong message about Christ. Also there is something to be exacted if servants abuse and waste the tithes of the people.

We are going to read a little bit more to substantiate what I just told you. Following the Parable of the Minas, we have the story of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem by Jesus Christ. We are continuing now after the Parable of the minas. Right after he finishes the Parable of the Minas, He heads into Jerusalem.

We will start in verse 28 of Luke 19. “When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that he sent two of His disciples…”

The Mount of Olives (Olivet) is what He will return to physically when He does return with His kingdom.

Verse 30: “…saying, ‘Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, “Why are you loosing it?” thus you shall say to him, “Because the Lord has need of it.”’ So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, ‘Why are you loosing the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of him.’ Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives [He is coming down off the mountain on this little colt], the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen…”

These were the people who did believe Christ. They were His disciples, and they loved Him.

Continuing in verse 38 of Luke 19: “…saying: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’”

The Pharisees once again showed their hatred for Jesus Christ, saying shut these people up. Christ said, no, I can’t.

Then we go to a very interesting short section of this whole chapter. That is beginning in verse 41 where we read of His sadness over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him. Verse 41: “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’”

They had rejected Christ, and Christ looked ahead into the future. He wept. He knew what would happen that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem would be surrounded by enemies. Millions would be slaughtered. The temple would be destroyed. It would be awful! He cried over that because He tried to bring this wonderful peaceful message, and they would not accept that message or the peace. They would not recognize His signs even though they knew He was sent by God, as we saw in John. They knew He was a teacher. They knew that much, but they did not want Him ruling over them. They wanted the kingdom, the power, and the might to themselves with a mighty Messiah who would come and establish them as rulers! Christ said, no, I am looking for the humble like Zacchaeus, the tax collector.

Now let’s look at the conclusion of Luke 19. It’s all part of the same event and the same story flow. When He got to Jerusalem, it says this in verse 45: “Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”’ And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.”

We see part of the whole chapter is the story of the cleansing of the temple where they were misusing the tithes of the people. They were buying and selling for their own profit in the treasury of God. They were doing things for their own benefit. They collected the taxes, you might say, for the nobleman, Jesus Christ. They were to use that to spread the knowledge of the Ten Commandments and the truths of God. They were to help the people see who Jesus Christ was. Even though they realized He was at least a prophet, they did the opposite, unlike Zacchaeus, the humble tax collector. He collected taxes and gave away half of it to the poor. Then anyone he offended, he quickly restored fourfold. It is an amazing contrast.

RELATED EVENTS IN LUKE 19

Now we see why Christ put the Parable of the Minas right after the situation with Zacchaeus on the road climbing the tree. It is just before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Then He wept over the city. Then He cleanses the temple.

This is very sobering because it has a lot of similarities to today and some significance to today. Christ is getting ready for a triumphant re-entry to this earth, and He is going to bring the kingdom. He is going to ask the servants what did you do with My teachings, with My law? What did you do with the tithe that I had the people give to you in order to spread the truth about Me? He will ask people who had to provide the tithes. Did you pay “your taxes?” I ask for a tenth from you in order to do the work of God.

He will cleanse His temple, and we are seeing the witness of that upon the earth. I think that the troubles that the Church has gone through in the last decade or two is a cleansing of the temple. Christ is holding those people responsible who have charge of teaching the truth about Him, giving a good message, and utilizing the resources that He provides in order to do it. Are they doing a good job?

The implications for us are very sobering. We need to take our responsibility as citizens to provide for the treasury very seriously. Those who are responsible for collecting and distributing it to do the work of God must take their job very seriously. Of course the message that is put out has to be as truthful and correct as we can possibly make it. When we mess up personally or as a group, we need to fix it. We need to restore to Christ those things that we squandered or the damage we have done in offenses to our brethren. It all goes together, brethren. We could branch off into many other discourses from Jesus Christ and a lot of other knowledge, but I am sure you can see what I am trying to say.

The responsibility we have here at the end of the age is enormous to do this as well as we can. God is going to hold us accountable, and He will measure what we have done with what we have been blessed with. That measuring will come sooner than we may realize. Let’s keep that in mind as we go forward here at the end of the age. Get the job done that Jesus Christ wants us to do as rapidly as possible, so that we can hear something like Zacchaeus heard. I came and I dwelt in your house. I lived in you. You used what I gave you wisely. We want to hear those words, well done, good and faithful servant.