Friday, April 30, 2010

Z is for Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who lived in Jericho. His name is a Jewish name and comes from a Hebrew word meaning “pure, righteous.” We know Zacchaeus from the account recorded in Luke 19:1-10.

Zacchaeus was a very wealthy tax collector. He had the contract from Rome to collect tolls on any and all merchandise and or goods that moved through Jericho. Luke in his gospel calls Zacchaeus a “chief tax collector.” This means that he had the main contract to collect taxes and then sub-contracted the actual collection of the taxes out to sub-contractors.

The sub-contractor would ensure that “lesser” tax collectors were placed at strategic places in order to collect every tax that could be exhorted or collected. These lesser tax collectors, which by the way Matthew was probably one, would either provide the “muscle” on their own or would hire thugs in case any protested about the tax demanded. The taxes were arbitrary and even included taxes on each of the wheels on the wagons or carts. The Jews hated paying the taxes and the tax collectors.

Zacchaeus' position made him a very wealthy man from Luke’s account. Of course it subjected Zacchaeus to a tremendous amount of scorn, hatred, animosity, and contempt from his own people. He was also considered unclean by the chief priests and scribes and therefore was not permitted to worship in the local synagogue.

We do not know what prompted Zacchaeus to want to see Jesus the day that Jesus passed through Jericho. We do know from the gospel accounts that many people were interested in Jesus and wanted to see him “perform” or hear him teach. It seems that many people followed Jesus, some because of the multitude – crowds attract people and followers.

Others followed Jesus because of the miracles – after all, it is quite an attraction to see blind men healed, the lame or crippled walking again, or even the dead brought back to life. People like a good show.

Some followed Jesus for the meat – on two occasions he had provided bread and fish to a combined crowd of nearly 9,000 men. This count did not include the women and children; if you factor them in Jesus could have fed on these two occasions some 36,000 to 50,000 people. Very few people actually followed Jesus because He was the Messiah.

Something prompted Zacchaeus to want to see Jesus. Zacchaeus did something else Jewish men rarely if ever did, he put his dignity on the back-burner and climbed a tree. Why? He was a very short man. He could not see over the crowd. At a strategic point along the roadway where Jesus would pass, Zacchaeus climbed a tree and waited on a branch.

However, something extraordinary took place. Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and told him, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree, I am going to your house today.” Something else extraordinary happened that day; during the visit and conversation Jesus won the heart of this despised Jewish tax collector. Jesus made the startling and yet joyous statement that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’s house that day.

Zacchaeus responded in repentance to the message of Jesus that day. How do we know? Luke tells that Zacchaeus demonstrated fruit of his repentance – he gave half of his goods to the poor, and promised to restore anyone he cheated fourfold. For the record, giving away his money to the poor and giving back money that he extorted did not save Zacchaeus. It was evidence that Christ had saved him.

Naturally we can not finish this account without mentioning the reaction of the Pharisees and religious crowd. Needless to say they were angry. They complained, the term is actually murmured; under their breath that Jesus was going to eat with a harmatolos, a sinner. They felt that eating with Zacchaeus was beneath the dignity of Jesus, their standards, not to mention that in their eyes it would have rendered Jesus unclean.

There you have it. Salvation coming to the most unlikely of houses- to a hated and despised Jewish tax collector who was not tall enough to see Jesus without climbing a tree. Salvation will come to the most unlikely of people at the oddest of times. Has Jesus spotted you in your "tree" and told you "to come down" Has salvation come to your house? If it hasn't please inquire within!

14 comments:

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Tax collectors haven't changed much in the last 2000 years. For the most part they are still despised and hated.

It would be a miracle to behold if the IRS repented and returned half our money back to the poor (me and you). It seems unlikely that will happen. So we all will continue to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's until the Lord returns or we die.

Didn't someone once say "the only sure things in life are death and taxes?

Congratulations on your completion of the
A to Z challenge.

Ron

They call me "Deb" said...

Just stopped by to visit after following a few friends' links and finding myself here.
As I began to read this one, I kept singing the Zaccheaus "wee little man" song in my head. Lol, I haven't thought about that since I used to teach children's S.S.
Blessings,
Deb

Linda said...

Like Deb I started singing the wee little man song - one we will soon be teaching Little C. Thank you for the explanation of the hierarchy of the tax collectors. It helps show just how despised Z must have been - the lowest of the low. Again I am reminded that sin is sin and the ground at the foot of the cross is level. And your very interesting point that very few people followed Jesus because he was Messiah - they had other reasons. Do we do that today?

Loren said...

What an accomplishment you have achieved here! Whatever will you do next ? Has the Lord shown you?
I appreciate your sharing your gift of teaching :)

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

Congratulations on finishing the challenge, I have been proud to read your post this past monnth and have learned alot.

Have a great week-end.

Yvonne.

Gregg said...

Ron - you are right tax collectors haven't changed much. I would like to have just a fraction of my money back, but oh well!

Thanks for the congrats. It was fun and I am going to miss it very much.

The call me "Deb" - Thanks for stopping by for a visit, I hope you will be back often and that will be blessed. I almost included the Zaccheaus song, but the post was long enough as it was.

Linda - there was quite a bit of hierarchy in that system. It wasn't for sissies. It is hard to believe that Matthew might have been a thug or "muscle" enforcement, but the Jews didn't like the arbitrary choice and amount and sometimes thought they could refuse to pay. Muscle made sure they did.

By far, the Hair Channel (TBN) the Name it Claim it, or as I dubbed years ago, the Blab it Grab it crowd, follow for money, prestige and power, greed. Even the poorest of widows who give from their SSN follow due to their greed - they believe the will get their miracle or blessing or monetary return if the just give all that they can.

In our so called evangelical circles many follow for the same reasons I listed. May we never be guilty of that! Hope you continue to drop by.

Loren - thank you! Please be more specific about your question, "whatever will I do next? I am not sure as to what that refers to. Thank you for first, appreciating my gift, and second for mentioning it. I give the glory and honor to God.

Welcome to My World of Poetry - thank you for the congrats and hte same to you! Thank you for reading my posts and commenting so faithfully. I hope you don't just go away. You are welcome any time. I trust a seed has been planted that through watering will grow into fully mature fruit!

Raquel Byrnes said...

That was a great post. Reminded me of the song my daughter used to sing about him.

Patrina said...

Loved teh ending!! Those last few sentences pulled the meat out of the post and served it right up!

Good job .

I followed you over here from Deb's place. I liked your comment on her post.

I'm following you today.

God bless
Patrina <")>><
His watchman on the wall

Wanda said...

Thank goodness that salvation has indeed come to my house. Great post and congrats on completing the challenge

Shannon said...

Gregg, I now have the Zacchaeus song going thru my head...lol...the IRS is still much the same! Congratulations on finishing with the challenge!

Gregg said...

Raquel - thanks for your kind comment on this post. It is a great song.

Patrina - thank you for visiting this site. Glad you liked the ending. Thanks for coming over and hope you come back.

Wanda - I am glad that salvation has come to your house. Thanks for the congrats, we did it! You did a good job also!

Shannon - I can't believe how many comments there has been on the song. I hope that we don't relegate the truth and principals of this experience for Zacchaeus. Thanks for the congrats! You did a good job also. I didn't miss a day or a letter. Kinda of sad it is over though.

Lisa said...

Every time I read about Zacchaeus I think of that song from my childhood, "Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, he climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord his God to see." :O)

Another very informative post. I especially am in awe of the number fed with the bread and fish. I never considered that it might be that high!

Have a great evening!

Ellie said...

It has been awhile since I have heard this story; Thanks for sharing and Congrats on finishing the challenge! I like how you ended it~

Robyn Campbell said...

We sing the song to our children, but I wonder how many people actually pay attention to this story. The story of Zacchaeus is amazing. Of course, anything to do with Jesus is amazing.

Great end to the challenge. :-)