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  Sermons for Proper 26 

              Luke 19:1-10 - 'Zacchaeus'      
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Luke 19:  We owe Luke a great debt. For in his Gospel alone is told a dramatic story that encapsulates for us what the mission of Jesus was all about, and in turn what the mission of the church is all about. The event happened while Jesus was passing through Jericho, the city of palms. Writes Luke: “And there was a man named Zacchaeus he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.” In one sentence we are told the story of a human life.

Here’s the background. Nothing in first century Judea was quite so hated and despised as was the Roman tax. It not only reminded the Jews that they were a subjugated people, it also represented a theological affront. To the Jew there was only one King, and that was God, not Caesar. Paying tribute to an earthly non-Jewish monarch was something that the Hebrews had opposed throughout their long history.

But there was more. The dirty work of collecting the tax was done not by the Romans, but by collaborating Jews. To make matters worse, some of the money that they collected off the backs of their fellow countrymen stuck to their own fingers. We are told that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. That is the only time in the New Testament that that term is used. It meant that he was over an entire district. Zacchaeus may have been short in stature, but he had wealth and wealth means power, so, in a manner of speaking, people looked up to him. Zacchaeus was the little man with the big reputation. He was not just well to do. According to Luke, he was rich.

Of course, one might take issue with Luke in that descriptive term rich. For in many ways Zacchaeus was as poor as any man in Jericho. For all of his money he was a lonely man, he was an empty man. In the world of the flesh he had everything; in the world of the spirit he had nothing.

The people, of course, looked upon him with complete contempt. He was a dog. He was cut off from communion with the community of God. There is symbolism in his title chief tax collector. It is another way of saying that he was chief among sinners. Therefore, he was prevented from seeing Jesus not only by the press of the crowd, but also due to social and religious ostracism.

It is here that we find our lesson for this morning. This is not just a story of Zacchaeus; it is the story of what it means to be a lost person. What do we mean when we say that a person is lost? Well, we have over oversimplified this in America and said that their soul is lost, but it can be much more tragically real than that. Zacchaeus lost his self respect, his dignity, his reverence, his character, his conscience, his conviction, his friends. His story reminds all of us that we can stand in danger of losing everything in life that is rich and real to us.

Man’s biggest problem is that when he has lost his relationship with God, his relationship with all others will go wrong. He can be restored but only through the Gospel of Christ.

For this reason Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus. You can be sure it was not the excitement and thrill of a parade that captured his imagination. In fact, a large crowd filled with religious and nationalistic fervor was precisely not the place for him to be. He could easily become the focus of a mob scene. Yet, he went. Why?


I’ll tell you why.  He was…

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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