This month at South Side we are going through a series entitled “Breakthrough” where we are examining four people in the gospels who needed a breakthrough that only Jesus could provide. There is no doubt we are living in times where our world, our nation, and individuals need a breakthrough. Sometimes we need a breakthrough because of things that have happened to us, and other times we need once because of things we’ve done to ourselves. Life is complicated right now as it was in biblical times. It seems our culture is slow to love and quick to hate. This was the same circumstance that a man by the name of Zacchaeus found himself in.
Now in case you didn’t know Zacchaeus was a very short man. Being short is one thing. Being short, mean, and hated by all is another thing entirely! If you grew up in church, you more than likely grew up singing about Zacchaeus and how he was “a wee little man.” However, the song doesn’t quite tell the whole tale. Publicans were tax collectors and were hated by everyone. The Romans occupied the land of Israel and had a system of taxation in which franchises were sold to Romans who would collect the local taxes. They set up tolls at every road, seaport, and gate, and all who passed were taxed. Where did the Romans get these men to collect? Often, Jews who wanted favor with the Roman government were employed to do the actual collecting. We find out in scripture that Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho (Luke 19:1). He was a fellow Jew but collected taxes for the Roman government from his fellow countrymen and women. He was not only considered a traitor, but publicans were known to overcharge what Rome required so they could pocket the remaining balance.
Have you ever known someone who was a corporate climber? They did what they had to do to be successful, even if it meant betraying good friendships and family members. These people are not viewed with great fondness. This would have been how people viewed Zacchaeus. He was considered a great traitor to all Jews who sacrificed his community for his own advancement and increase in wealth. Sound familiar?
However, Zacchaeus knew that Jesus was coming and since he was short he climbed a tree to see him. As Jesus passes by he sees Zacchaeus in the tree, and takes notice of his effort to see him. As a result Zacchaeus invites Jesus to his home and Jesus accepts. Can you imagine how the people in that city felt? Why go to his house? He is a traitor and a theif! With this context in mind, we can easily see why it would have been a big deal for Jesus to go to Zacchaeus’s house (Luke 19:7). People didn’t even want to talk with him, and Jesus is going into his home? Once again, as we see throughout the gospels Jesus breaks through the cultural norms and prejudices of his day and demonstrates that everyone’s life has value. Jesus knew Zacchaeus needed a breakthrough and that’s exactly what happened. As a result of Jesus accepting the invitation Zacchaeus became a changed man. He immediately started to give people back four times more than what he had stolen from them, and he gave to people in need (v. 8). Four times! Only and experience with Jesus can produce that level of generosity.
We learn from this story that everyone no matter what they’ve done is never beyond the reach of our Lord and Savior. Never count anyone out! I want to encourage you in this difficult season to love people no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Don’t count people out when they make past or even current mistakes. We have a God that gives each of us daily grace in spite of our daily failures. This Sunday at South Side we will unpack this powerful story further as well as it’s applications for our lives today. Worship begins at 10:15, and our Children’s Ministry offers children’s classes for all ages. We are continuing to practice social distancing at our services and ministries. If you are unable to attend our online services will be available at 3:00 on Facebook and our website. We would love to have your family worship with us! For more information visit us on our website at: www.southsidewch.com or on Facebook.
South Side Church of Christ