Taxes. What’s the big deal, right? We might not love it, but in 21st Century Canada, we know that we pay taxes on our income, the land we own, and on things that we purchase so that our government will be able to provide things like healthcare, infrastructure, education, and social welfare. Whether we like to admit or not, we do benefit from the work of our government that is funded by the taxes we pay.
Israel during Jesus’ time was not a free a country, like Canada, they were had been conquered by the great Roman Empire and were a dominated and oppressed people. Part of what that meant for them was that they were heavily taxed by Rome and the taxes they paid didn’t go into a system that would ultimately benefit them and their families, it went into a system that allowed their wealthy and indulgent oppressors become more and more wealthy and indulgent while they were left living in abject poverty.
Jewish tax collectors were not very popular or well-liked by their fellow towns people because rather than fight this system of oppression, they supported it and benefited from it at the expense of their own people. They were hated and reviled for working for their Roman occupiers and for charging even more than required so they could pocket the extra.
Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector and he’s wealthy. He is not a person we would prop up as someone to aspire to be like. He’s a traitor to his people and to his God. He’s deceitful and steals from his own oppressed people. He is wealthy and living in stolen luxury while his fellow Jews struggle in poverty. There is no way around it. Zacchaeus is not a good man.
And yet, for all of that, Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is coming through Jericho and he wanted to see who Jesus was. We aren’t told what it is that makes Zacchaeus want to see Jesus. Maybe he’s heard that Jesus welcomes sinners and tax collectors like him. And maybe this sparks a thought inside of him that says, maybe, just maybe there’s hope for him. The Bible tells us that, "when Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Lk 19:5-6)
Praise God! It is the lost and the broken, the ones who have turned away, that Jesus is looking for. This gives hope to us all, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all need Jesus!
Maybe you gave your life to God a long, long time ago, but so much has happened since then. Maybe you’ve made choices that you knew weren’t right and that you knew weren’t what God wanted and at this point you’ve walked so far away from God that you’ve given up all hope. You could never be worthy of his attention.
If this is you, then I hope that the story of Zaccheaus will ignite a spark of hope in your heart. Jesus didn’t come for the healthy, he came for the sick and the lost and if that’s you, then please hear me when I say, there’s hope for you. If you will have the courage to come and see, to meet with Jesus then you’ll see that it’s all true. God loves you and welcomes you. He welcomes you to come, accept his sacrifice, turn from your old ways, and follow him.
Preached on Sunday September 2, 2018 at Scott Street Church.