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Jack Graham - Little Man, Big Change


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    Jack Graham - Little Man, Big Change
TOPICS: Why Believe?, Repentance, Second Chance, Zacchaeus

Jesus met a man by the name of Zacchaeus, and changed his life. The story is told in Luke 19, beginning in the first 10 verses. Let's read it again. For some of you, this is the first time you've ever heard this story and I'm telling you, it's a great, great story. It's recorded only by Luke in the Gospels and I'm so glad that Dr. Luke was inspired by God's Spirit to include this wonderful story. "He entered Jericho and was passing through", passing through to what? Passing through Jericho, a major city in that day. It was a trade city, and on His way to Jerusalem; there for the last time, to die on the cross and to rise again.

So Jesus is on His way, on purpose, His heart set on the world... to Jerusalem, but He passes through Jericho. "And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.' So he hurried and he came down and received him joyfully". The best day of your life is the day you come to Jesus!

"He received Him joyfully. And when they saw it (that is, the crowd, especially the religious crowd) they all grumbled, 'He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.' And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.'" Now Zacchaeus knew he had defrauded many people, and the language in which this is written... it's actually because I have defrauded... he just needed to know who he actually defrauded, because at this point the whole city would line up and say, "You defrauded me". So he's say, "Whoever I've defrauded, I will pay back four times". "And Jesus said to him 'Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'"

Thus, the bottom line: the mission of Jesus Christ, the mission of this church... Why He came and why we exist is to seek, to save the lost. We don't have to wonder about that. Now Zacchaeus was a little man but he had a shriveled soul. He was a tax collector. Now if you've been with us for a while now in the book of Luke, you know that tax collectors were viewed, especially by the religious crowd as villainous characters. They were turn-coats. They were traitors to the Jewish populace because these were Jews... Here's how this tax collecting business worked... These were Jewish people who decided because they wanted to make money... why would you do this? One reason, make money, they wanted to make money and so they made a deal. They cut a deal with the devil, the Roman government. Because Rome said, "Here's how we'll work this. We need so much out of your region. We need so much out of Jericho, so you collect what we say, turn it in, and whatever is left over, you keep".

So you can see how this could become a scam for tax collectors, and therefore most tax collectors like Zacchaeus were thieves. They were liars, they were cheats, they were scam arts, and they were hated and despised. These are despicable individuals in the eyes of any good Jew in that day! But not only was Zacchaeus, the wee little man, a tax collector, he's described here as a chief tax collector. Now that means that he was managing this whole money scam. It's like a Ponzi scheme, and he's managing the whole thing. He's got guys working for him and they're extorting people. It's like he's like this little godfather, right, and he's got these guys working for him, and they're taking it in, so Zacchaeus is now rolling in it. He's very rich. Probably lives in the best house in Jericho, living in luxury. But he's despised, he's hated, therefore, he's lonely, he's empty, and he knew that there was something more to life, something that he was missing. And he had heard about this Galilean who claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus. And he wanted just to see who Jesus was, what He looked like; just a glimpse of Jesus.

The One who claimed He would bring salvation to all who would believe and follow Him. He was desperate to see Jesus. I say desperate because this little man ran to get his place in line to see Jesus passing by. Now in most cases, like at the Super Bowl, the rich people are sitting on the front row, fifty yard line, right? Or in great suites. Well, you would think this guy would have the best seat in town, but no way are the town's people going to let this guy get at the head of line. They're out there. It's like a parade coming by, Super Bowl parade. Jesus is coming through and Zacchaeus can't get through the crowd. He literally can't see over the crowd, so he goes running and scurrying up a tree. Now, this would be like, you know, if you were in downtown New York and you're just walking along, and all of a sudden you see Donald Trump just running by you as fast as he could!

You'd say, "Who's chasing him? Must be a dog, something"! All right, so if a business man, a successful rich businessman like... Zacchaeus is running... He's got his, you know, he's got his robe hiked up like this, and his little legs are going like that... running, running, running, This is awesome, right? And not only running, but he goes shimmying up this tree! Don't you love this story? And he's out there, waiting for Jesus to come by. He wanted to see Jesus! Just one look, but he got far more than that as we're about to see. Now no doubt, he wanted to see Jesus for who he was. He obviously had heard of Jesus, people were talking about Him all over Israel. Maybe, just maybe, Levi-Matthew's story had gotten out. Matthew knew all the tax collectors. So maybe he had shared his testimony with Zacchaeus. Maybe Zacchaeus had heard about it.

Levi-Matthew would say, "You know, I was just sitting there one day, collecting taxes, doing my thievery and Jesus of Nazareth came by; He looked at me, He said, 'Follow Me.' And I don't know what happened to me but I just left it all and followed Him! And I've been following ever since, and He's changed my life". Maybe Zacchaeus had heard that story and thought, "Maybe there's hope for me". The wee little wretched man, the wee little wicked man. You know his name, Zacchaeus means righteous one! If you're named Zacchaeus, you're probably not names Zacchaeus, you may be named Zachary, you may be named Zack, a derivative of the same word; it means "pure one" or "righteous one". I mean that would be like saying to, you know, to a tall guy, "Hello, Shorty".

You know, it was totally backwards. He was not righteous; he was unrighteous. He had good Jewish parents, I'm certain, that named him Zacchaeus in hopes and prayers that he would be a righteous man, a godly man. But now he's living his own way and he's living his own life, and he's abandoned his faith, and he's abandoned his people. And many had given up hope, had long given up! Maybe his own family! I'm not certain that his own wife and kids liked him that much. They'd given up hope. We need to be careful about that... giving up on people that we think would never come to Christ. Giving up on professional people or successful people just because we think they think they don't need God. Everyone needs Jesus. Everyone! Everyone has a basic emptiness in their life. Everyone is empty without God. There's a void, there's a vacuum. And you can't fill it with things or success or popularity or possessions... Stuff won't satisfy the spiritual longing of the human heart! Everyone is lonely. Zacchaeus was a lonely man. No doubt.

If anybody called his name, there was an expletive attached. That blankety-blank Zacchaeus. He was lonely. And people today are lonely. And they live in fine homes and palatial houses but there's a loneliness. Have you ever noticed that? Sure you have because we've all experienced it. Because of the emptiness, there's a loneliness. Where does that loneliness come from? It's that separation. It's separation from God. We're disengaged from God, therefore we are disengaged from our own lives and our own friends. People are lonely! Psychologists call this... I mean you can be in a crowd like this one, you can be in the mall and... and just out of nowhere seemingly there's this sense of separation or loneliness comes on. You can be at a party and everybody's having fun but you. And you don't know why!

You can be at church where thousands of people are worshiping and singing "I am a friend of God, I am free in Christ" and you're disconnected from all of that. You don't get it. You're not involved. You just feel separated, even today. We don't want you to feel that way. We want you to feel included and you can be. Psychologists call this kind of loneliness cosmic loneliness. It's that sense of being the only one in the universe. What's happened? We're cut off because of sin. Sin separates us from God. There's a word in the Bible for sin which is hamartia in the Greek language. It means missing the mark. Now in the ancient world there were great games as well. Not Super Bowl, but Grecian games, Olympian games, and one of the contests of the ancient world, games was to... you would have arrows and you would shoot those arrows through a hoop. And the great bowsmen would, of course, shoot the most arrows through the hoop. If you missed the hoop... the arrow would fall short or veer off, that was a hamartia-that is missing the mark.

And so the Bible says in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned hamartia... We have all missed the mark and fallen short of the mark of God, the glory of God. What is the mark? It is the glory of God, the perfection of God. You say, "No one is perfect". Jesus said Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect even as the Father in heaven is perfect". Well, who could be perfect? No one's perfect. Nobody bats a thousand in life! That's why all of us have sinned, all of us fall short of the glory of God. None of us have hit the mark every time. We've all broken God's commandment; we have, therefore, sinned and therefore we're separated from God. That's where the loneliness, that's where the aching, the emptiness comes from. Not only are we empty, not only are we lonely, but we're guilty! We're guilty of sin.

You know why we feel guilty? You know why people are haunted by the shame and the guilt of their sin? Because they are guilty of their sin! You can try to cover it up, you can try to control your sin, you can try to contain it, you can try to cure it on your own, but you can't! It's impossible because guilt is so damaging! Billy Graham quoted a head of a mental institute in London, England as saying, "I could release half of the patients under my care if I could just help them get over their sense of guilt". But guilt is not just a psychological problem, it's a spiritual problem! Thank God, the blood of Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from every sin.

We don't have to live haunted by the ghost of guilt and regret all of our lives. We can be forgiven; we can be cleansed; we can be changed by the power of Jesus Christ! But every person, like Zacchaeus, is lonely and empty and alienated and separated and guilty. And I'll tell you something else about every person regardless of their social standing or status, rich or poor, up and out or down and out. Every person's afraid to die. It's a universal fear. Now you can stick your chin out and be stoic and set your jaw and say, "I'm not afraid to die", but you know you are if you don't know Christ. Because you don't know what your future is. You don't know what's coming next. Every person is afraid to die apart from Christ! So there it is! And it's personified in this little man... empty, lonely, guilty and afraid to die! And along comes Jesus and here's where the story turns.

Jesus is walking by and just like that, He stopped and He looks up. By now as His eyes lock on the little man, Zacchaeus' heart is starting to race. "He's looking right at me! What's He thinking? He's looking right through me like He knows me"! And the next minute... within a minute Jesus says, "Zacchaeus"! Oh my goodness! He knows me; He knows my name! Again, that was probably the first time Zacchaeus had heard his name called in love in a long time. "He knows my name? He sees me? He knows me"? And then Jesus said, "Zacchaeus, come down because I want to come over and stay at your house". He said, "Oh, He wants me. He sees me, He knows me, He wants me"! That's the way God in Christ is looking at you today. He sees you right where you are. You're not just a speck of dust in the wind; you're valuable to God because He gave Himself for you. You're not a nobody, an alias, an anonymous somebody; God knows your name! That in all this crowd, I don't know everybody's name, but Jesus knows your name and He's calling your name today!

And when Zacchaeus came down out of that tree, he was welcoming Jesus into his home. Now think about that! He came down rejoicing, he's not worried about what the little woman at home is going to think. "I'm bringing home guests". I mean, Jesus is saying, "Hey, I'm coming over to your house and, oh, by the way, I'm bringing twelve guys with me and we eat a lot! We're coming to your house"! Zacchaeus can't wait. He invite... This is the only time in the Bible that I can find it in the stories that Jesus invited Himself over to somebody's house. But He does it all the time today. Revelation 3:20 says: "I stand at the door and knock, and if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in". Your heart's door is a home, a place for Christ to live. Jesus wants to come and live at your house.

You see, Jesus is not just somebody you want to come and meet at church on Sundays, or every other Sunday or every other month, or whenever you come. Jesus wants to go home with you! He wants to live in your life, live in your heart everyday! He wants to stay with you! There's a verse of Scripture, Ephesians chapter 3, verse 17. It's really a prayer and the Apostle Paul is praying: he said, "That Christ would dwell in your hearts through faith". That He would literally live in your heart by faith. That Jesus is at home in your heart, that you've given Him the key to your life. That's living under the Lordship of Christ, that He owns everything. That's why in verse 8, when Zacchaeus stood up and said, "Lord, half of what I have I'm going to give to the poor". Up until now he'd been living selfishly. He was a hoarder. He lived for himself, and life all wrapped up in yourself is a very small package, like Zacchaeus. He'd been living for himself and his sin. But now, "Half of what I own belongs to the poor".

Now I don't care who you are, rich or poor, to give half of everything you have away, that's a big deal. And then he said, "Those from whom I've stolen, I'll pay back four times". That was twice the amount the law required. In other words, this guy's now radically repenting. He is changed by the power of Jesus Christ. I don't know what happened! I don't know what happened in that house in just the few moments that Jesus was in there, but it changed Zacchaeus forever! And so he said, "Lord, everything I have, all that I am belongs to you"! Have you said that? There's a lot of talk, you know, about "Well, I received Jesus as my Savior". No! Jesus is Savior, but you don't received Him just as Savior; He is Savior and Lord! You receive Jesus who He is! And that means receiving Christ into your life is that He is in control. He is in charge of your life.

Now many people believe that intellectually; it's an intellectual, theological proposition. The Lordship of Christ, but is it a personal trust? Is it a personal transformation of your life to say that I am living in the Lordship of Christ; that Christ is my Lord! He repented of his sin and believed in Christ. We know he repented because he demonstrated it; he demonstrated his faith and his repentance by being willing to give his life away. Now, this isn't penance. You can't buy salvation in any shape, form. Salvation is the gift of God. But it's this truth that we see so often in Scripture, this parallel, that once we are forgiven, we want to forgive; once we are changed, we want to become change agents; once we receive grace, we want to be generous. In this man's case it dramatically affected his attitude towards money. Repentance means change of mind. He obviously changed his mind about his money, because now he said, "My money is not mine. I'm going to give it away"!

There's so much in the Bible about this, because when we receive Christ, everything we have, including our possessions, our money belongs to Him. Not just a tenth. You say "a tenth of my money belongs to God... that's the tithe". Not right! One hundred percent of what you own belongs to God. That house of yours is not your house; it's His house. That car... anything you have! And when you live under the Lordship of Christ... And if God has blessed you with wealth, you have a high accountability and responsibility to return that wealth to the service of Christ, to getting the Gospel out. If God has blessed you in anyway, and He has financially, if you're living under the Lordship of Christ, then that means, not only is your heart converted, your pocket book is converted as well. And that's what happened to Zacchaeus; he was changed.

You know, the religious crowd in particular, the whole crowd there... You would have thought they would have been excited for Zacchaeus. "Man, did you hear? Zacchaeus got saved"! "Man, Zacchaeus". Now some of those people that he defrauded were excited because they were getting their money back. But they were grumbling and complaining. And that's when Jesus said, "I've come to seek and to save the lost". That's the mission of this church, as I noted earlier. We exist for people who are not yet here, who are not like us. Everyone is welcome in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone and anyone, along with your friends. And so in spite of the criticism and the crowd complaining, the Bible says here that Zacchaeus stood up in front of all of them and said, "Lord, I'm going to follow You"! He openly confessed Him and he followed Jesus.
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