I MUST STAY AT YOUR HOUSE (Luke 19: 1-10)
I am Zacchaeus with two a’s and two c’s. I lived in Jericho. Yes, the Jericho where the walls came tumbling down during the days of Joshua. The walls were rebuilt and the town was still on the map. Today was a special day. Rumors were circulating that Jesus would come through our town. And today He was really coming. Only I had a problem. I was very short in stature. But I was also very capable of improvising. I found myself a good seat in a sycamore tree by the main road where Jesus had to pass. From here I could see Him as clearly as it was humanly possible for me. There I was hidden by the branches and peaking through them at Jesus.
I thought I had escaped being noticed. Who would have thought that Jesus had His eyes on me? He stopped right underneath my tree and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly. I must stay at your house today!” I did not ask how Jesus knew my name. I climbed down at once and welcomed Jesus to stay in my home and He accepted my invitation. This became the happiest day of my life. I had Jesus as my guest. It was His wish to spend some time with me. This was not acceptable to the people of my town. I was not one of their favored sons. I was the chief tax collector. All the taxes that went to Rome had to go through my hands. All the other tax collectors reported to me. I was fairly honest in my dealing with the people and the commission was very rewarding. But the people did not understand my role and hated me for it. Among the sinners, they ranked me as number one. It was no surprise to me that they were upset when Jesus chose to be my guest and not theirs. I was not going to let them spoil my day and Jesus was pleased being with me.
Being with Jesus and having Him in my home had a tremendous impact on us tax collectors. One thing about Jesus was that He made us feel at ease. I knew who I was and what I did; yet He did not mind. He did not look down at me but up. He made me feel much taller than I was. He treated me as if I was one of God’s children and not as a hopelessly lost sinner. And He did not preach at me or pointed out all my faults or mistakes of which I had many. In fact, Jesus said nothing. I did all the talking. He asked for nothing. I did the promising. I poured out my soul that had been burdened for a long time. How did He know that I needed Him? How did He know that I was ripe for the picking? I would have done anything to anyone one that showed the kind of interest to me as Jesus did. Never before did any of Israel’s leaders and holy men dare to enter my home and recline with me. There was no doubt that Jesus was my friend and the friend of people like me who had to live on the outskirts of our religious establishment. Can you possibly imagine what honor I felt when my home was the only one that Jesus the Son of David, King of Israel visited in Jericho?
I was grateful and I felt deeply within me that I should do something special for Jesus. I had heard that He accepted nothing for Himself. I also heard that He had urged others to sell everything and give it to the poor. I knew I could not do that. I was wealthy however and could part with much that I did not need. I took courage, stood up in front of Jesus and made this promise, “Lord, right now, I give one half of all that I have to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I will repay them four times as much as I took.” As quickly as I had stood up, I sat down and felt immediately that a heavy load rolled off my guilty soul. It was such a relief to realize that I had done something for others rather than for myself. I had promised to repay those whom I had hurt. On top of it, I promised to compensate them for their inconvenience.
My words must have felt that a heavy rock had been dropped on everyone in my house except Jesus. Who had ever heard of compensating voluntarily for what we might have done. The Law required compensation, but one had to be proven guilty first. I simply volunteered my guilt and outdid the courts by quadrupling the compensation. I do not recall how long that silence lasted and what repercussion it would have on my friends. I was a leader among my kind and what I did they would most certainly follow. My house was a refuge for most of my tax collectors and sinners. Jesus had quite an audience that day. But there were also those standing outside that did not want to defile themselves in our presence. They too heard what I had confessed and promised to do. What happened next was a tremendous blessing to all of us inside and a terrible disappointment to those outside. Jesus broke the silence by declaring loud and clear, “Today, salvation has come to this house. This man is also a son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those that were lost.” No one could have spoken words more powerfully or more convincingly. My whole household, that is my people and I were regarded as lost to Israel, but Jesus had come to seek us out and bring salvation to us. He, the Lord Himself came to me and restored me to the family of Abraham. He was the Son of Man who had specifically come to seek and save people like me. Praise God, Jesus had come unexpectedly to my house that day!