Up in a Tree

We started looking at a few trees mentioned in the Bible yesterday. The first one was a tree to hide behind. Here we saw Adam and Eve hiding amongst the trees after they had sinned. Today I want to look at being up in a tree, searching to get a glimpse of the Lord Jesus.

His name was Zacchaeus. His profession was being a Tax Collector and he was based in the City of Jericho. Tax Collectors were hated and detested, not because of the profession but because of their thieving ways of exercising their duty. The Roman State placed a levy on every transaction (each time a person passed through a certain pay point, whether the person was alone or had others with him, had an animals and whether that animal carried a load … and what that load was). Although similar to our eToll system, the operators (tax collectors) had the liberty to increase these fees far beyond a reasonable reward for their labours for their bosses and themselves. It was nothing short of day light robbery.

Although those who secured tariff collection in a specific region were Romans, they delegated the collection pay points to “managers” (chief tax collectors) who employed his staff. The managers and staff were Jews. This is the reason the Jews in general (citizens) hated the Jewish Tax Collectors so much because they were seen as robbing their own kind. The whole Old Testament encouraged fair play, help and support and classed any form of robbery (stealing) as a sin and criminal offence.

Zacchaeus was a manager … a chief Tax Collector. He knew what his staff were doing and condoned it. Notice at the end of verse 2 that he was a wealthy man. This means he secured his riches from robbery. He stole from the people he was part of. He broke the commands God placed over His people. He was a greedy, covetous man. Money was his god. Wealth controlled him. Together with all others in this profession, he was labelled as a sinner on the same level as a Gentile (pagan). Please read this passage

Lk 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Wherever Jesus went, crowds followed Him hoping to experience a miracle of some sort. He used this as an opportunity to teach these crowds what the Word of God said … and in particular, what it said about Him. Not only were the masses interested to see this man “Jesus”, Zacchaeus was as well. His problem was that he was a small man … very short in height. Being a businessman, he could put together a plan quickly. He ran ahead of the crowds and climbed a sycamore-fig tree for a perfect view of this man who stimulated his interest.

As Jesus came walking by, the unbelievable happened. He stopped. Looked up at Zacchaeus in the tree and commanded him to come down, out of the tree because He, Jesus needed to stay over at his (Zacchaeus’) house that day. Something was stirring in Zacchaeus’ heart. He firstly needed to get a glimpse of this man Jesus and now Jesus was going to stay at his house! Verse 6 says more than meets the eye. It’s like Zacchaeus had a work of the Holy Spirit taking place causing more than just a casual interest in his heart.

He obeyed the instructed to come down out of the tree and note what follows … “welcomed him gladly”. It seems as though there was great interest in this man Jesus … an interest that would lead to repentance and faith for salvation. Knowing who Zacchaeus was, the crowds were disappointed in Jesus going to his house. Look how they muttered (whispered, gossiped) amongst themselves:

Lk 19:7 “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’’’

How careful we need to be when we see “sinners” going to Jesus. We must not pre-judge their motives! To their horror, this sinner, this chief tax collector exercised public faith and repentance in Jesus and the message He brought! Just look at what he says to Jesus (to the Lord):

Lk 19:8 “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

This is true repentance and faith. He is admitting he cheated people by over taxing them, committing himself to repay them four times the amount stolen. But there is more … to prove his repentance real he commits to giving half of his wealth to the poor. When you take half of the estate plus paying back four times what was stolen, he would land up being close to penniless! But then, that is true repentance. Jesus, who knows and reads the heart declares this man a true convert (v9) followed by declaring the reason for his visitation to planet earth:

Lk 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

A few closing thoughts:

1) Jesus knows where you are all the time. You might chose an unobvious place (like sycamore-fig tree) to gaze at Jesus from. You might want to keep a distance … yet He knows where you are all the time. Nothing is hidden from His eye!

2) Repentance must be costly! Nowhere are you required to give your wealth away … but you need to make right where you have done wrong. This might be hard, challenging and uncomfortable, but it proves genuine repentance. You cannot hang onto and keep your old life and its benefits without making right. Genuineness of salvation is proved by real repentance.

3) Where there is true repentance there is real faith. When Jesus sees this, He declares you saved. The Spirit witnesses to your heart that you are truly God’s!

4) Righteous people don’t need salvation … sinners do. That is why Jesus came … to save sinners like you and me. Praise the Lord.

Dear God, thank You that You know where I am all the time and that You know where to find sinners in their hiding places. Thank You for Salvation. Amen.

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