Faithlife
Faithlife

Zacchaeus

Lent 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God is always with us. Sometimes we don't see God because we're busy looking elsewhere. Taking the effort to see Jesus and God at work in the world can change our lives in ways we never would imagine.

Notes & Transcripts | Handout

What would you do to see Jesus?

There’s an old text often inscribed into pulpits. “Sir, we would see Jesus.” It comes from .
John 12:21 NRSV
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
It comes from the moment that Jesus is at a festival with his disciples. There’s many people around, and some Greeks — some outsiders come to Philip and tell him that they want to see Jesus. Philip then went and got Andrew, and then they both went to see Jesus.
When engraved into a pulpit, it is meant to serve as a reminder to the preacher that the task ahead of the preacher is to help people “see” Jesus. We can talk about all sorts of things in sermons, however if people don’t “see” Jesus because of a sermon, you might say that the preacher has failed at the task.
Now you can debate what it really means to “see” Jesus. For me, “seeing” Jesus means that I begin to see God at work in my life and in the lives of others. It also means that I see the goodness in the world — that I see God’s grace and compassion for us, and for all people.
In some ways, today’s text isn’t all that different from this desire. Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus. While he’s not a Greek, he is still an outsider — he’s a tax collector. That’s a problem on two fronts:
He’s a representative of the occupying force that is oppressing his own people
He’s probably a cheat — tax collectors would over-charge, so they could make money.
However, as an outsider, he still wants to “see” Jesus. Being short, Zacchaeus goes up the tree so that he can see Jesus … overcoming his physical limitations. Not only can he see Jesus from this vantage point, it is the perfect spot for Jesus to see Zacchaeus too.
Zacchaeus goes up the tree so that he can see Jesus … overcoming his physical limitations.

What limits you from seeing Jesus?

“Seeing” Jesus is about:
seeing God at work in my life and others
seeing God’s grace and compassion
Sometimes it gets difficult to God at work in the world, or to see grace and compassion.
Look at the reaction to the picture of the woman wearing a hijab after the attack at Westminster the other week.
It was often first read as an example of someone being uncaring. Why weren’t the original comments about the seven other people who were standing around apparently caring for the one person who is injured?
Those shared the picture quickly, “saw” what they wanted to see, because they looked at it with a particular set of glasses on.
We often read the scriptures with “lenses” on — hoping to read what comforts us.
Reading we see how easy it is to “see” what we want to see.
Luke 19:7 NRSV
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
The crowd has every right to complain about Jesus doing this. Dining with a sinner might make Jesus unclean. Then hanging around near Jesus they too might become unclean. Today we tell people to not hang out with “bad influences” — for we know that it will only cause problems for the person. They’ll be “guilty by association” if something goes wrong.
One of the things that Jesus came into the world to do, was to help us see God more clearly.

Herod didn’t see Jesus

Looking back at this text, we see some things that might not have been seen at the time that this story happened. The setting in Jericho is one of those elements. Here’s some of what we know about Jericho:

19:1 Jericho An ancient city in the Jordan Valley, about 10 miles northeast of Jerusalem; conquered by Joshua and the Israelites when the walls collapsed. Jericho is Jesus’ last major stop before entering Jerusalem.

A ford near the city carries an important east-west road and makes Jericho a strategic entrance point from Transjordan into the highlands of Judah.

The tropical climate and vegetation of the Jordan Valley earned Jericho the title ‘city of palm trees’

Jesus’ activity in Jericho was probably confined to the poorer quarter of the city and did not take him into Herod’s magnificent winter capital on the banks of the Wadi Qelt

So, let’s think about this for a moment:
The fall of Jericho is the first real event recorded in the scriptures after the Israelites return from celebrating the Passover in Canaan (the end of the Exodus)
Jericho is of strategic importance for trade and military progress
It is the place where the palms probably come from for next week’s Palm Sunday
The winter home of the king is in Jericho
Jesus is right under the noses of the leaders of the day, amassing his “army” and they have no idea.

So how do you see Jesus?

While we’ve looked mostly at Jericho and what’s happened there with Zacchaeus, the healing of the blind beggar has something in common in Zacchaeus and Jericho.
Faith is what gives sight in the first pericope. Faith is what makes Zacchaeus part of God’s family in the second.
Herod didn’t see Jesus and what he was doing — not because Jesus was hiding it from him — but because Herod wasn’t looking for him. I don’t mean in a physical sense — I mean in a spiritual sense.
Looking for Jesus in a spiritual sense takes some effort. Sometimes it is physical effort like Zacchaeus in climbing a tree. Sometimes it is a psychological effort like the blind beggar who ignored the wisdom of the day to call out to Jesus — while the crowd was ordering him to be quiet.
So how do we see Jesus today? When are we willing to speak up when “wisdom” says stay quiet? When are we willing to put ourselves physically “out there” just to see God at work?
God is always with us. We need to look and see though. We need to be open to the invitation to have Jesus do something for us. We need to be open to the invitation to have dinner with him. For our lives will be changed. We’ll see things we never saw before. We’ll live life in a completely different way. Then our faith will grow in ways we can’t even begin to imagine now.
For that we give thanks.
and for that we give thanks.
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