WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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(JESUS came to seek and save those who are lost)
The office of “Chief Jewish Tax Collector” was one that was won by the highest bidder for the job. The cost incurred by the winning bidder was then made up by charging the Jews excessive rates, even on those who were poor. The person who held that position usually became the most hated person in any Jewish community.
In Luke 19, taking up at verse 1, Luke chronicles the “Jericho stop” on JESUS’ final missionary circuit in route to Jerusalem, and HIS appointment with death on a cross at Golgotha (Cavalry Hill). As HE made HIS way through the town, HE encounters just such a hated Tax Collector, by the name of Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was one of the richest and most influential Jews in the tax collectors business. He had come there to get a glimpse of the man, JESUS, WHOM he had heard so much about. Being a man short in physical stature, Zacchaeus was not able to see over the pressing crowd, and so he ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree beside the road to get a better look at the, now famous, healer, exorcist, and preacher and teacher of the Gospel, from Nazareth.
Here we see unfolding, a wonderful lesson on how to reach people with the Gospel while they are in their own comfortable setting, as opposed to always seeking to reach them in a church setting, where it is considerably more difficult to get them to accept an invitation. When we really think about it, most of a Christian’s successes at converting people from the world, come while we are in settings that are familiar and comfortable to those whom we are trying to convert to CHRIST.
In verse 5, as JESUS reached the spot of the sycamore that was now occupied by Zacchaeus, HE looked up and called on the curious tax collector to come down and get to know HIM over dinner at his home that same day. And even though Zacchaeus was excited at JESUS’ request, the crowd of people who were gathered around were stunned and displeased at JESUS’ proposal to eat with their most hated enemy, a sinful, cheating, notorious tax collector. They felt that, to “break bread” with a person was a significant sign and expression of fellowship and acceptance between the guest and the host, and many still feel that way today.
However, hate will always hinder a person from receiving what GOD has to offer us. When we harbor hatred for one another, it makes it impossible to do the work that CHRIST calls us to do. In fact, in such cases, just as the “unsaved” person who needs to be converted is blocked from CHRIST, so too, is the person who hates his fellowman, and yet, somehow, thinks that they themselves are “saved”. Whenever we seek to block someone we don’t like from GOD, it is usually a sign that we ourselves are not saved.
On the other hand, one of the great indicators that a person is saved, is that, he or she not only does that which is required by the law of GOD, but rather, they are willing to go beyond that and into the territory of “sacrificial offerings”. In verse 8, we see just such a sign from the repentant tax collector, Zacchaeus. There he stands before the our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and tells HIM, “I will give half my wealth to poor, LORD, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
In Leviticus 5:16, the payment for such an offense of thievery that was committed by Zacchaeus, is restitution, plus, 20%. However, here Zacchaeus is willing to go way beyond the limits proposed by the Law of Moses. Here his genuinely repentant heart dictates to him that he gladly and sacrificially give back “four times more” than is required by the law.
And so here we see a lesson learned about how we are to seek and save not only our relatives and friends, but also strangers and those who may have an unsavory reputation in our communities. Here JESUS is able to save the most hated sinner in town from eternal damnation, and in verses 9-10 HE expresses HIS joy to do so, to the people of Jericho when HE proclaims, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. And I, the SON of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost”.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander