As you read this, my family and I are in Spokane, WA visiting our oldest daughter, Karis, and her husband to belatedly celebrate her graduation from Whitworth University. While I’m gone, I am SO glad my friend (and Riverwood’s church planter), Patrick Ray, will be coming this Sunday to continue our series in Philippians. When I texted Patrick to ask if he could teach on the 16th from Philippians 3:1-11, he replied, “I am so excited to preach from that text!” You won’t want to miss it.
But now, let’s finish up our short three-week series on the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10. Once again, I ask you to take 42.3-seconds to re-read this passage before continuing on as we conclude the story by looking at Jesus.
The True Protagonist
When you were a kid in school (or if you currently are a kid in school!), you were taught in English Literature that the protagonist was/is the main character in a story. I think many people, if asked who the protagonist is in Luke 19:1-10, would say “Zacchaeus.” After all, half of the verses in this short passage are all about this “wee-little man.”
But we need to remember that the protagonist of the book of Luke (and for that matter, the entire Bible) is Jesus. We only meet Zacchaeus in these ten verses. When we look at all twenty-four chapters of Luke, as well as all 66 books of the entire Scriptures, they point to Jesus, the long-prophesied Messiah, who would be (and was and is) fully God and fully human. It’s all about Jesus.
So while it can be helpful to see ourselves in Zacchaeus, or to read (i cant stand zacchaeus) *and see how we sometimes act like the crowds*, by far the most important thing we can do with any story of Scripture is look at Jesus. Because God’s goal is to make us like His Son, to empower us through His Spirit to love like Jesus loved and to live like Jesus lived.
And how did Jesus act in Luke 19:1-10 toward Zacchaeus?
He didn’t act like the crowds who judged Zacchaeus with disdain for his betrayal against the Jewish people (by working for the Roman Empire) or for extorting the people for too many taxes and keeping the extra for himself. Instead, Jesus showed incredible grace toward this unethical tax collector.
And what was the result? Repentance by Zacchaeus! Did you notice how Zacchaeus said in verse 8 he would give half of his goods to help the poor? And that if he had defrauded anyone, he would repay fourfold? He wasn’t giving this money to try to impress Jesus. He was doing it because He was overwhelmed in the moment that Jesus showed such honor and kindness toward Him when the entire city of Jericho treated him completely opposite.
Jesus’ approach toward Zacchaeus is consistent with the nature of God. While God is a perfect Judge, He is also a merciful God. And His mercy should lead us to repent of our sin like it did for Zacchaeus. After all, Romans 2:4 reminds us it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.
If God’s kindness toward you (which is so evident in the cross) leads us to repent of our sin and rebellion against Him, perhaps when we show kindness to fellow sinners, it will lead them to repent and follow Jesus as well.
So may you not be like the crowds who stood above short Zacchaeus in harsh judgment of his wrongdoing. May you be the one to lead with grace toward the difficult people in your life, to bestow kindness like Jesus did, knowing you are merely doing what God has done for you through Jesus.