Zacchaeus the Chief Tax Collector: April 18th 2021

Deuteronomy 29:1-30:10

The Israelites had witnessed the miraculous sings and wonders as the Lord rescued them from Egypt but they had not been given ‘a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear’ (v.4). The Holy Spirit living permanently inside baptized Christians informs us about the truth so that we can understand the wonders of the Father.

God not only provided food supernaturally for forty years (as manna) he also ensured that the Israelite’s ‘clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet’ (v.5).

They couldn’t blame their rebellious behaviour on alcohol, ‘you ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink’ (v.6).

We cannot think that we will be safe when we persist in going our own way’ (v.19). When we are baptized / born again we need to hand over our lives to God and walk in his ways, not continue in persistent sin worshipping other worthless idols and Gods. The Lord can blot people’s names out from heaven (v.21).

Moses predicted that the Israelites would break their covenant and would be scattered to the most distant lands under the heavens. When they started to obey him again, they would be gathered and brought back and made more prosperous and numerous than before. We have seen this in the miraculous reinstatement of Israel after the Second World War. God would ‘circumcise’ their hearts so that they may love God with all their heart and soul (v.6). Countries that persecute Israel are cursed – as can be seen by the devastating wars / poverty and refugee crises in the neighbouring regions. The Lord promised to delight in the Jews again and make them prosperous (30:9).

God wants us to turn to him with all our heart and all our soul. If we confess our sins directly to God, we really have to mortified and horrified by the fact we have sinned. We have to have ‘perfect contrition’. We can’t go on carrying out the same sins week after week. If we do, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to come into out hearts, hand our prayers over to him so he can pray the perfect prayer through us and allow him to change us.

Luke 18:31-19:10

Jesus plainly told the twelve disciples what was going to happen to him but ‘the disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about’ (v.34). It is fascinating that God can conceal the truth from some people. When you love the Lord will all your heart, it is really frustrating when other people just don’t get it. They carry on with their secular lives with no consideration for the love of their Father and the wondrous things he has done for them. This passage shows how God can block the truth from some people. Maybe he is waiting for someone to pray for them and that person is you or I – for their eyes to see, their ears to hear, for them to understand, to turn to God, believe and be saved.

A blind beggar shouted out as Jesus passed, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (v.38). The people in the crowd ‘who led the way’ told him to be quiet but he shouted all the more (v.39). The actual people leading Jesus didn’t want Jesus to be distracted, slow down and stop and actually do his healing work. They just wanted to parade and be seen in his company by as many people as possible to build up their own ego. Jesus had to order them to bring the man to him. Many Christians are happy for their religion to be a showy spectacle for others to look at but unless it is backed up by deeds it is worthless. We should always be prepared to postpone parades and ceremonies to carry out the actual work of God.

The beggar knew that Jesus could heal him and grabbed his once in a lifetime chance to talk to him as he passed. So many Christians do not grab opportunities when they present themselves, missing the chance to grow in faith. The blind man’s faith heals him when he turns to Jesus (v.42). Even though the crowd hadn’t wanted him to receive personal attention, the miracle also strengthens their faith.

Jesus converts Zacchaeus, a Chief tax collector, by a miraculous word of knowledge. The Holy Spirit whispered Zacchaeus’ name to Jesus and that Jesus should stay at his house tonight. Jesus called him down from his ‘sycamore-fig’ tree and this ‘Chief’ tax collector humbly obeyed. Through praying in tongues, we can open ourselves up to other supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Having supernatural knowledge about someone and the trials they are going through can break through the toughest resistance to God. Zacchaeus turned from greed and corruption and became generous and hospitable. He made ample restitution to the people he had wronged and gave to the poor. This is in contrast to the Rich Ruler (Luke 18;18-25) who became very sad at having to give to the poor ‘because he was a man of great wealth’.

Through saving a Chief Tax Collector, Jesus probably also saved the more junior tax collectors that worked for Zacchaeus as they would have seen his new life of faith, honesty and integrity. They would have witnessed a changed man.

The crowd were wrong again. They tried to stop a blind beggar from being healed and then they grumbled about a Chief tax collector finding salvation. They probably thought that only someone like themselves deserved Jesus’s attention.

Zacchaeus had realised that his ill-gotten wealth meant nothing and was delighted to give it away. His life of wealth, power and privilege was empty without God. He wanted to live up to promise of his birth name; Zacchaeus means ‘pure’, before the lure of riches corrupted him. Through his example and Jesus’s visit, all of his family would also be saved, ‘Today salvation has come to this house’ (v.9).

My name, Jonathan, means ‘Gift of God’. It is great to reflect on the meaning of our Christian names to see if we are living up to it. Even if you were giving a secular name when born, with no deeper meaning, you can choose a ‘Christian name’ when you are confirmed / join the church. It is wonderful to share a name with one of the characters in the Bible or a Christian saint. I choose Michael, after my favourite saint. His name means, ‘Who is like God?’ i.e. who has the temerity to challenge our all-powerful God for his throne? It should be no-one but of course the devil tried to do so. When Zacchaeus’s parents named him ‘pure’, they might have been very embarrassed when their beloved child grew to became a corrupt tax collector in league with the Roman occupiers. Even more so, as he received multiple promotions to become Chief Tax Collector. However, our early life and career can dramatically change once we meet Jesus. I do try now to act like a ‘gift of God’ and Zacchaeus finally grew into his name. Naming a child can have a prophetic element to it.

Jesus came to seek and invite inveterate sinners to turn in a new direction to salvation. I praise God that he sought and saved me.

Proverbs 10:1-10

If we ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and act on it, we can bring joy to our parents (v.1).

If we cheat and steal to get wealth, we will gain no lasting satisfaction from it. It is if no eternal value and will leave us feeling empty while on earth. We need to build up wealth in heaven by carrying out the work of God.

The Lord won’t let the ‘righteous go hungry’ (v.3). If we are diligent we can provide for ourselves and our families. God does not like laziness.

The righteous are crowned with blessings and we look back on them with fond memories. If we are wise, we accept instructions. If we haven’t got anything perceptive or wise to say, it is best to stay quiet as ‘a chattering fool comes to ruin’ (v.8). If we take crooked paths we will be found out and prior to this, live in fear of being found out.

if we live a live full of integrity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will always walk securely, carefree and safe in the love and knowledge of God.

Image: Tango7174, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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