Pastoral Perspectives

A Sycamore Tree? (Luke 19: 1-10)

Now, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and was rich. He got rich probably by not being honest.  Zacchaeus was a Jew but because he was working for the Romans, and this was not viewed kindly by his people. His birthright was a Jew but was rejected by his fellow Jews.

His community hated tax collectors and since Zacchaeus was the chief collector, they despised him even more.  However, he was curious about Jesus and wanted to see who was this man visiting Jericho. Zacchaeus must have also heard about Jesus-the young Rabbi, the man who heals, the one who speaks in parables, who did miracles, who can forgive sins, who can cast out demons, who raises the dead, who speaks of love and preaches to love your enemies. Jesus must have been an extra-ordinary man, so different from the other religious teachers or rabbis.

However, Zacchaeus was short man and would have problems looking at Jesus when so many others were taller than him in a crowd. But, he was clever enough to find a solution to this problem. He climbed a sycamore tree to be high enough to look down at Jesus. A sycamore tree can grow up to 35 m (115 ft.) high and have broad, wide-spreading branches.

It must have been very lonely up there on a tree, waiting for Jesus to walk by. There are also many lonely people in this world. They are found at unusual places, places we ourselves may not want to be there. There was this lonely man, rejected by his community and he was up in a sycamore tree.

There may be also lonely people in our Churches, who may be different from us, and there is a likelihood no one wants to be close to them. Perhaps no one wants to be their friend. Those who are lonely, may feel that they are unwanted, nobody cares for them and may think it is better this way.

Being in a Church is not about just being a member like in a club, but we belong to a family, to care for each other because we have the same God, who is our heavenly Father. No one should be left alone, like Zacchaeus, he should be part of a community.

Although Zacchaeus must have been thinking, since he is up high in a tree, no one would ever notice him. Actually, Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus and not the other way around. Zacchaeus was the lost sheep Jesus was looking for. Zacchaeus thought he was an unimportant man. He must have thought, who wants to know him, a man with a horrible reputation. Who would be even bother to see him up in a tree.

What happened next was something unexpected. Finally, he saw Jesus walking towards the direction of the sycamore tree.  Jesus did look up. And the response Zacchaeus got was totally unbelievable. Jesus wanted to visit Zacchaeus’ in his home. Why would a famous young rabbi visit an ostracized man like him? Zacchaeus had a bad reputation, people hated him, and yet Jesus was saying, aloud, Zacchaeus I am coming to your house to have “makan” with you.

Jesus identified himself with a big-time sinner like Zacchaeus. Jesus didn’t think of his reputation, which was made by man, because he is the Messiah, the Saviour who has come to save sinners.

          Zacchaeus was rejected by his community, but what a surprise, what a big surprise Jesus is coming to his house of all the houses in Jericho. For Zacchaeus, this was a turning point in his life to see Jesus and to have him visit his home.

I am wondering if you would you allow Jesus to enter your “house”, or enter your heart? Would you allow Jesus to redirect your ways if you have lost your godly direction in life? Would you, like Zacchaeus, who did bad things or have unconfessed sins, repent and allow Jesus to correct your ways.  Wouldn’t you like to be renewed today, to change, to have the heart of Jesus, to be in his presence should Jesus speak to you today?

It seems that there were two reactions when Jesus said he will visit Zacchaeus’ house. Sometimes God’s work is received gladfully or there will also be grumbling as we read from this passage. Jesus was not a crowd pleaser, God’s work is not about getting a popular vote, but it is to fulfill God’s will, as we see in the life of Zacchaeus. Doing what is right in God’s eyes and not men’s can divide opinions and relationships. Jesus did do the right thing to visit Zacchaeus.

The crowd could not accept the decision of Jesus to visit Zacchaeus, a criminal in their eyes. The word grumble can also mean to murmur. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they murmured against God. They complained and complained and showed their ungratefulness to him.

Who was really seeking after Jesus? I don’t think it was the Jericho community because they must have thought of Jesus as a Celebrity, a Rock Star, a Famous person to come to their home town to give a performance. Perhaps to change water into wine.

The people in Jericho just saw him as a man, a miracle worker, a healer etc., etc., but never once as the Messiah or Saviour. They did not need a Saviour, but it was Zacchaeus who needed one. Jesus came to see Zacchaeus and surely not the crowd.

So, this whole passage is about one particular individual. Jesus came to Jericho on a mission and only one got saved. In human calculation, this is not economically sound, the time used for travel, time spent interacting with the crowd only brought in one fish, one soul came into  God’s kingdom.

ESV Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”. Did you know this also happened when you believed in Jesus?

This passage showed that Zacchaeus repented and gave to the poor and recompensed four times more for anyone he cheated. Zacchaeus’ life changed because Jesus entered into his life

Maybe, like Zacchaeus, we need to climb up a sycamore tree to look at Jesus; and have a better view and understanding of who really is Jesus. What is He doing in our lives. in our Church and in our country. Perhaps up in the Sycamore tree, it is a time to reflect and look at things from a different perspective. Are we growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ? Have we forgotten our first love? Shouldn’t we be interested in the works of God in the life of others. Are we growing impatient or have no compassion for the needy and the lost?

And just like the story of Zacchaeus, when we are up there in that sycamore tree wondering about Jesus, perhaps at that moment, then only will Jesus come to you, and say “come down and I will enter into fellowship with you today”

Rev Eddie Chandra

May 21, 2017