Rejected but Saved – Luke 19
The First Message in the Church Hurts series.
I’ve been blessed to grow up in church. I started attending when I was in the womb. I went to church in a car seat. I’ve got memories of life wrapped up in church from the very beginning. I wasn’t always a Christian. That’s not the same thing. There came a point where I was not only attending church, but I was committed to follow Christ- but that wasn’t automatic. I wasn’t always a Christian and I wasn’t always a fan of church. Because, attending church through all of those years gave prime opportunity for me to be hurt by the church. Through the last 3 decades I’ve watched people in the church do some very unChristlike things. I’ve been disappointed by the church. I’ve been burt by the church. I’ve watched my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my friends, my mentors, and my colleagues all be hurt by the church. Sure, wherever you go and whatever you belong to there will be people who take advantage of you and betray your confidence and the like.
I’m sure at your factory there are people who gossip.
I’m sure at your kid’s ballfields there are judgmental parents.
I’m sure at your school there were people who betrayed your confidence…But, Church is supposed to be different.
Church is supposed to be a place that is different. A place that offers sanctuary. A place where it is safe to open up, to share your struggles, your imperfections, and your heartaches. Saying, well there are hypocrites and gossips everywhere you go sets the bar pretty low and the bar should be set extremely high at the church. Because the bar is supposed to be set pretty high at church, we lower our defenses- we open ourselves up and when the environment proves to be unsafe, we are hurt deeper than we would be anywhere else. At least, that was my experience and I carried the hurt with me for a very long time.
It wasn’t until about 6-7 years ago that I experienced a healing from that church hurt- but you know what’s crazy, it was within the church that I experienced healing from Church Hurt.
While the church can be a source of deep hurt, it is also where we can find the greatest healing.
In the scriptures we have examples of people that were rejected, abandoned, and abused by the church – people who were hurt deeply, but thankfully these same people also experienced great healing.
Today we’ll look at an individual that was rejected by the church but embraced by the savior.
Let’s look at Luke 19:1-10
I feel badly for Zacchaeus- not only because no one would make way for him to be able to see Jesus passing by – not only because it seems he had very few friends- but because Zacchaeus is most well known for being short. The song that we teach children about Zaccheaus is:
“Zaccheaus was a WEE LITTLE MAN
and a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a sycamore tree,
For the Lord he wanted to see.
Do you know the hand motions to that song?
You place your hands together as if you’re describing something that is 6 inches tall- as if you were demonstrating the size of a kitten. As a child, I’m pretty sure I thought Zacchaeus was one of the tiny people from Gullivers Travels. Zaccheaus’ height is an aside to the main elements of this story, but that’s what we remember about him. Poor guy!
Here’s what you really need to know about Zacchaeus:
- Zacchaeus was rejected by the crowd.
This passage tells us that Jesus passes through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem- this is Jesus final trip to Jerusalem. He’ll be arrested and executed in Jerusalem. This is his final trip.
Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. We don’t know if he was motivated by curiosity or by his need. Zacchaeus definitely needed Jesus, but he may not have been aware of that yet. He may have only wanted to see what the fuss was all about. He had probably heard the stories of what Jesus had done, how he had helped and healed so many. He probably wasn’t sure what he hoped to see, but he wanted to see Jesus.
That’s how most people that come searching, they’re not really sure what they are searching for or that they should be searching. Some are just a little curious. However, Zacchaeus couldn’t see because of the crowd. No one made room for Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus couldn’t just look over the crowd because he was too short to do that. Luke explains that Zacchaeus wanted to see because of the crowd and his height. Now, this might seem like just a detail of the story, that it was just the way it worked out, that Zacchaeus was a little late and he missed his shot, but what we find again and again in Luke’s account of Jesus’ ministry is that people who wanted to see Jesus or reach Jesus were being rejected by the crowd around Jesus.
In Chapter 5 Luke tells us,
18And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus,
19but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.
In Chapter 18 (look there just one chapter back)
we find 2 occasions! Luke tells us in verse 15,
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God…”
Then in verse 35 as Jesus enters Jericho (it’s in Jericho that Jesus crosses Zacchaeus’ path) that the people leading the way for Jesus tell a blind man to be quiet and not bother Jesus.
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him.
Now in every one of these situations Jesus wanted to speak to the people, help the people, heal the people, bless, the people, but the crowd around Jesus was making it difficult for the people who needed Jesus to reach Jesus!
Sometimes the people following Jesus come in between Jesus and people who need him.
This happened again and again in the gospels, and it happens again and again today! Now in each of these instances, the person needing to reach Jesus was at a disadvantage. Now, it should have been that there was some sort of practice in place to make sure that everyone that needed Jeus had access to him, but there wasn’t and these people were being shut out- The crowd should have had a heartbeat for making sure that anyone at a disadvantage has access to Jesus, but they didn’t.
Now, Zacchaeus was of short stature and that put him at a disadvantage, but we think that the people of Jericho were using that against him. We surmise that the people didn’t make room for Zacchaeus because they didn’t like him. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. In fact he was the head tax collector in Jericho and Jericho was one of the three regional tax centers in the land of Israel. The Romans would setup tax collection centers in cities that were major hubs of Travel. Jericho would have definitely been that- it was a city that many people would pass through on their way to Jerusalem for holy days and festivals…
According to John MacArthur:
there were taxes on carts,
there were taxes on each wheel on the cart.
There were taxes on the animals that pulled your cart.
There were taxes on the good you carried in your cart
There was personal tax, poll tax, and a tax for just living and breathing and showing up. There was tax for everything.
So here was the man who was the chief tax gatherer,
the guy at the top of the pyramid,
he was the administrator of taxation under the Roman occupying government and because of that, he was very rich.
Rich partly on legitimate basis, because he had a job and Rome compensated him for it, but rich on an illegitimate basis because he extorted and robbed in every way that he could to get whatever money he wanted out of people, not on a legitimate basis but strong arming it out of them…
Now if you were to ask each person in the crowd why didn’t let Zacchaeus through so that he could see Jesus, I doubt anyone would say, “Because I hate his guts!” However, Zacchaeus would have had very few friends in Jericho, especially among the religious crowd traveling to Jerusalem with Jesus or the crowd in Jericho looking to see Jesus. If you need further proof of what the crowd though of Zaccheaus, look at their response in verse 7. Zacheeus was called a sinner by the people (v.7) The greek word for grumble in verse 7 is onomatopoeia – sounds like it means. Examples of onomatopoeia: splash, babble, gurgle, and belch.
Now Zacchaeus was going to miss out on seeing Jesus because he was short and because he was a tax collector. Zachaeus was short which was out of his control and a thief which was his choice…
In Jesus’ day they blamed everything in your choices. In fact the disciples once asked Jesus about a blind man, “Is this man blind because of his sins or the sins of his parents?” When you understand that was the thinking of the day, you can see why they would have not made a whole lot of effort to help the blind man or the lame man see Jesus.
Now today we’ve gone to the other extreme. Today we blame everything on our birth or genes- “you can’t judge me, I was born this way.” The crowd rejected Zachaeus for his choices and used his stature against him- Today, many churches give a cold reception to both the person who walks in and they are “different” because of nothing they have control over and to the person who is unlike them for choices that they have made.
I think one of the most helpful things that I say at the jail when i hold services there is that I tell those guys that there are people in our church every Sunday that when i first met them they were wearing orange.
You see the perception is that because of the choices they have made that the crowd will not make room for them- That’s perception because in many cases that is the reality. It was real as Jesus made his way through Jericho and it is too real in too many places today. There are people who are convinced that they will not have a place in our crowd because of who they are and what they’ve done. Perhaps you feel like there’s no place for you because you weren’t as fortunate as I was in that you didn’t grow up in the church…Perhaps you were hurt buy the church when you tried to come and see Jesus and no one made room for you…
Now, sadly, most churches today have plenty of seats so that isn’t the problem, but today we keep people unlike us at arms reach- we don’t make room for them in our cliques, in our groups, in our circle of friends. So crowd refused Zacchaeus through a combination of who he was and the choices he had made, but then Jesus looked up at Zaccheaus looking past all of that…
- Jesus looked past Zaccheaus’ stature & sin.
You may have been rejected because of bad choices and you may have been excluded for reasons beyond your control, but Jesus looks past all of that….He doesn’t just look past all of that, he looks for you! In fact this is the story of all of the Bible. God looking for us. In the very beginning when Adam and Even sinned, the Bible tells us that they hid from God. He walked through the garden calling out to them. Now God knew where they were, He knew where they were hiding, but he was calling out to them, giving them an opportunity to come out from where they were hiding…Lincoln loves to jump out and scare me. I know where he is, I know he’s going to jump out…but I pretend to look for him…
God knows right where you are, he knows the rejection and the pain you’ve expereinced. He knows the choices that you have made. He knows the regrets that you have, but He’s looking for you, calling out to you…Throughout scripture when everything else falls apart, when men ruin the wonderful things that God has given them- whether it be the temple or the garden or the nation, God still searches for lost souls…
Jesus looks up at Zacchaeus and says, Zacchaeus I need to come to your house. Now, get a hold of this with both hands…No one would make room for Zaccheaus, so Jesus goes to his house! Verse 7 uses a word for guest that is actually a compound word meaning to take off- Jesus was letting his hair down- or taking his shoes off- he was making himself comfortable in the house of a sinner…That is what God did. Even for people that no one has made room for- people who were at a disadvantage, even for people who made wrong choices and alienated themselves from everyone else, even for them, God comes to sit with them and he takes of his shoes and makes himself comfortable in our space. This is the story of the gospel, we could not get to where God was, so he came to us. When Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus, everything changes. The passage says that He received Jesus with great joy. Then it tells us that there was an incredible change in him.
Kent Hughes said,
”But when he met Jesus, everything changed — not only his heart, but his hands. The same fingers that once reached to extort filthy lucre, now extended with generosity to the poor, and to pay back fourfold anyone he’d defrauded.”
Jesus may have eaten with sinners, but he always managed to have dessert with believers. Jesus went to the homes of the sinners because they were usually no longer sinners by the time he left… While Jesus reached out to Zacheeus and ate at his house, he didn’t condone Zacheeus’ greed, in fact the meeting with Jesus led to the return of stolen property and a display of radical generosity. This wasn’t a question of what do I have to do? This was, what can I possibly do?!
Zaccheaus didn’t give what was required by the law, he gave what he could. He made restitution above and beyond what would be required.
“There is some indication in church history that there was the belief that Zacchaeus after his conversion became the pastor of the church of Caesarea and was later followed in that pastorate by Cornelius…we can’t be positive about it, but it’s an interesting thought.”
– John MacArthur
Don’t miss Jesus because of the crowd! The crowd or the church may have come between you and Jesus, but friend I want you to know that Jesus looks over all of that, He looks past all of that and calls to you and says that He wants to come and make Himself at home in your life. Don’t miss that invitation because of the crowd. Don’t miss out on Jesus because of the imperfect church.
Charles Spurgeon has been called the Prince of Preachers, but he has said that he would not have been converted if it hadn’t been for a snow storm , a minister who didn’t show up, and a shoemaker who filled the pulpit in his place.
Because of the snowstorm, Spurgeon went to a little Primitive Methodist Church where no more than 15 people were gathered. What Spurgeon had heard of Primitive Methodists, was that “they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache.” Surgeon said that when the minister didn’t show, a shoemaker filled in and he said “this man was really stupid.” He chose the text—”LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Isa. 45:22) Surgeon said that in a broad Essex accent the man said, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. After about 10 minutes the man had said all he could think to say and then he noticed Spurgeon in the crowd. The man said to Spurgeon, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Surgeon said, well I did but I wasn’t used to remarks about my personal appearance from the pulpit. He continued you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved. Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!”
That morning, despite the snowstorm, despite the remarks about Spurgeon’s appearance, despite the tiny crowd, despite the uneducated sermon, and in spite of Spurgeon’s sin- God saveed Charles Spurgeon that day just as on that day in spite of the crowd, in spite of their judgmental looks, in spite of Zaccheaus being a thief sitting in a tree, Jesus saved Him…
Today, in spite of the crowd, Jesus calls to you.
Today, in spite of the broken Church, Jesus longs to make himself at home in your life…
Some of you, you placed your faith in Christ years ago in spite of the broken church, God saved you… Remember that.
Praise God for that today.