날짜: 2018년 7월 8일
제목: 우리를 견고하게 하는 복음
20180708 Sunday Worship Sermon
“Restoring a Name” (Rev. Dong Sung Kim)
When we found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child more than ten years ago, we faced an exciting challenge. That challenge was to find the name for our baby boy. It was very difficult decision to make. The name must not be too common or too unique, and yet it had to be easy to pronounce and to remember, and most important of all it must have a good meaning. After pondering for quite a long time, we finally decided on the name, Noah. It means a “child of dew” in Korean. We chose this name with hopes that our child will be pure and clean like the morning dew. We also desired our child to stay pure and chaste in front of God and men. Even now when I think about the name “Noah” it brings pleasure and satisfaction to my mind.
Like us, most parents think hard and take time in picking out the names for their children. The name should not be chosen carelessly, because one’s name is not only a title to differentiate him or her from others but it also represents parents’ expectations and hopes of what their child should be throughout his/her life.
The reason I mentioned names is because in today’s sermon we are going to learn about a man who had a great name, Zacchaeus. The name Zacchaeus is a Jewish name which means “pure and righteous”. His parents must have thought to name their son, Zacchaeus, with hopes that their child will grow up and live up to his name - to have a pure heart and live with integrity. Zacchaeus himself must have known the meaning of his name as well.
However, we find that Zacchaeus thus far did not live up to his name. Verse 2 says “He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” This statement clearly shows us a picture of Zacchaeus’ occupation and social status. If people in the Bible times were to have read the passage we are reading today, they would have laughed and joked at the irony of it all. How absurd that a man with an honorable name like Zacchaeus would pick a career as a tax collector, the position most scorned and despised by the Jews. They were hated because the tax collectors were corrupt and used dishonesty to collect taxes. Obviously the name Zacchaeus was undoubtedly an inappropriate match from the Jewish perspective.
Jewish tax collectors were people who collected taxes for the Roman Empire, not for their own nation. Therefore, they were hated by other Jews for their complicity with the Roman oppressors. To make the matter worse, they were assumed to be dishonest and corrupt. By exploiting their privileges, they cheated people and accumulated wealth. It was a regular practice to collect more than was allowed by regulation.
The bible stating that Zacchaeus was both a tax collector and wealthy man demonstrated that Zacchaeus portrayed a typical tax collector of that time. Moreover, he was a “chief” tax collector. Although his name meant righteous and pure, his life in reality was not reflecting the true meaning of his name.
Before God and people, Zacchaeus was undeniably a sinner. He was dishonest, selfish, and inconsiderate. Everybody in his town considered him a sinner, as verse 7 implies. The more he achieved political and social power and gained wealth, the more his life was estranged from righteousness and purity. Zacchaeus himself may have noticed that his life was badly off track.
Although people bowed down to him, Zacchaeus may have noticed that they did not respect him. Rather, they hated him with resentment and with contempt. And he was quite aware that his social and financial power was a good indication that he was a sinner since all he was and all he had was built upon him being dishonest. He may have realized that something was extremely wrong with his life. He must have been frustrated and hated himself for it because every time he heard his name it reminded him of who he should be. He might have wished to become a person that reflected the true meaning of his name.
Passion and Obstacle
One day Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing through his town. He certainly would have heard that Jesus was a friend to sinners like him, that one of Jesus’ beloved disciples was a tax collector, and that Jesus was the great healer and a miracle worker. Zacchaeus wanted Jesus’ help to get him on the right path. Thus, as soon as he heard that Jesus was passing through the town, he immediately ran and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus.
Zacchaeus had a great desire to see Jesus. His desire was so strong that he climbed a tree to get a better glimpse of Jesus. The bible does not tell us how eager Zacchaeus was to get to know Jesus. To some readers, the narrative may imply that he was just curious to see Jesus. However, his curiosity was not the main reason for seeking out Jesus. His desperate situation drove him to meet with Jesus. He has been thinking that Jesus could provide a solution to his miserable life.
Again, he was not just one of the onlookers who wanted to see a celebrity (Jesus), but a serious seeker of spiritual mentor for his tormented heart. The scripture says he “ran” to see Jesus, not toddle around (verse 4). However, there was a crowd and being of small stature he could not push his way through the crowd. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree anticipating that Jesus would pass through that way. In doing so, he exposed himself to ridicule because it was considered undignified for a man of his status to run and climb up a tree. The crowd may have seen the little tax collector running and climbing the tree and probably insulted him.
However, for Zacchaeus, such derisive looks and remarks did not matter. The think that mattered the most at that moment was for him to see and meet Jesus.
The crowd and his small stature impeded Zacchaeus from getting close to Jesus. However, his desire to see Jesus was overwhelming. Therefore the throng of people who came to see Jesus blocking his way did not hinder him. The physical attribute did not deter him. He overcame these physical obstacles by climbing a sycamore tree. His passion to meet Jesus was greater than the barriers posed in front of him.
The story of Zacchaeus reminds us of our sins. Before God we are all sinners. Although we may think we are not as bad a sinner as Zacchaeus was, with his dishonesty and corrupt lifestyle, but we are all sinners in that we are greedy and go after our own interests. We all have self-centered attitude. Like Zacchaeus, we hurt others, make people miserable, and cause strife and anger. No doubt we are all sinners just like Zacchaeus.
Is it because we are weak and filled with sin that we keep Jesus at a distance? We must not do that. Like Zacchaeus we need to seek Jesus. We need to run to him with eagerness, with anticipation, and with hope of finding life.
We cannot see Jesus physically as Zacchaeus did. However, we can know Jesus. We can experience him. Through reading the Bible and praying, we can listen to his gentle voice and we can experience his grace and love. But, it will not happen automatically. In order to “meet” with Jesus, we need to take action. Like Zacchaeus we need to have the desire to see Jesus. Like Zacchaeus we need to ignite the passion within us to know Christ. I hope all of us here have such ardent desire and passion to meet and to know Jesus.
When Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, there were critical barriers hindering his mission: his physical barrier (small stature) and external barrier (the crowd). However, he did not give up. He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree at the risk of damaging his dignity and honor. What obstacles do you have? What keeps you from getting to know the Savior? No matter what it is, do not give up! Overcome the obstacles! If we have such eagerness to know Christ as Zacchaeus did, we can find ways to overcome the obstacles blocking our way. Please ask yourself this question, “Do I have the strong desire to seek Jesus just as Zacchaeus did?
Encountering and Transformation
As the story unfolds, Jesus discovered Zacchaeus and told him that He will go and stay at Zacchaeus’ house. People hearing this muttered saying how can he be the guest at a sinner’s house? Here Jesus is associating with an individual shunned by people and staying at a house people dare not enter. Jesus is that kind of a friend.
He is a friend to sinners and gives eternal life to the lost for He said in verse 10 “The son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Generally the Jews scorned and avoided Zacchaeus, but Jesus did the opposite. He stayed at the sinner’s home. It was definitely a time of rejoicing. After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus made a life changing declaration. He said “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus forsook his sinful ways turned his life around. After meeting Jesus, he threw away his selfish ambition and embraced in helping others. After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus truly lived up to his name. He became upright and pure in heart. Before he met Jesus he lived his own life, but after meeting Jesus, he transformed his life to please God. After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus’ life truly reflected his name. He truly earned the honor of being called by his name.
Jesus changes lives. When we encounter the true love of God, our hearts and minds respond to Him. Zacchaeus after encountering Jesus, became a giving person, he began to serve God, and lived an upright life. All who meet Jesus should experience changing attitudes that honors and glorifies God.
Have yourself experienced changes in your life after you met Christ? If you have truly accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then the changes must follow. Our attitudes definitely change for the better, our hearts are transformed, we forgive those who do us wrong, and we become obedient to God’s word, we share our possessions with
those who are in need, and we learn to care about others. Our arrogance turns into humility and after meeting Jesus our old self is discarded and a new person is born.
In closing, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and a wealthy man. His life could have remained that way to the end; however, he was not happy. He wanted something better. After meeting Jesus his life was transformed. Seeing the change in Zacchaeus, Jesus declared in verse 9 “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” The despised sinner has been taken in as a true son of Abraham. Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector and a sinner became a child of God. He had a deep desire to see Jesus and found a way to accomplish that mission and Jesus responded to Zacchaeus’ hunger for spiritual fulfillment and filled that need completely. I pray that all of us here are God’s children. I urge all of you to continually strive to know Jesus and dwell in his love and grace and live up to your identity as a child of God.