And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.…
Zaccheus was undoubtedly, up to this time, a worldly, grasping, wicked man; who, though a Hebrew by birth and education, had so far forgotten God, and allowed the love of money to master him, that in his business relations he did not always observe the laws of equity or the principles of righteousness. The impression I get of him from the narrative is, that he was a sharp, shrewd, business man; a man whose judgment in business matters was unusually good, and who, if he did any business at all, would be sure to make money. The love of money, and the conscious power to make it, cannot exist in the same person without great possibilities of evil. Ambition. Rivalry. But though Zaccheus was a grasping, selfish man, yet I am profoundly impressed with his independent spirit and individuality of character. He is a striking illustration of the fact that neither riches nor worldly position can satisfy the cravings of the human soul; and that a ready response is accorded to gospel overtures, sometimes where we least expect it. A mere surface reading of the narrative can give us no adequate idea of the force of character it required to face the tremendous discouragements which Zaccheus had to meet in becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. I notice just two of these: —
1. He had no character to begin with. His whole environment tended to keep him as he was. The very social atmosphere in which he lived tended to blight every aspiration and hope of becoming a better man. However badly he might act, he had nothing to lose, for he was already an outcast from society. Another serious and humiliating fact which Zaccheus had to face was —
2. His dishonest business transactions. "If I have taken anything of any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." That kind of restitution would soon seriously impoverish the bank accounts of some people. It would compel many of our mushroom aristocracy and sky-rocket millionaires to go to the almshouse, or turn their hands to honest labour, and "earn their bread by the sweat of their brow." Zaccheus does not use the words, "If I have taken anything," as though he were in doubt, and wished to leave a similar doubt on the mind of others. His guilt is clearly implied in his own words. And no person who did not carry the making of a noble Christian character would have made such a declaration would have deliberately entered upon a course of life which, at the very outset, involved the unearthing of a life of fraud and dishonesty, which no doubt no person could have proven, and perhaps of which nobody had the slightest suspicion. Now let us turn to the incident of this memorable day. Notice here —
I. HOW PUSH AND PERSEVERANCE TURN DEFEAT INTO VICTORY. A few moments ago he was completely defeated — "could not see Jesus" for the "press." Now he has a better view of Him than any man in the crowd. So the earnest seeker will always find that the very "press" of isms and sects and critics that surround the Saviour, and which compel him to "run and climb," to think and act for himself, will be the means of securing for him a clearer and more satisfactory view of Jesus Christ than he could have possibly obtained on the ordinary highway of common effort.
1. Observe the movements of Jesus.
(1) "He came to the place," — He always does. No man ever yet started out with the full purpose to see Jesus Christ and frilled.
(2) His method. He "looked."
2. Notice the order and significance of the descriptive words in this verse: "When Jesus came to the place, He looked... and saw...and said." That is the order of description needed, but, alas, sadly lacking in our churches. We have too many who can look without seeing; they possess so little of the Master's spirit that they can pass along the highways of life, and through orchards of sycamores, and never set eyes on a sinner anxious "to see Jesus."
II. THAT PROMPT, UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE ALWAYS SECURES THE DIVINE APPROVAL AND BLESSING.
1. The Saviour's command. "Zaccheus, come down." This command was both startling and unexpected. Zaccheus had no thought of being addressed personally by the Saviour, or of being called upon to come down in the presence of the crowd. In coming in vital contact with Jesus Christ, the seeker always finds new, unexpected things happening; and, like Naaman, is soon made to see that God's way is not man's.
2. The Saviour's perfect knowledge of the seeker. "Zaccheus, come down." There is something unutterably precious in the fact that God is intimately acquainted with all our names. No person can assume any attitude of service, or self-sacrifice, or supplication before God, without having his very name associated with the act. "Zaccheus, come down." Implying that his character and wants were as well known as his name.
3. The prompt obedience of Zaccheus. The conversion of Zaccheus reached not only his head and his pocket, but it also reached his conscience. No conversion, however loudly proclaimed, will be of any lasting value unless it includes and practically displays a New Testament conscience.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.