One of the great things about being a parent is that sometimes you can be amazed at what your children can do. Each of my children have amazed me at least a dozen times in their lives. And when I say amazed, I don’t mean looking at them and thinking they’re cute, or who they just had a milestone, like talking or walking, or going potty correctly. What I mean is this: With my oldest daughter, she has had deep theological insights and question that she has brought up to me, and then she can be the most destructive person in our family. This amazes me, not the deep theological insights, or the destructiveness, but rather, how I can do the same thing. My second oldest, has amazed me, because he has the mind that is so analytical, that he can see patterns, like puzzles, chess, and building blocks. Finally, my youngest amazes me when she is able to respond to criticism, or discipline with a loving attitude that I wish I had.
And the reason they amaze me, is because I don’t expect these things from them. I have a little bit of a bias towards my, in thinking that they can’t teach, or be better at me in areas. But the reality is, they can do both.
It’s this idea of bias that that brings us to where we’re at in the March to the Resurrection sermon series. Where we’ll be returning to the Gospel of Luke, and picking up from last week in chapter 18, starting in verse 35.
And as we open up to Luke 18, verse 35, let’s catch up to where we’re at in this series.
Last week, in the first week of this series, we talked about four groups from two interactions that Jesus had as he made his way up to Jerusalem. As we looked at these two groups we saw that they could be compared and contrasted with each other. The first group were the parents and we compared and contrasted them with the third group of the disciples. We saw that the parents wanted their children to be blessed by Jesus, while the disciples didn’t want them to come to him. We saw Jesus rebuke his disciples for not allowing the least of the people to come to him, in this case the children. We walked away from these two groups understanding that we need to be people who want God to bless others. The disciples should of desired everyone to be blessed, not a chosen few.
The second group was the children themselves who were following their parents, and we compared and contrasted them with the fourth group, which was the rich young ruler. In this compare and contrast we saw that, unlike the children who followed wherever their parents led, the rich young ruler could not follow wherever Jesus asked him to go. It was here that we walked away with the understanding that God calls us to follow him wherever he made lead. And where he leads, he may or may not ask us to give up things along the way.
Now, with understanding these two interactions, we can move onto two more interactions, that follow close behind these. Let’s read in Luke chapter 18, starting in verse 35.
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
This seems like a common scenario for Jesus. Someone wants to be healed, they ask Jesus, Jesus heals them and we move onto the next person.
But let’s take a couple of minutes and look at this interaction, because we’ve been here just recently.
Does this sound familiar? Someone is looking for a blessing, but there are people who are trying to keep him away? Now there are different people here, but it’s the same situation as we saw early in chapter 18 with the disciples and the parents.
Sure there are some differences, like the parents were seeking the blessing for their child and not themselves, and in this case it’s not the disciples keeping the man away but just the greater entourage that Jesus is traveling with. But the root is the same: someone who is least in the society is trying to get to Jesus, and others are keeping him away.
Now, let’s talk about the blind beggar himself. In verse 41, Jesus stops and asks the man, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Now, the NIV that we just read, gives the blind beggars reply as, “Lord, I want to see,”
But the Greek word that is used anablepó (an-ab-lep’-o) might lead us to translate his response as, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” If this is the case, then the man had once been able to see, and now he cannot.
I think this is interesting because, it would mean that either over time or through an accident he lost his ability to see. He therefore would have experienced sight, and truly known what he had lost.
One final thought on the blind beggar before we move on. The way in which we address people tells us what our relationship with that person is. Growing up I always knew my parent’s friends by their first names. None of them ever asked me to calling them Mr. or Mrs., but when I transferred to a new high school for my junior and senior year, you had to call the teachers, brother or sister followed by their last name. At the end of my senior year, I was told by my home room teacher, that upon my graduation I still had to call him brother, but now I could use his first name afterwards. The way in which we address someone let’s other people know our relationship with them.
When the blind beggar asks who is coming, the people in the crowd reply, “Jesus of Nazareth”. But when the blind beggar addresses Jesus, he says, “Jesus, Son of David”. To the answering crowd, Jesus was the itinerant Rabbi from Nazareth, but to the blind beggar he was more. By addressing Jesus as the Son of David, the blind beggar was calling him his Messiah. The title Son of David was a reference to the fact that the Messiah would be from King David’s, lineage. To the blind beggar, Jesus was more than just a man from Nazareth, he was the one who would save Israel.
Yet, through his lost of sight, this blindness lead him to call on the Messiah. And we see God do a great work in front of people that thought Jesus was just a man from Nazareth.
Let’s stop here, to make some comparisons to last week. Last week we had children being brought to Jesus to be blessed by him. These were the least of society in many people’s eyes. We can see this social attitude in the disciples’ actions. Jesus rebukes them and calls for the children to be brought to him. Here we see a similar situation. The blind beggar is seen as less than the others, and yet Jesus comes to him and heals him. And when Jesus heals the blind beggar, the people that were around him praise God for it. But hold onto the people in this crowd, because we’re not done with them yet.
Instead, let’s move down to verse 1 of chapter 19, and the second interaction on the road to the city of Jericho.
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “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.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Now, if you’ve ever been in Sunday school, you should have heard the the name Zacchaeus and instantly started to sing, “Zaccheus was a wee, little man, And a wee, little man was he…”
That’s this Zacchaeus, and from the passage we can know a couple of things about him. First, he was the chief tax-collector of his area, that means he was the IRS for the Romans. And of course no one liked because of that. Second, because he was the chief tax collector, he was really wealthy. He got this way, because in addition to taking taxes from people, he had to up those taxes for his personal commission, this is how tax collectors gained their living. Obviously this type of tax structure made it really easy to corrupt, with many tax collectors taking more than a person should from the people. Third, he must have not known much about Jesus, because in verse 3 is reads, “He wanted to see who Jesus was…” In other words, he was curious about who was this Jesus that everyone was talking about. One final note, the word that we translate as short in stature, is this Greek word hélikia (hay-lik-ee’-ah), which can also mean that he was young.
And this brings us to him being in a tree as Jesus approaches him. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name, and tells him that he will be eating at his house. I love this interaction because we can see that God had already been working in Zacchaeus’ life, by showing us how a simple curiosity about Jesus can lead to salvation. But notice again the people in the crowd. Jesus had just healed a blind beggar, and was now calling on a person everyone disliked. Instead of crowd responding with, “What wonderful things are going to happen now?” They respond with grumbling that Jesus would eat with such a man. That’s important, and we’ll come back to it in a little bit.
But while Jesus is at Zacchaeus’ house, the tax collector tells Jesus, “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.”
With Zacchaeus’ words, Jesus responds with, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Now it’s here that I want us to compare and contrast from last week, with the rich young ruler. Both these men were rich, they might also both be young. But rich young ruler was highly esteemed in his town, most likely Jericho, while Zacchaeus was not. Yet when Jesus called upon the rich young ruler to sell everything and follow, he couldn’t do it. But here, Zacchaeus willingly gives up his wealth and purposefully seeks to make amends for what he has done.
And it’s really not about the amount of wealth here, but rather the willingness of the person. The rich young ruler was unwilling to do as Jesus commanded, but Zacchaeus was willing to give up wealth without the command of Jesus.
In the end it was the social outcast, but willing Zacchaeus that gained eternal life, instead of the socially accepted rich young ruler.
And I think it’s here that we can come to two conclusions. First, let’s talk about the crowd. They tried to silence a blind beggar from getting to Jesus, yet they saw a miracle when his sight was restored. Then the crowd grumbled at Jesus eating with Zacchaeus, yet it led to a man entering into salvation and him giving up some of his wealth.
I think there can be times when we can be like the crowd, thinking we know whats’ best for the situation, but being in opposition to God through it. It’s easy to see someone and grumble that they get access to God’s work, or getting more blessings than us. Yet God wants us to seek after him. We need to be looking for the people around us that need Jesus, and get them to him as fast as possible. The crowd blocked the blind beggar, if they had it their way, they would have blocked Zacchaeus. If we’re honest about ourselves, who do we want to block? Who in our lives do we look at and say, “Nope, not them. They’re not on my political side. They’re not on my racial, social, economic, or whatever side.”
This is the first conclusion, it’s really easy to fall into this mindset of not allowing people to get to Jesus, and it might not even be an intentional block. Maybe Jesus was teaching, and the people near the blind beggar couldn’t hear over his yelling. Maybe the people knew Zacchaeus and in the past he had made claims that he was going to reform, and he never did.
But God reveals to us that we are not to let personal problems with people stop us from letting them get close to Jesus.
Here’s an example: In this time of social upheaval with the Coronavirus, we can’t let people being stupid stop us from reaching out to them and pointing them to Jesus. They might be hoarding, they might be sending panic through the streets, and they might be really stupid for doing so, but most likely it’s because they’re scared. Their hope is in what they can physically control. They are blind, and their using their wealth to comfort themselves. We as disciples of Jesus must show grace to these people. We must show them the assurance we have in Jesus. We must show them the path to him, and not block them along the way.
That brings us to our second conclusion, it’s only when we get past our own personal biases, that we get to rejoice in the work of God which is the salvation of people. The crowd rejoiced with the blind man receiving back his sight, but when salvation came to Zacchaeus, no one but Jesus was rejoicing. The bias towards the tax collector was too much for the people to overcome, and though someone had his physical problem fixed, what greater work is it when a person passes from eternal death to eternal life?
Yet the crowd was not able to rejoice in this. But we can, when we give up our biases, we get to rejoice in God’s work.
My challenge this week is two fold, first, pray for the people that you would rather not. Someone who has hurt you, or hurt your family, or is being an idiot during this time. Pray for them, that God would help you show them Jesus, and that you wouldn’t stand in God’s way in reaching them for eternity.
The second part is to reach out to a person who seems to be struggling with what’s happening in our society right now. Ask them what you could do to help. Develop a relationship with them through this, that shows them your assurance in Christ. That through this, you can face the unknown of what’s happening because you know the One who holds it altogether.
The last two aspects of the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church is to locate and meet the needs of people, all the while pointing them back to the life Jesus has for them. Let us be a people this week who do just that. Locating and meeting needs, and pointing people back to Jesus’ life. Amen.