by Jose R. Hernandez on Jul 11, 2007
One thing that oftentimes stops the spiritual growth, and stops the walk of many believers is the opposition that we encounter in this world. This is especially true when we receive a calling from the Lord. But, what is an opposition? An opposition is everything that looks to distance us from God’s presence. An opposition is all that seeks to stop God’s purpose in the life of a believer, and seeks to make us loose sight of the one that we can not loose sight of and His name is Jesus. But unfortunately there are many that are separated from God by the oppositions that arise in our daily life. This is why it is not uncommon to see how there are people within the church that have received spiritual gifts, but they chose not to use them. This is why it is not uncommon to see how there are many, that having felt God’s presence in their life and having experimented His love, grace, and mercy, allow the oppositions of this world to stop them from reaching a deeper relationship with God. This is why it is not uncommon to see how many have distanced themselves, that is to say, they no longer attend church, and others that although they attend service after service, their heart is very far from God. This is why today I want us to study about a small character in the bible, that although confronted with great oppositions, he did not allow anything to stop him from reaching the Lord. Let’s now turn to the word of God.
Luke 19:1-10 – Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 8Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
As I always say, to obtain a better understanding of the message that the Lord has for us today, it will be necessary to conduct a brief review in history. What transpired here in these verses took place during the time that the Roman Empire ruled this region, and this city was simply one of the many that it controlled. Needless to say, the Jewish people saw the empire as a military occupying force, and they all though that paying taxes or tributes to the empire constituted an act of treason to God. Another thing that we must also know is the method that the empire employed to collect the taxes. What the roman governors use to do was to hire the local people, that is to say, people that lived in that town or area, so that they would be the ones to perform this job. The interesting thing about all of this is that law that governed this activity. According to the Roman law, the “tax collector” would pay the empire the demanded figure before it was collected, and in appreciation, the empire would authorize that person to collect the taxes in the different areas. Not only this, the tax collector was completely authorized to make a profit from this action. In other words, if it was determined that someone owed the empire ten dollars, the tax collector could demand fifteen from that person, and the person would have to pay it, or face the heavy arm of the roman empire for violating one of its law. It is needles to say that this law was very conducive to corruption, and that the majority of all tax collectors if not all were corrupt men that abused the people. And due to the abuse and great corruption that existed, these men were very hated by all. This feeling is something that is very well insinuated in Mark 2:16 when we read “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” Keeping these brief details in mind, let’s now continue with our study today.
Continuing with our study we read “Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.” These verses contain two very important details. Number one is the title that this man had; the Word tells us that he was “the chief tax collector.” Number two is the physical description of this man; the Word tells us that “he was of short stature.” Let’s examine these two details to determine if they are as important as I say.
The title; “chief tax collector.” If we examine this title from a modern perspective, I think that we will all reach the conclusion that it does not have much meaning. We would reach this conclusion because the truth of it all is that there is a very big difference between the tax collectors of that era, and the tax collectors of today. Today we have a very professional organization, full of very educated men and women in the field of accounting and law. We are talking about very honest people that guide their behavior and performance based strictly in the established laws. But as we have seen, in Zacchaeus’ time things were very different. Although it is true that the tax collectors of our times are not very popular, in that era the tax collectors were not only unpopular, they were absolutely hated. Thus, his title reveals to us that he was a person very much hated by the people, but there is something another detail here that we must also note. This man’s title was “chief tax collector,” something that indicates that he exerted authority over a group of tax collectors. This title lets us know that he was a man of influence and power. Therefore from the title we can establish two things; first, we can establish that Zacchaeus was hated by all of those that surrounded him; second, we can establish that he exerted some type of influence with the government, something that without a doubt would cause him to have great pride. I say that it caused him to have great pride because he had obtained a position that no other person had ever reached; I say this because the title “chief tax collector” only appears once in the bible, and it is only in connection to Zacchaeus.
His physical description; “he was of short stature.” Why do we need to note this? This is important to note because knowing how things worked back then, and knowing that this man was someone that was despised and hated by the people, we can safely assume that no one in that crowd that gathered to see the Lord would allow Zacchaeus to move to the front so that he would be able to see Him. There was no one present that would step to the side to allow him to go forward. Furthermore, this man was taking a big chance. I say that he was taking a big chance because he was despised and heated by the people, and as we all know, very bad things can occur within a large crowd. Since everyone is so distracted in seeing what is going on, or so involved in making their way to the spectacle, no one is really paying too much attention to what is going on around them. This provides the opportunity for some one with bad intention to act, and not be caught or seen. In other words, so one in the crowd could have stabbed this man and kept on walking, and no one would have been able to identify the culprit. Therefore, from his physical description we can determine two things; one, we can determine that there was a great impediment that would stop him from seeing Jesus, his size; and two, getting to see Jesus was actually something very dangerous for him.
So, here we see that Jesus was walking by this place, and when the people heard that He was coming, they all came out to see Him. The reason for this was that His reputation preceded Him, and everyone wanted to see this man that they had heard performed miracles and signs. Zacchaeus was no different to any one there. He was also curious to see this man who some were calling the Messiah, but since he was small in stature, he know that he would never be able to see Him because the crowd would not allow him to move up to the front. And this is why we read “So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.” Brethren and here is where our lesson begins. I say this because the oppositions that surrounded this man were huge; I am talking about all of the bad sentiments that existed against him by these people; I am talking about the pride of his position or prestige; and I am talking about his physical size and the danger that it implied. But regardless of all of these things, he would not allow anything to get in the way of seeing Jesus.
Unfortunately, these same oppositions stop many from seeking a closer relationship with God. This is why it is not uncommon to see how there are many with great spiritual gifts, but that they do not use them. Because they are not looking to develop a closer relationship with God, we see how many allow their relationship with Him to grow cold, and coming to church or doing something else all in the same. In other words, the oppositions like the pride and vanity of this life; what people can think or say about us; what we may loose due to a complete change in lifestyle; have accomplished their purpose and have caused a division between many and God. But if when you examine your life you find that this has happened, is happening, or is about to happen, I say to you run to seek Him out. Seek Him with all of your heart and you will find Him without fail. It is as the word tells us in Deuteronomy 4:29 when we read “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” And what the Lord tells us in Matthew 7:7-8 when we read “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” God wants to open His door to us today, but it is our responsibility to seek a closer relationship with Him. I say to you today, seek more of God because the reality of it all is that the world can not offer you anything of value. The things that this world have to offer will never satisfy that emptiness that you now feel, the things that this world have to offer will never satisfy that thirst. There is only one that is capable of accomplishing all of this, and Jesus is his name.
The fact that we are here indicates that we are seeking God’s face, but to find Him we must seek Him with all of our heart, and once we find Him, then it will be as when we read here “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” Let’s imagine this, there was large crowd gathered to see Him, but of all of the people that were there, Jesus recognized this man by name. From the scriptures we learn that Zacchaeus had never seen Jesus, therefore we can safely assume that Jesus had never seen Zacchaeus as well. But Jesus knew him by name. Tell the person next to you, Jesus knew Zacchaeus. Equally Jesus knows all of us individually. Look carefully at how the Lord tells us in John 10:14 when we read “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” Tell the person next to you, Jesus knows you. From within all of the millions of inhabitants of this earth, Jesus has recognized us individually and just like in Zacchaeus case, He wishes to dwell in our heart. Just like in Zacchaeus case, Christ has called us all by name. He has chosen us, has taken us out of the filth where we once roamed, has cleansed us of all sins and has given us eternal life. We are His sheep, we have heard His voice, and we follow Him. But if we are not trying to know Him better, if we are not conquering the oppositions, then it will not be difficult for the enemy to confuse us. I say this because if we do not take the time to listen to His voice, if we do not take the time to develop a closer relationship with Him and get to know the Father’s will with our life, then we will not be able to discern that which is from God, from that which is from the enemy. If we don’t pay close attention, if we do not develop a personal relationship with Christ, it will be very easy for the enemy to interrupt or destroy all together God’s plans for our life. Look at how this is very well reflected in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 when we read “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” These verses here clearly tell us that if we are not careful, that if we do not take the time to know Him, then we will be deceived.
In conclusion. A large percentage of believers allow the oppositions and the attacks from the enemy to influence their relationship with God. They allow the things of this world, things that are not lasting, to separate them from God’s blessings. We can’t allow anything to separate us from God’s presence and His blessings. We can’t allow the oppositions to detour us developing a closer relationship with Him. In Zacchaeus case we see that Jesus recognized him, we see that Christ scrutinized his heart and saw the genuine wish that he had to meet Him. Jesus’ love caused a great change in the life of this man, and it is more than capable to cause a great change in your life today.
Look carefully at these last details in our study today when we read: “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” Christ’s love gave him conviction of his errors, faults and sins, and led him to a genuine repentance. In an instant, this much despised and hated man, in an instant, this corrupt and abusive man was transformed by God’s love. This same love is present right here, right now. This same love is within the reach of all that would seek it at this moment. Listen well for the Lord tells us “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Don’t allow the oppositions of this world to interrupt your relationship with God.
The Reason for Defeat, Joshua 7 – Pastor Chuck Smith – Topical Bible Study