Four week series titled The Stories of Your Life with key stories of the people surrounding Christ’s passion.
We’re calling the series “The Stories of Your Life” because we believe they are Passion-week stories that impact you today.
The purpose of this series is to challenge us to learn from these stories and apply this knowledge to our lives.
Their mistakes, strengths and perspectives can teach us much in 2023. IF we are teachable!
Today we’re going to focus on a story that may be a little unusual…It’s the story of a little man who climbed a tree and became world famous because he did.
Today is Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday before Easter and it begins the Holy Week, the Passion of Christ. Christ came to seek and save the lost, including the worst of sinners. Palm Sunday is that very important day in history, when Jesus began His journey towards the cross.
Jesus was on mission, fully knowing what was ahead of Him.
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them,
30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.
31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.
The crowds who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover met Him with palm branches shouting: “Hosanna! (Save Now!) Palm branches were considered symbols of victory and triumph at the time. Days later, the same people of Jerusalem would turn on Jesus and demand of the Romans, ‘Crucify Him!’
We are busy people with stuff going on almost every day of the week.
· Many of you are on the heels of spring break
· Some are returning from the Men’s Retreat
· You may have thoughts about Easter: ‘Who is coming for dinner?’ ‘What am I going to cook for dinner?’ ‘I have to hide the eggs before the children arrive’, and in all of the upcoming thoughts about Easter, the real meaning of it may, even unintentionally, get missed.
From day one, Jesus was on mission.
Jesus the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Jesus is still on mission. Jesus came to seek and to save you and me!
It is important to stop and look more closely at Jesus and the buildup of miracles prior to His entry into Jerusalem.
Jesus and his disciples travel through Jericho which is about a day’s journey from Jerusalem. Two blind men cry out to Jesus, Lord, let our eyes be opened.
Jesus is moved with compassion and He touches their eyes, and the two blind beggars receive their sight. The blind men begin to praise Jesus and also the crowd of people.
There are tremendous crowds around Jesus as He passes through Jericho. Everyone wants to see the one who has healed the blind men.
Now we begin with the story of the man I’ve already referenced: Zacchaeus. The story of Zacchaeus is not so much about “Who” Zacchaeus was but “Who” Jesus is. Jesus is the God of the universe who came down from heaven in human form to connect with us.
19 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.
Zacchaeus was a Jew. He was a traitor to his nation.
He collected money for Rome, and no one liked him.
Think of the politician you despise the most – that’s how people felt about this man.
Zacchaeus was a crook.
Verse 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.
It is likely that people were jeering at Zacchaeus as he was climbing that tree. They surely didn’t want this type of man, a sinner, interrupting their chance to see Jesus.
Zacchaeus was short in stature but he didn’t let his limitations stop him.
Zacchaeus was far from Jesus but he didn’t want to be. He was curious.
He had heard many things about Jesus, that He was the Christ, the Messiah, and the Son of the living God.
For all that was wrong with Zacchaeus – there was something very right about him: He wanted to see Jesus.
Sometimes we need to do our own thing, to break the status quo to meet God.
The crowds were ‘pressing in’. Zacchaeus went vertical.
He climbed a sycamore tree because he was unable to see over the people.
In 2023, breaking the status quo may look like:
1. Saying “No” to something that your friends are doing that isn’t nice.
2. Getting up early to pray when the norm is to sleep in.
3. Tithe to your church when the norm would be to spend it on yourself.
Will you step up or be content with the crowd?
Zacchaeus did what it took to see the Savior.
My question for you today is “What excuses do you make for not seeking Jesus?”
I believe we all feel a tug on our heart to come to God more, but it’s too often suppressed by our excuses:
1. The Bible is overwhelming. I don’t understand it when I read it.
2. My life is too busy to sit down and read the Bible.
3. I rather be doing something that I enjoy.
4. I can’t concentrate on the Bible. I have a thousand things that I am thinking about so I am easily distracted.
Maybe today will be a good day to shine light on your excuses.
What excuses are hindering you from seeing Jesus?
We would never be hearing about the story of Zacchaeus if he chose to wallow in his inability to see Jesus. If you want to know Jesus more do something about it!
I want to be in the tree. And not in the crowd.
Verse 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.
It may not feel like it because we’ve heard the story so many times…
BUT, THIS IS scandalous!
It was very unpopular to be associated to tax collectors.
Jesus didn’t seem to mind that He was getting a reputation for hanging out with sinners.
Jesus shocks the crowd by willingly calling Zacchaeus out, to be a guest in his home at the expense of offending the crowd. Likewise, Jesus expects us to welcome the unwanted and unacceptable.
Will you accept the unlovable into your life like Jesus?
Verse 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
When the people see what is happening, that Jesus is going to be the guest of a man who they view as a sinner, they become furious. They don’t marvel at such grace; they just mutter.
What’s your response when someone deserving of punishment receives mercy instead?
Zacchaeus had become rich by dishonestly extorting their money when collecting taxes. Certainly he didn’t deserve mercy.
Are you complaining about things? The Bible says that the crowd despised Jesus’ acceptance of Zacchaeus. They were so tied up in their own emotion of disgust that they missed the miracle of Jesus transforming the heart of a sinner.
Verse 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.”
After Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, he got down quickly from the tree. He had a response full of joy and great excitement.
Zacchaeus changed his ways and went above and beyond to make things right. That’s the definition of repentance.
With Jesus, Zacchaeus overcame his past.
He became a new person!
Verse 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. (And now Jesus gives us the moral of the Zacchaeus story)
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus does what is “Impossible with man” but “possible with God”.
Zacchaeus was a changed man.
Forgiveness and grace made him immediately generous.
Jesus seeks and saves lost people because they are valuable to Him.
Jesus has no requirements for us before He comes to visit.
If He visited Zacchaeus, He will visit you!
Jon Kelly is living proof that the transformative work of Jesus Christ in the life of an individual can result in a transformed heart and a remarkable life change.
We don’t have to make everything right with all our dealings before letting Him in. He already knows you by name and He desires to be in relationship with you.
Two points from today’s message:
Point One: Jesus loves all people! Including sinners and outcasts.
Ephesians 5:1 says, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”
Likewise, we are to imitate God.
He expects us to welcome the unwanted and unacceptable.
· A mother who is lost in romance novels and is full of lust
· Drug addicts, alcoholics
· The business man who is full of pride and greed and is far from Jesus
· You fill in the name of the person or people who are ‘unwanted’ in your life
Some people might seem like they are beyond hope, but then, Jesus seeks them, and the Gospel changes them.
Lost people are valuable to Jesus.
Therefore, they must be valuable to you and me.
We should remember this is what happened with us before we were believers.
We were lost, Jesus sought us, He found us, and He changed our lives.
Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
Point Two: Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
The Son of Man came to seek and to save you.
When you are far from Jesus, He closes the distance.
Jesus was willing to go to the cross to redeem you back from sin and death.
Likewise, we are to imitate God.
Matthew 28:19-20, is for the church, you and me. We must individually reach out to those who are lost and help them find their way home.
As believers we must be willing to welcome the outcasts, the lost, and all people BECAUSE relationships matter.
1. Ask Jesus to give you opportunities to share the Good News in conversations, even if it terrifies you.
2. Be willing to talk about Jesus, even if we think people won’t listen and may even ridicule us.
Today you have an opportunity to respond. We are going to celebrate Palm Sunday by celebrating Communion together. Some call it the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
You do not have to be a member of the Church of the Nazarene to take communion. What we ask is that you have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Maybe you are thinking “I am like Zacchaeus. I have done awful things in my lifetime.
But, today, I am MORE than curious. I want to come to Jesus.
I want to experience the JOY of the LORD living inside my heart.”
If that is you, then this day and this Holy Communion is exactly for you.
Today, you can ask Jesus to forgive you for the things you have done wrong against Him and against others AND ask Him to come live in your heart.
If that is you, heaven is rejoicing!
Reading from Luke 22: 14-20,
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The Lord himself ordained this holy sacrament. He commanded His disciples to partake of the bread and wine, emblems of His broken body and shed blood. This is His table.
The feast is for His disciples. Let all those who have with true repentance turned from their sins, and have believed in Christ unto salvation, draw near and take these emblems, and, by faith, partake of the life of Jesus Christ, to your soul’s comfort and joy.
Let us remember that it is the memorial of the death and passion of our Lord; also a token of His coming again. Let us not forget that we are one, at one table with the Lord.
You are invited to come forward and partake in the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Church Family: (Raise up the bread) The bread, representing the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was broken for you, may it preserve you blameless, unto everlasting life. Take and eat this, in remembrance that Christ died for you.
(Raise up the cup) The cup, representing the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for you, may it preserve you blameless unto everlasting life. Drink this, in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for you, and be thankful.
May it be, in Jesus Name, Amen.