What if Jesus came to your house? What would you think? What would he see?
What would he experience? Would you be ready for him or welcome him with open arms
or would you be embarrassed by some of the things that he might find? Those are good
questions. What if Jesus came to your house?
Once upon a time, when Jesus was walking through Jericho, he encountered a little
man named Zaccheaus. When I say little, I mean little. I suppose the right politically
correct might be elevationally challenged.
But what he lacked in stature, he made up for in money. That’s because he was a
tax collector. Tax collectors have never been the most popular people on earth. No one is
really thrilled at anyone else who is legally able to take of your hard earned cash even if
they do represent the government. But in Zacchaeus’ day it was far worse. That’s because
the ability to collect taxes was contracted out to the highest bidder. It wasn’t like today
where we have fixed income tax rates and a fixed HST. Rome asked for tenders. The one
who said that he would give Rome the most taxes was the one who got the contract. After
that, Rome didn’t care how the tax collector got the money as long as he paid up to Rome
what he said he’d pay.
What that meant is that the money that the tax collector collected from the people,
bore little relationship to what he sent to Rome. Say, for example, that the tax collector
told Rome that he would forward $10 per person in taxes. That would be what he owed
Rome. That did not mean, however, that he collected $10 per person. He could collect
$12 or $15 or even $20 per person. Everything over $10 was his profit and Rome didn’t
give a fig as long as they got their money. The result, of course, is that Zacchaeus is very
ZACCAEUS MEETS JESUS
With that introduction, let’s find out what happens reading from Luke 19:1-4
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.
Look what happens. Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is going through Jericho and
decides that he wants to see this new prophet from Galilee. Knowing he is short, he
climbs a tree and waits for Jesus to pass by.
But why is Zacchaeus doing this? Clearly Jesus has something that he needs. There
is something missing in his life and he hopes that perhaps Jesus can supply it.
Undoubtedly has heard about Jesus and the things that he is doing around the
countryside. And something about the stories that he hears touches a nerve.
Listen to what happens next. It says in Luke 19:5-6 (NIV):
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus,
come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came
down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Jesus sees Zaccheaus and invites himself to Zaccheaus’ house. I find it interesting
that there must have been thousands of people lining the streets that day to see Jesus.
There were undoubtedly many other people besides Zacchaeus hanging in the trees. Jesus
could have picked out any of them but he didn’t. Instead he got to the place where
Zacchaeus was, looked up in the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I
must stay at your house today.”
CLEAN HOUSE OR CLEAN HEART?
I think it is interesting that it is Jesus who initiates the conversation. All Zacchaeus
expects to do is climb the tree and watch Jesus walk by. I doubt that it ever occurred to
him that he would be able to talk with Jesus. And Zacchaeus certainly doesn’t expect to
take him home for supper. But that’s what happens.
But is Zacchaeus ready for this? Look at his life. Listen to how the people
described him. In Luke 19:7 (NIV) it says, “All the people saw this and began to mutter,
‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’” When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing.
Jesus not only initiates a conversation with someone whom everyone considers to be a
sinner, he also invites himself to dinner.
The reason why everyone else questions Jesus’ decision to dine with a tax collector
is because they all think that Zacchaeus is not worthy to have Jesus go to his house. He is,
after all, a sinner. He does things that aren’t right. As a tax collector he cheats the people.
He swindles their money. His efforts support the oppressive Roman authorities.
But what does Jesus say? He says this Matthew 9:12-13 (NIV):
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 1But go and learn what
this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the
righteous, but sinners.
Basically, Jesus says that Zaccheaus is exactly the kind of person he wants to see. He
doesn’t need to see the ones who think they are so good and self-righteous. He can’t do
much with people who have that attitude. He wants to see the ones who know they are
sinners. He wants to see the doubters. He wants to see the people who have questions
about their faith, the kind of people who put their togas on one sleeve at a time. There
were lots of people like that around in Jesus’ day, just as there are lots of people like that
Zacchaeus is a sick person. He is a sinner and he knows it. That’s why he wants to
see Jesus. That’s why he climbs the tree in the first place. He feels the need for Christ in
his life and he goes and seeks him out. Jesus sees him. Jesus sees his honest need. And
Jesus invites himself over for dinner. Wow! There is a lot going on in this story.
One of the really big mistakes that many Christians make is thinking that they need
to get their houses cleaned up and in good order before inviting Jesus in. That is so
wrong. Do you know something? There is not a house anywhere in the world that is good
enough to receive for Jesus. They all have their problems. They all have their clutter.
They all have their murky dark corners where we hide things that we hope no one else
sees. They all have their dirty little secrets and there are skeletons in every closet. If you
think you’re any different, I can tell you that you’re not. And if you think that the person
beside you is any different, I can assure you that they are just as guilty as you are.
We don’t have to clean the cupboards before inviting Jesus over. We don’t have to
wash the bathtub or scour the toilets. We don’t have to pull the weeds out of the garden
or chase those skeletons out of the closets. There are two reasons. First, Jesus already
knows your problems. There is not an issue in your house that he doesn’t know about.
He’s seen all your dirty laundry and all the dust bunnies under the bed. Those secret
things that you’ve hid away; you might be able to hide them from a lot of people but you
can’t hide them from him.
Don’t forget that he knows the number of hairs on your head and he knows the
number of days of your life. He knew it before you were born. So what makes you think
that you can hide one single, solitary, itty-bitty thing from his ever present omniscient
eyes? You can’t so stop trying. You can’t hide from Jesus what he already knows.
The second reason why you don’t have to worry about cleaning your house before
inviting Jesus in is because he couldn’t give two hoots about what your house looks like.
He doesn’t care if the beds are made or the dishes are washed. You could have four
generations of dust bunnies complete with names and passports under your China cabinet
and he couldn’t care less.
God is not the least bit concerned about the cleanliness of your house. What he’s
really concerned about is the cleanliness of your heart and the state of your soul. That’s
because our homes and all other worldly possessions are like dust. In the greater scheme
of things, they are transitory. You have them for a while and then you get rid of them
because they break or they wear out or they go out of style. And even if they last for a
hundred years, you will not and when you go to the grave, you’ll leave them behind.
That’s because you really can’t take it with you.
But your soul is eternal. It last forever. So how clean is it? Is your soul in order or
is it a mess? That’s an important question because it has eternal consequences. Jesus isn’t
the least bit concerned about the cleanliness of your house. But he’s concerned about the
openness of your heart.
A LIFE IS CHANGED
One key factor about Zacchaeus is that he has an open heart. He recognizes that he
has a need and that his need can only be filled by Jesus. So, he climbs a tree beside the
road where Jesus is expected to travel. When Jesus comes to that place, he calls him by
name and invites himself to dinner. Is Zacchaeus’ house ready for Jesus? No, it is still full
of sin and greed and deceit. But Jesus sees in the little tax collector a man who knows
that he has a need. He knows that he cannot save himself and he hopes that Jesus can.
Is Zacchaeus’ heart changed? Look at the rest of the story. In Luke 19:8 (NIV):
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.”
Does Zaccheaus have a need? Yes, he knows that he is a sinner. Is his heart open?
Of course, it is. How do we know? We know because of how his encounter with Jesus
changes his life. That change is dramatic. He takes his wealth and gives it back to those
from whom he took it. He agrees to give half of his property to the poor. And if he has
ever cheated anyone, he agrees to repay them four times what he has taken. That’s a lot
of cash! Zaccheaus has cheated everyone. His financial affairs are about to take a
nosedive. But that’s what he has to do to unburden the weight of his sin from his heart.
No one tells him to do that. Jesus doesn’t demand it. He doesn’t even suggest it.
But God somehow speaks to Zacchaeus’ and something is stirred in his heart and he
decides that he can no longer live like he has been. He chooses to live differently, not
according to what the world tells him he should do but by the strength and guidance of
the Holy Spirit.
Conversion is a concept with which we should all be familiar. We understand that
people convert to Christianity. No one is born a Christian. We become Christians through
giving our lives to Christ and receiving him as our Saviour. We convert from the ways of
the world to the ways of Jesus. Conversion, however, isn’t just about saying the right
things. It’s not about magic words that lead to salvation. True conversion means that
someone’s life is now going in a very new and very different direction. In James 2:17
(NIV) we read those famous words that say, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead.” What this means is that real faith will show itself in a
changed life. And if a life isn’t changed, we have to question whether or not the faith is
real. Faith leads to action.
Isn’t that what happens with Zacchaeus? One day he is a traitor and swindler of his
own people. The next day, after meeting Jesus, he promises to give virtually all of his
wealth away and repay anything he had stolen. That, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a huge
difference. That’s what happens when Jesus goes to his house.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
What about you? What will have to change in your life if Jesus decides that he is
going to knock on your door this evening? What will he find that you know he won’t like.
Are there things of which he will disapprove? Are there areas of your life that you still
haven’t given over to him? Sure there are. There are for all of us. That’s because none of
us is perfect. There are still spiritual dust bunnies under our beds. There are still skeletons
in our closets. I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian. Maybe you received Christ
forty years ago. Or maybe it was just last week. It doesn’t matter because none of us is
yet perfect. All of us are still on the road. We’re just on different places along the road to
Are your words important? Yes, they are. It is important to declare your faith
before the Church. Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) says: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus
is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The verbal stuff is important. It is the audible witness of our faith. But if it doesn’t
change our hearts and change our lives, we have to wonder what kind of a faith it really
The bottom line is this: Our values and beliefs are not shown but what we think,
feel, say or intend. The are only truly indicated by what we actually do. We all know that
talk is cheap but actions speak far louder than words. But enough of the cliches. You get
It comes back to this: If Jesus came to your house, what would you have to do to
make things right? I’m not asking you what you would say or think or feel. I want to
know what you would actually do. Is there something in your house that doesn’t belong
to an authentic Christian life? Do you have too many things and need to give some of
them away to other people who might actually use them? Do you act inappropriately with
other people, in ways that make it difficult to distinguish you as a Christ follower from
anyone else in the world? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to seek
forgiveness? Are you holding on to a past grudge or hurt that you just can’t seem to
shake? Maybe you don’t want to shake it but you know in your heart that you should. If
Jesus came to your house, what would he find and what would you have to do to clean it
up? Those are good questions.
I want to close by reminding us of the very last thing that Jesus said in this story. In
Luke 19:9-10 (NIV) Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come in this house, because
this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what
Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Do you get the significance
of that comment? Did you happen to notice who else came? Jesus came. In this verse, we
have yet another example of Jesus confirming that he truly is the Christ who came to save
the world. When Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house, salvation went as well because Jesus is
salvation. He is the only way to salvation. He is the only one who can lead us back to our
Heavenly Father. By his sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, he made it possible. And by
putting our faith in him as Zacchaeus did, we are made right with God and given the
salvation that Jesus offers to all who put their faith and hope in him.
Think about this. This evening after supper as you are sitting down reading a book
or watching TV, there is a knock at the door. You go to answer it. You open the door and
it is Jesus. What will he find? Think about it.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Gracious God, we give you thanks for your many blessings. We praise you, as we
approach All Hallows Eve tomorrow and All Saints Day on Monday. Thank you for all of
the faithful people who have gone before us. Thank you for their persistence, for their
sacrifice and for their care in sharing the Good News of Jesus with succeeding
generations right down to our own time and place. As they have been faithful, enable us
to be faithful so that, in years to come, our children may thank us for shining the light of
Christ into their lives. Thank you.
Encourage us to be as faithful. Enable us to put our faith in Jesus and not in the
transparent and fleeting things of this world. Thank you.
In the midst of thanks, we are also aware of a world that is in desperate despair.
Your light is needed, O God, in places like Ukraine, Russia, China and Iran. Be
especially with our Canadian military personnel around the world as they struggle to
bring peace and justice to troubled regions. God, hear our prayers.
We pray for the Church. Too often, we have hidden your light under a barrel. Too
often we have neglected to do what you have called us to do. Give us the courage, God of
Grace, to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ so that they may know in
whom they have their salvation. Enable us to share the Good News openly, honestly and
with sensitivity and respect for others. God, hear our prayers.
We pray also for the new Town Council that was elected this week. Give them
guidance and courage to do their best for the people of this community.
We lift up in prayer the saints who are sick at home or in hospital remembering
especially Carol, Mark, Ron and Rachel. Bless them, God of Life, with your Healing
Touch. God, hear our prayers.
Shine upon us, O God, and bring us peace. Heal our wounds. Mend our
brokenness. Comfort us in our times of distress. God of Light, hear our prayers and all of
the prayers of the Saints. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
October 30, 2022 / Pentecost 21 / Proper 26
Psalm 119:137-144; Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Luke 19:1-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come as saints and disciples of Christ;
to praise God for our gifts and our new life in Christ.
We come as saints and disciples of Christ;
to seek the transforming power of God’s Spirit.
We come as saints and disciples of Christ;
to worship the God of heaven and earth, our God forevermore.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of all Creation, we come before you, remembering with thanks all of those saints who have gone
before us. We praise you for all of the faithful who a living now and bearing witness to your Saving
Word. We are humbled by the greatness of others and by your great call and commission to us. As we
worship grant us the courage and wisdom that will enable us to be your faithful servants of the Gospel in
our time. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We are inspired by the saints who have gone before us but we confess that we do not easily see
ourselves in their company. We hide from your sanctifying call to be the best that we can be. We hang
on to our worries, possessions and old habits. We are timid to share the saving Gospel of Christ and the
message of the Cross. We are so concerned about offending others that we neglect to share the truth that
we have been given. Forgive us for we are truly sorry and humble repent.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Hear the Good News! When we humbly repent, God forgives. God helps us to begin anew and inspires
us to be the best that we can be. Thanks and praise be to God!
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
As surely as you have blessed us, O God, so are we called to bless others with our gifts. Bless us with
the courage and generosity to give freely from what you have given to us. Amen.
Glory be to God who give us life, shows us how to love, and fills us with dreams. Go in the name of
Jesus to dance with the Spirit wherever you may go