Title: 活出關懷的人生(Live out of Caring Life)
Speaker: Rev. David Lai
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
1. Since 1991, I served as the CEO of the Bible Society in Taiwan for 19 years. During this period I visited China 22 times.
2. Every time, I visited the Three-self Patriotic Church in China, I always discussed with the Chinese Christians, on their main reasons for believing in Jesus Christ. The church in China grew rapidly because of reaching out to others with care and love.
(I) The story when Jesus arrived at the city of Jericho (/ˈdʒɛrɪkoʊ/)
1. The main characteristics of the City of Jericho
Jericho is a plain surrounded by a kind of mountainous country, which in a way, slopes toward it like a theatre. Here is the Phoenicon, which is mixed also with all kinds of cultivated and fruitful trees, though it consists mostly of palm trees. Here also are the Palace and the Balsam Park.” Copious springs in and around the city have attracted human habitation for thousands of years. Jericho is described in the Hebrew Bible as the “City of Palm Trees”. It spreads out on the west side of the Jordan River at 825 feet below sea level.
The Christian Gospels state that Jesus of Nazareth passed through Jericho where he healed one (Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35) or two (Matthew 20:29) blind beggars, and inspired a local chief tax-collector named Zacchaeus to repent of his dishonest practices. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho is the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan. John Wesley, in his New Testament Notes on this section of Luke’s Gospel, claimed that “about twelve thousand priests dwelt there, who all attended the service of the temple”
2. The background of today’s bible vesrses
The Roman Empire appointed tax collectors for it territory to whomever gave the highest bid of tax collection for the government. The tax collectors were considered as tractors.
(II) Jesus’ attitude toward the Chief Tax Collector Zacchaeus (za-ke’-us) (“pure”, “innocent”)
1. Because of the caring of Jesus, it led to repentance and the complete change of Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus (Greek: Ζακχαῖος, Zakchaios; Hebrew: זכי, “pure”, “innocent”) was a chief tax-collector at Jericho, mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke. A descendant of Abraham, he was an example of Jesus’ personal, earthly mission to bring salvation to the lost. Tax collectors were despised as traitors, and as being corrupt.
Because the lucrative production and export of balsam (ˈbôlsəm) was centered in Jericho, his position would have carried both importance and wealth. In the account, he arrived before the crowd who were later to meet with Jesus, who was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Described as a short man, Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore (‘sɪkəmɔː) (“fig-mulberry” tree) so that he might be able to see Jesus. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up into the branches, addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house. The crowd was shocked that Jesus, a religious teacher/prophet, would sully himself by being a guest of a tax collector. Zacchaeus was one of the most hated men in all of Jericho. He was a thief and a cheat! He was the chief tax collector and he had become very rich because he cheated people by collecting more taxes than they owed and keeping it for himself. The people could not believe that Jesus would go to the home of a man like that!
Zacchaeus knew that he had cheated people and when he and Jesus arrived at his house, he confessed and said that he was sorry for what he had done. He said to Jesus, “I am going to give half of all that I own to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Because Zacchaeus was sorry for what he had done and confessed his sin, Jesus forgave him and said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeu met Jesus and his life was changed.
2. The teaching from Apostle Paul written in Philippians 2:4-5
2:4 Not looking everyone to his private good, but keeping in mind the things of others.
2:5 Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.
(III) The paradox of story of the “Beggar” written by the famous Russia writer Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy struggled with the inequities of wealth and poverty. One day as he walked down the street, Tolstoy passed a beggar. Reaching into his pocket to give the beggar money, he found that his pocket was empty. Looking at the poor man, Tolstoy said, “I’m sorry, my brother, I have nothing to give.” To his surprise, the beggar brightened. He said, “You gave me more than I asked for . . . you called me brother.”
Though he lacked the means to restore a man’s finances, Leo Tolstoy had the heart to restore his dignity. Every day, without a single dime, we, too, can make dramatic deposits into impoverished lives . . . in the high calling of our daily work.
A church with members living out of caring life will be a growing church honoring our Lord.