(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Randy Frazee entitled, “BELIEVE.”
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
Luke 19:1-10 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.”
Go back and reread this account of Zacchaeus. Note any phrases that are “identity” statements.
What did you come up with? Here’s what I noticed:
- “his name was Zacchaeus;” Names are key part of our identity. They are a short cut to summarize all we are and do and also is a short cut for others to refer to us.
- He was a tax collector – His identity is around what his career was (He is a doctor; police officer; teacher etc.)
- He was wealthy – His identity was built around his social status and setting.
- He was short – His identity was formed by his frame and stature.
- He is a sinner – His identity was marked by his sins and his spiritual status.
This is an interesting list. Notice many of these are OTHERS identifiers of Zacchaeus. Others identified him as a short, wealthy, sinful, tax collector. Do we not also allow these things to form our identity? Or buy into what others say about our identity?
Who people think we are? Our career or what we do? Our social status? Our physical stature? Our spiritual guilt?
I know I can allow these to be primary identity markers. But they are all based on external circumstances or perhaps activity we engage in.
Notice what changes when Jesus interacts with Zacchaeus.
How did Jesus identify Zacchaeus?
- A Son of Abraham
- Lost but found salvation.
It’s ironic that “Zacchaeus” means “innocent or pure.” His life didn’t measure up to his name. I read this on a post on PsychologyToday:
When people misrepresent themselves or present themselves in out-of-character ways to impress an audience, the behavior is unnatural and exhausting. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201412/basics-identity)
Imagine every time Zacchaeus cheated someone, he acted contrary to the name he was given. Every time he took advantage of a situation for his selfish purposes, his identity conflicted.
Jesus changed that.
“Today salvation has come to this house.”
Jesus changed the heart of Zacchaeus to match his name. As a son of Abraham, not just by blood, but by faith, Jesus recognized he believed in the coming Messiah and realized Jesus was the one promised. His status changed from “sinner” to “saint” on that very day. He was spiritually lost, now spiritually found.
Jesus did not see a short, wealthy, sinful, tax collector. He saw a child of God that mattered to him and to his Father. He took the time to make sure Zacchaeus saw that about himself too.
And as a bonus he got to see Zacchaeus live out his new identity:
“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.”
Enjoy living in the identity Christ gives you: You are…a redeemed, gifted, child of God! That is who God has made you! (Don’t let anyone tell you different! J )