Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Zacchaeus and Saul – A Tale of Two Callings’
© January 26, 2020, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on August 21, 2016
Announcements and Call to Worship of Prayer; Prayer
Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Responsive Reading #662: (Freedom from Sin – Romans 5 and 6)
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Zacchaeus and Saul – A Tale of Two Callings’
Let us pray…
For today’s lesson, I would like to examine the similarities and differences between the accounts in the Scriptures of two individuals, Zacchaeus and Saul, who were called by the Lord.
Our first account, about the conversion of a tax collector named Zacchaeus, is found in Luke 19:1-10.
Luke 19:1-10 (ESV): Jesus and Zacchaeus
19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
In the above passage, Zacchaeus finds salvation through Jesus, and Christ acknowledges that he came to seek and save sinners, whom he calls “the lost.” Another example of Christ seeking to save a sinner is the account of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, which we see described in Acts 22:6-21.
Acts 22:6-21 (ESV): Paul’s Testimony
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding
Zacchaeus and Saul worked as tax collectors and a persecutor of Christians, respectively. Zacchaeus was called by Jesus before the Lord was crucified on the cross.
By contrast, Saul was called by the Lord, after Jesus had ascended to heaven, following the Lord’s resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And Saul, now known as Paul, not only received salvation from the Lord, he was baptized in the Spirit of God.
It is interesting to observe, before being called by Jesus, though both Zacchaeus and Saul had occupations where they had a commission or contract with the government of Rome, there was a difference in how each lived his faith while doing what was considered by many to do a despicable job.
Though working to collect taxes for the state, Zacchaeus continued to practice his faith in his work by giving half of his salary to the poor. That is five times the traditional 10% prescribed in the Scriptures in Numbers18:25-28.
As a restoration, Zacchaeus indicated that he would pay fourfold the amount of any monies he has cheated from others. This is greater than the penalties prescribed in the Roman Law as lex talionis, a principle or law of retaliation that a punishment inflicted should correspond in degree and kind to the offense of the wrongdoer, as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; retributive justice.
Zacchaeus chose to follow Biblical principles again over traditional equivalent amounts described in Exodus 22:1, 4, 9, Proverbs 6:30-31, and Luke 19:8. If remorseful, the thief must restore what is stolen plus a fifth more. If the thief is caught with the goods on him, he must restore double. If he has already disposed of the goods or tried to conceal the offence, he must restore four or fivefold.
Jesus saw that Zacchaeus sought to follow God in his dealings with others. Because he was short in stature, Zacchaeus had climbed a tree to get a better vantage point to glimpse the Lord. It was from this perch that Jesus had invited Zacchaeus to join him.
In contrast to Zacchaeus, Saul of Tarsus, had letters of authority to seek out and arrest those whom he identified as practitioners of the Christian faith or the Way of Christ. Those arrested were subject to beatings, imprisonment, and as in the case of Stephen, death. By his own testimony, Paul had his wicked and cruel activities intervened by Jesus on the road to Damascus, in which the Lord had struck Saul blind, forcing him to face his sins against God and against believers in the Lord. Jesus indicated that Saul would be healed, but that Saul needed to confess his sins and seek the baptism of purification, as Jesus had a new appointment for him as an apostle or messenger of the gospel of Christ. And having been baptized, Saul was to adopt a new Christian name, Paul.
We also find a contrast between the meanings of the names of Zacchaeus and Saul.
The name Zacchaeus can be considered either an Aramaic or a Hebrew name. In Aramaic, the meaning of the name Zacchaeus is: Pure. In Hebrew, the meaning of the name Zacchaeus is: Clean; pure.
Like his namesake, Zacchaeus’ faith practices were pure in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus had no qualms in offering Zacchaeus salvation. Saul, on the other hand, had to be humbled by blindness, being forced to confront his offenses against God and his sins against his fellow brothers and sisters. It is interesting to note that
The name Saul is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew, the meaning of the name Saul is: Asked for; inquired of God. The first king of Israel was named Saul, and the Hebrew name of the Apostle Paul.
Saul – From the Hebrew name שָׁאוּל (Sha’ul) meaning “asked for, prayed for”. This was the name of the first king of Israel, as told in the Old Testament. Before the end of his reign, he lost favour with God, and after a defeat by the Philistines, he was succeeded by David as king. In the New Testament, Saul was the original Hebrew name of the apostle Paul.
From the Roman family name Paulus, this meant “small” or “humble” in Latin. Paul was an important leader of the early Christian church. According to Acts in the New Testament, he was a Jewish Roman citizen who converted to Christianity after the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.
Following his conversion, Saul of Tarsus, who bore the same name as the first king of Israel would adopt the moniker Paul, which means “small” or “humble”, which is exactly the manner in which we are to share the gospel of the Lord, not as lordly kings, but as humble servants of God.
The Holy Spirit provided Paul, and other believers baptized in the Spirit, with the means of sharing the Gospel of Christ and defending the faith from those who oppose or reject the Word of God.
In his letter to Timothy, (1 Timothy 1:12-20), Paul explains why God chose to demonstrate the power and perfection of His love grace at work in his own life, as proof and testimony to other sinners.
1 Timothy 1:12-20 (ESV): Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[a] Amen.
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Footnotes: a. 1 Timothy 1:17 Greek to the ages of ages
Paul’s conversion, from a life of sin to an Apostle of Christ, is significant because it impacts an individual, but how the Spirit empowers a believer to minister to an Empire and plant seeds of faith that impact the world. Here is a Wiki bits biopic of the Apostle Paul, courtesy of about.com.
Get to Know the Apostle Paul, Once Saul of Tarsus
(From: christianity.about.com – Updated August 08, 2016)
The Apostle Paul, who started as one of Christianity’s most zealous enemies, was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to become the gospel’s most ardent messenger. Paul traveled tirelessly through the ancient world, taking the message of salvation to the Gentiles. Paul towers as one of the all-time giants of Christianity.
Apostle Paul’s Accomplishments
When Saul of Tarsus, who was later renamed Paul, saw the resurrected Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, Saul converted to Christianity. He made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians.
Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them. While he was proud of his Jewish heritage, Paul saw that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #484: Pass it On
Benediction – (2 Peter 1:2-3):
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.