Overflow - Generosity's Wellspring (Merced) message by Lead Pastor Terry Brisbane. For more information, visit cornerstone-sf.org
We’re going to look at a piece of scripture for the series Overflow. I would encourage you to take notes. I know that not everyone necessarily does this. I believe it helps and I practice this too. Whenever I hear a teaching or come to Lord’s house I take notes. When I was growing up this is certainly true. I always believe that God is going to speak to me in some way through that word. One of the things I started doing early in my Christian life was taking notes. If nothing else, I would try to come away with at least one or two things that I thought God wanted me to be attentive to. Nowadays, we do it on a phone note or use paper. The point is to be able to get something that allows us to be able to have this time of worship. Then we leave and go on with the rest of our day and week. Maybe we were a little bit affected by it. The idea is that we try to commit this time to listen for the Lord’s voice in our lives. We want to learn something. Jot something down that you hear or you feel the Lord might say to you. You need to hear and write this down. You need to think, pray and talk about this a little bit.
Let one or two things that we can sit with for a week be a tremendous point of nourishment and strength for us. I’ve found that there have been times when I’ve come to Lord’s house and I wasn’t expecting it, but I got a word within His Word. That word became a point of spiritual nourishment that helped me. It helped me, sometimes, for a week, sometimes longer than that. Sometimes I’ve come to a service when I’ve been sharing it. As I’ve been preaching, I felt like the Lord was saying, “That’s for you, too. Don’t forget that.” I don’t. I realize that. It’s one of the unique blessings that come from being able to have the privilege of sharing scripture teaching. Oftentimes, the person we most teach is ourselves.
Let’s look at Luke 19 together. It says Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. There was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. We are told two things immediately. Jesus is making His way through Jericho and there’s a man Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is described in two ways. With great brevity by Luke. He was a chief tax collector and he was rich. The two were not a coincidence, I assure you. In Jesus’ day, tax collectors, sometimes they are referred to in scripture as a publican, were someone who collected taxes on behalf of Rome. It meant that a tax collector was one of the most despised people you would come across. Different types of taxes and fees were collected. These were all collected on behalf of a foreign empire that was laying down the law. Rome was taxing them it seemed at every place. There were income, customs, and grain taxes. Rome was a huge engine and it needed to be fueled. The way it was fueled was by the territories that it conquered. They would exact a tax from them. The Jewish people were fiercely independent. Yet they had to submit to Roman rule. They were given a high degree of autonomy. Rome allowed them to have some self-governance within their framework.
They had their religious freedoms and councils. They had the ability to meet out justice, but could not have someone put to death. Putting someone to death was Rome’s prerogative. It explains why later on when Jesus is arrested, He has to be brought before Pilot. Even though He could be sentenced and condemned by the Sanhedrin, He could only be put to death with Roman approval. Hence, Pilot has to sign off on it. The fact of the matter is Rome oppressed the people, but had good given them a lot of freedom. Oftentimes, the people who were responsible for collecting taxes were people who were hired by Rome. They weren’t given a salary in a strict sense. They were given authority. The authority they had was to tax people and to collect those taxes. If they wanted to, they could tax a little bit more for themselves. They extorted people. It was somewhat arbitrary. If you’ve ever had your baggage checked, you can feel intruded upon. At any time a tax collector could pull someone over, say, “We need to check this to make sure you’re paying your custom fees.” They could arbitrarily have you have to pay taxes.
There was a lot of tension between tax collectors and the people. That’s why when they’re referred to, with what would’ve been in their day, as a class of the most immoral of immoral people. They would talk about the prostitutes, publicans, and tax collectors, in the same class. In their mind they were traitors, and active agents on behalf of a foreign empire to extract money. Tax collectors were corrupt on top of it. Not only were they betraying their own people, but they were unjust and criminal. Under the guise of the law, they could do whatever they wanted. It created a tremendous bitterness towards them.
We’re told that Zacchaeus was not just a tax collector. He was a chief tax collector. It meant that not only was he despised like a normal one, but he was also more despised because he oversaw them. Zacchaeus had a lot more power and was a lot more wealthy. It was almost like an organized graft on the system. Zacchaeus was not viewed as a good man. Just keep that in mind. Do you know what’s interesting? If you look at the definition of Zacchaeus’ name, it means pure and clean, which is so ironic. It was the exact opposite of what he ultimately ended up becoming. He was essentially a legal criminal who exploited his people and got wealthy. You could be a wealthy tax collector, but you were an outsider. The people couldn’t get you back, even if they took you to court. The court was always going to be on the side of the tax collector. It was a system that was rigged. Zacchaeus was wealthy, but an outsider. Not all outsiders were poor. He was a pariah. He was someone who had money and whatever friends he could buy. But truly, Zacchaeus probably was a lonely man. He lived his life, although wealthy, with a stigma knowing that he was despised.
In verse three it says Zacchaeus was seeking to see who Jesus was. We’re given some added details here. Because of the crowd, he could not see because he was small in stature. We’re told that he was not a tall man. He was a very small man. Zacchaeus was intrigued and wanted to see Jesus. Perhaps he had heard about Him, His words, or rumors that Jesus was friends sometimes with people like him. At this time, Jesus was kind of a celebrity. When He would go to cities, the crowds would come around Him. It was hard to get near Him. In addition, Jesus had His own entourage of His disciples and other followers who’d attach themselves to Him. When Jesus made His way through a town that hadn’t seen a lot of things, it was big news. There were a lot of rumors about Jesus. He healed people. He said things that nobody else was saying. Some people began to whisper that He was the Messiah. He was the one God promised. There was so much about Jesus that would’ve been intriguing. We’re told Zacchaeus wanted to see Him, but couldn’t get through the crowds. He was small. Try to imagine in your mind’s eye the crowd of people around Jesus, and Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus.
Zacchaeus wants to get close to Him, but can’t do it because he was small. We’re told that he also had some degree of ingenuity because he ran on ahead. He saw where the crowd was going. He climbed up into a Sycamore tree to see Jesus for He was about to pass that way. Zacchaeus determines where Jesus is going to be going, spies down, and sees a Sycamore tree. He climbs up that tree so that he can get the perfect view of the whole thing and see Jesus. That’s the picture we’re given. There are a couple of things here. We talked earlier about Sunday School. I grew up as a boy in Sunday School. Now we call it Children’s Church. I was grateful because I didn’t have to sit in the adult service where I understood nothing. I was able to go to the Sunday School class and I looked forward to that. I would get to do crafts and different things. In my day they didn’t have sets for the kids that they do now, and different things that are way more were interesting. They had flannel boards with little felt cutouts. I would color a lot, too. One of my favorite things to do was to learn about Bible stories. I loved learning about the Bible stories. I had my favorite ones. Every week you’d learn about a different Bible story, a different person that Jesus met, or something He taught, and you got to color. Certain ones stood out in my mind.
The story of Zacchaeus stood out in my mind. I love the idea of little Zacchaeus climbing the sycamore tree to see Jesus and the conversation that ensues. I remember learning a song. I think some of you know the song that I’m talking about. You would’ve had to grow up in a certain kind of little children’s ministry, but if you ever did, they would teach you this little song. The song that they taught me about Zacchaeus was, ‘Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.’ That’s what it said. ‘Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a Sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.’ There was another one too. “As the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree, and said, “Zacchaeus you come down for I’m going to your house today. For I’m going to your house today.” Parents, the seeds you plant when you bring your little ones to church and get them learning the stories, stay. The little songs, they stay. Even when they stray, and sometimes prodigal’s run away, that doesn’t leave. It stays. Zacchaeus was a wee little man.
Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. He was so small and the crowd was so intense, that he had to get creative. So, he spotted that Sycamore tree on the route and decided to climb it. That’s called ingenuity. I came across this really cool picture, which for us is going to double as an eye test. I’ll tell you why. To some of you, that looks like is a tree. There are things in the tree. I remember coming across this, I love this picture. That’s a Sycamore tree. There are men in the tree looking and I think, ‘that’s exactly what it would’ve been like for Zacchaeus in a Sycamore tree.’ He’s climbed up into a tree a lot like that. Maybe there were other people. It doesn’t say. There might have been other people there with him just like this. I love the way that it captures it. The idea that someone would be able to sit on a tree and hang out and look down on the passing crowd and Jesus. I could see Zacchaeus right there. To me, that’s a perfect picture. Okay. So all these years I’ve been saying, “I want to use that picture.” Now I did.
In verse five, when Jesus came to the place of the tree, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus hurried down and received Him joyfully. It was a bit of a surprise. Everybody was a little shocked. They were caught off guard. The people, for sure were, because how could Jesus associate with a man like that? Alone, eat with him? This rogue, this crook, this cold-hearted charlatan? What in the world. A man who’s cheated us all. A vessel of Rome, a pathetic small man in every way. What was Jesus doing with him? That was what was going on. Of course, I tried to think in my head, what was it like for Zacchaeus? He’s caught off guard, as I call it.
I see him in the tree, wanting to look at Jesus. He’s shocked when Jesus stops and says, “Zacchaeus, I know your name. I need you to get off that tree. I want to go to your house. I want to have a meal together.” Zacchaeus, “Me? You want me? Me? Really?” “Yes, yes, absolutely.” I’ve always wanted to do this. I never get to do that at mission ever. They won’t let me do it. There’s no room to do. “Zacchaeus, you come down out of that tree.” he did. The thing about it is Zacchaeus was as surprised as anybody. He’s saying, “Absolutely. Absolutely. It would be such an honor. People like you don’t meet with people like me. Absolutely. Let me get down from this tree.” The other people that were there and the disciples, I think they were caught off guard. Jesus didn’t tip His hand ahead of time and say, “Hey, we’re going to stop. I’m going to see this guy in a tree who nobody likes. Then I’m going to ask him if he could feed all of us.” He didn’t say that to them. They were on their way, stop, and see Jesus having this conversation with a guy in the tree, who nobody seems to like, who’s super excited. The next thing they know, they’re making their way with Jesus, to Zacchaeus’ house for a meal that He invited Himself over to have.
In verse seven it says that when the crowd saw it they all grumbled. They said, “What is he doing? He’s gone in to be the guest of a man who is a known sinner. This is a bad man.” They were unhappy that Jesus would allow such a man to be his host. But that’s exactly what happened. There is a gap in the conversation between verses seven and eight. I don’t know exactly what happened or how much time passed, but between verses seven and eight, somewhere along the way that meal together, there was an exchange going on. There were a lot of conversations going on. The Bible doesn’t record it; it just tells us the outcome. It tells us that Zacchaeus decided to make a change. What Jesus said to get him there, I don’t know. In verse eight it says that Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold. Listen. I need to say this in front of everybody. Behold, Lord, half of my goods I’m going to give to the poor. I’ve decided to divest myself of half of my net worth. If I have defrauded one of anything,” and there were a lot of people he had defrauded. “I’m going to restore it fourfold.” Zacchaeus demonstrates that his heart had been impacted by the embrace of Jesus. In his case, the act that most shows it is his generosity.
Verse nine. Jesus said to him, “Today I tell you.” Interesting because Zacchaeus’ declaration is met by an even more intense declaration. I can see Jesus rising up right behind that and saying, “I tell you today, salvation has come into this house. Since he also is a son of Abraham, a man of faith for the son of man.” Jesus turns it from Zacchaeus to Himself. Zacchaeus makes his statement. This is what I’m going to do. Jesus makes His statement. “I tell you salvation is coming to this house today. Here is a true son of Abraham, and one who is believing and acting on that belief.” Jesus says, “the son of man.” It’s like he turns and can’t contain it. He says, “The son of man.” Himself. “This is what I have come for. To seek and to save that which is lost.” That’s powerful. Wrestle with me on this. I’m going to suggest, and we’ll call it app number one. Christian generosity begins when we seek the one who was seeking us. I love that this all began because Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. The wealthy man was willing to climb a tree to see Him and be a little bit undignified. That speaks to me of humility and effort.
In James 4-8 it says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Is there a tree that God is wanting us to climb? An action? This is what I mean by that. Is there a tree that He wants us to climb? An action or positioning that He wants us to take? Something that’s going to position us for a breakout moment. An attitude that we’re supposed to hold onto. There have been a few times in the last couple of years when I felt like the Lord said to me, you need to be a lot more positive than your being. Your words are not helping you. Your words are hurting you. There are times when the Lord may say to us, you need to watch these words because your words are speaking things. They’re going to plant things into you. We don’t want that to get lodged there. Or I want that dislodged. There’s been a few times where I thought the Lord said, you need to be patient with the process. It’s very hard when we don’t want to do that. Maybe the Lord is saying you need to be more gentle on yourself right now.”
I’ve said all those things to myself. There are times when we come to these crossroad moments in our lives. There are seasons of question or pain. Or a season where we were discontent with the direction our life is going. We seek Him in earnest only to find that He’s seeking us. Zacchaeus starts to seek Jesus, but Jesus is the one seeking him. There’s this amazing moment that occurs. I love the fact that that can happen in our lives. What is the tree He’s wanting us to climb that’s going to get us in the position where He can say the words He wants to say that will change our lives in the way He wants it changed? For some of us, it may be taking and shifting around some things that we’ve been doing. For others, it may be an attitude shift that God’s trying to get us to stick with for a period of time. It might be that God wants you to commit yourself to read His Word, serving, or being in a group where you’re going to be sharpened. I don’t know what the Lord says. However, there are times God is saying, “There is something I want to do, but you’re going to need to do this to get there.” I love the fact that Jesus invited Himself over. I call it the holy intrusion because there are times when He invites Himself over to cultivate a life that overflows. There’s our theme. He intrudes upon our ordinary to work in us the extraordinary. He comes into places sometimes we weren’t expecting, and in ways, we didn’t expect.
There is no way Zacchaeus is thinking, “He’s going to want to hang out with me.” He didn’t even think he’d be noticed. When he hears his name called it shocks him. When he’s asked, “Can I come over to your house, and can you make me dinner?” That shocked him, too. There’s a great verse in Revelations three. It’s a perfect corollary for me. In Revelations 3-20 Jesus says, “Look, I stand at the door and I knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in.” Look at that last phrase. “we’ll share a meal together as friends.” That’s Zacchaeus. That’s the story. That’s exactly it. Jesus is knocking. Let me in. We’re going to share a meal together now as friends. I love that. One of the underrated pleasures of life is eating together with friends and family. It’s one of the gifts we often take for granted.
The simple joy of sharing a meal together and talking in an environment where there’s trust, love, goodwill, and honest authentic kindness. This is friendship and it is awesome. Can you hear that verse again because what does it say He wanted to be? “Stand at the door and I’ll knock and I will come in and we will share a meal together as friends.” Don’t zip past that. That’s Jesus saying He wants to come and share a meal as a friend. What kind of description is that of the savior? A friend is someone we enjoy spending time with. A friend is someone we want to be with. A friend is someone who knows us and we know them. A friend is someone who’s kind. It has all these other things that go along with it. There’s open dialogue and exchange. Who’s interested?
The fact that Jesus says I want to be your friend is an amazing aspect of God’s love for us. There are many times when people get afraid of God. There are a lot of times when some of us may not always understand Him. Yet what is the Lord saying? I’m your savior, yes. I’m your teacher, yes. I’m the promised one, yes, but also, I’m your friend. Lord, that’s below you to be my friend. You could be my boss. You could be my manager. You could be my king. You’re my savior and my Lord. But my friend? That’s very casual, isn’t it? I will be your friend. A friend who sticks closer than a brother. A friend, as the old hymn says when other friendships cease I will remain. A friend like this. Friendship with Jesus, fellowship divine. Oh, what blessed sweet communion. Jesus is a friend of mine.
The friendship of Jesus. When you have a friend, a true friend, you have a closeness and a bond, and a sense of safety. That’s what real friends are. They will tell us the truth, but it is done in love. That’s true friendship. I can’t think of any better friend than Jesus. We can go to our friend. Other relationships, Lord bless them all, may fail us. Here is one who will not fail. Through this life, into the next, and along the way, Jesus, is my friend and my savior. Two; welcoming Christ’s presence often creates turbulence within us that primes us for an overflow of grace, repentance, and breakthrough. That’s an interesting word, turbulence. It means disturbance, like on a plane you hit turbulence. My wife’s classic. She’s here today, so I have to be careful.
There are times we’ve been on a plane and hit turbulence. All of a sudden, that hand grips my hand. We are connected at that moment. There have been times when I said, “You’re hurting me right now.” The thing is when turbulence hits it has a way of focusing us. Whatever else has been going on, for some of us getting into a plane is scary enough. Then we hit turbulence and it’s like, oh my goodness. I’m in this tube, in the air, flying. It’s scary. I’m not trying to make light of it because I know for some of us it’s really scary. I’ve always said whenever I got on a plane, “Lord, I place my life in your hands. You want to take me home earlier than I planned I’m ready to go because you know better than I do.” It helps me. I’ll say, I’m deviating now. A lot of times when God’s word comes to us, we say, “Oh, that word is gentle and peaceful.” No, not always. Sometimes when the word of the Lord comes to us it’s designed to shake us, to hit us, to make us wrestle. We start having, it churns within us. It starts confronting us. His word confronts us. It’s designed to graciously move us in a way, sometimes, that will provoke a change that we would not have otherwise been willing to consider.
In Zacchaeus’ case, his change is a direct connection to the word of the Lord coming to him. As he’s listening to this word, he’s letting it settle into his heart and feels compelled to respond to that word by making a change in his life. Perhaps it was the change he wanted to make anyway and didn’t have the strength to do it. When Jesus gave him that word he moved into another place. That’s why I called it a breakout. Sometimes those breakout places are a result of churning. So let’s not be afraid of the churning. Let’s not be afraid of the churning places. Let’s not be afraid of places we have to wrestle with God because out of that is where change comes. That’s where a new promise emerges. It’s okay, wrestle with the Lord. It’s all right. It happens.
Sometimes His Word will force us to change. That’s where grace comes from. That’s where repentance comes in. That’s where we change and breakthrough occurs. That’s where a new opening emerges that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It didn’t come easy. It’s the travail that brings the child. It’s costly. There’s work in it, but it’s okay. It’s okay because God is in it trying to do something. In Zacchaeus’ case, he was trying to work in his life. Quickly now, that’s when the spring comes. Three; generosity is the overflow and evidence of God’s genuine work in our hearts. It’s always an issue of the heart. It shows up in the way we live and love. But it’s always a work of the heart. In other words, relationship with Jesus and true repentance will show up in our stewardship and generosity of our lives. It may have to do with how we work, do business, manage our life and resources, or how we honor God with our first fruits. We’ve been talking about this in Overflow, our tithes, and offerings. When we have it inside of our hearts, these other things come out naturally.
It affects our ethics. When the Lord’s working in our heart, as with Zacchaeus, it affects our morals and life choices. A confession of Jesus that does not affect these things is not much of a confession at all. It’s designed to affect our definition and understanding of success. It’s designed to affect how we work through pain, suffering, disappointment, and delay, which are different things. It’s going to affect our kindness and generosity. It’s going to affect how we relate to people. People we love, people who we don’t know well, how we treat people who we think are less than us. Do we even think that anymore? It’s interesting. I was watching my mother, she lives in Oregon. She turned 70 a couple of years ago. What was amazing about her for me is, I watched her, in her late 60s, rededicate her life to Jesus. She has a couple of small restaurants that she runs up in Florence, Oregon. I watched that reawakening, which occurred at a time in her life when you thought things would have already been said. She was in her 60s and she has this internal renewal in Jesus. She found a home church and reconnected to her roots. She was also one of my first Sunday school teachers. She was a pretty good teacher.
I remember watching her take this circuitous route. I hope she’s okay with me sharing this. She took a few decades and drifted. To see her return to where she was in her love for Jesus blessed my heart. A gift I probably have taken for granted. One of the things I noticed when I started listening to her was the change that was made in the way she managed her restaurant. I started watching how she was talking about people who were working for her. It’s always a fine line when you run a business because, on one hand, you have to watch the bottom line. You can’t allow certain things to happen. On the other hand, if you have a heart that the Lord wants you to have, you start to care about the people who work for you. They’re not just being used. They’re not things, they’re people. You start loving people, using things, not loving things, using people. I watched how she started to shepherd. I said, “You’re a shepherd of your people. You’re a pastor of your restaurant. That business, the Lord gave you a shepherd’s heart for it.” I’ve watched her love people differently. I’ve watched her help people along. I’ve watched her help her employees. I’ve watched her try to get them to go to the Lord’s house. I thought, “That’s real. That’s showing up in your life the way you’re treating people and running your business, it’s real. It’s not a disconnected religion. It’s the way of Jesus showing up in what you’re doing. I’m impressed and inspired. Bless you, in Jesus’ name.”
The last thing I’ll say and we’ll just leave it right here is when this happens do we notice? Do you see how this affects Jesus? You say, “What are you talking about, affects Jesus.” Zacchaeus’ commitment to positive change, repent, and generosity got Jesus excited and rejoicing. The happy man lashed out in praise. “I tell you, salvation is coming to this house. It’s happening right here.” You read that and think, “oh yeah, salvation is coming to the house.” No Jesus was excited. I’m telling you, this is what it’s all about. He’s connecting to His mission statement, which is when we’re at our best. ‘This is the exact thing I’ve come for, to seek, to save the lost. Ah, now we see the true son of Abraham. One who’s following in the way of the example we’ve been given. This is what I’m talking about.’ That’s what Jesus was saying right there because His heart was moved. That’s why our church exists. It is to do this mission. That’s what we’re about. Thank you, Lord, for that. That’s why generosity and faithfulness matter. That’s our mission. Let’s pray together.
Lord, I thank you. The joy of being able to share your words in your house. Your house is where your people gather in your name. Keep our hearts soft before you. Help us not to get too disappointed with things that don’t go the way we think they should go. Don’t let us get tied up in knots. Some of us are sometimes our own worst enemy, fighting our battles on the inside. We can’t get freed up. You want to open us up to new things. I ask that you would give us peace of mind, but if it means having some turbulence to get there so be it if it’s the turbulence that comes as we wrestle with your words for our lives. Some of us are at a stage in life where we’re afraid of things. It’s okay. You’re the prince of peace, but you’re more than that. May this be on our lips. You’re our friend, our faithful friend unto the end and beyond that. Help us to walk with you and enjoy who you are, Lord. Not take you for granted, but share our heart, and listen for your words. That’s called a relationship and that’s the best kind. We welcome you. Bless our closing time of giving. Bless the song that connects back into everything we’ve shared here. Let us go back into this week and hold onto something, a phrase, word, or thought that you meant for us to have that affects us in some way. If nothing else, remember that silly pastor who sang that little song and jumped off the stage trying to tell your story. We love you, Jesus. Keep our love for you real and alive. In your name, we pray. Amen.