Your True Value
Luke 19:1-10

There was once a little girl who had a necklace of plastic pearls. She had bought them at the toy store with her own money. They were her greatest treasure.

She loved those pearls. She wore them under her shirt at school. She showed them off proudly to all her friends. She even wore them when she slept at night.

Now, this little girl had a very loving father, and every night he would stop whatever he was doing and put her to bed. One night, he asked her: “Do you love me?”

“Oh yes, Daddy.” she said. “You know that I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.” He replied.

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. You can have anything else, but please, not my pearls.”

“That's okay, dear. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he gave her a kiss on the cheek.

About a week later, when he was putting her into bed, her father asked her again: “Do you love me?”

“Of course! Daddy, you know I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh Daddy, please - not my pearls. Anything else! You can have any of my toys, but please don’t take my pearls.”

"That's okay. Sleep well. Daddy loves you." And as always, he gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek.

A few nights later when her father came in, the little girl was sitting on her bed. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and a silent tear rolled down her cheek.

What's the matter?” asked her father.

She didn’t say anything, but slowly lifted her hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a shaky voice, she said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you."

With tears gathering in his own eyes, her kind father reached out with one hand to take that cheap plastic toy necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case. When she opened it, there was a necklace made of genuine pearls. Then her father took the pearls and carefully placed them around his daughter’s neck.

He had had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the pretend toy so he could give her his genuine treasure.

This story made me think of Zacchaeus. He was a Jew who lived in Israel about 2000 years ago. At that time Israel was under the control of Rome.

But although Rome ruled the land, it kept the local government in place to maintain the basic function of that country. Yet in spite of this limited freedom, Israel was nevertheless a prisoner of Rome. And as a result, the Jews were forced to pay their taxes, not to their own government, but into the pockets of Rome.

You can imagine, therefore, that the people who collected taxes from the Jews were not very popular. In fact, they were considered to be traitors, because the tax collectors were actually Jews themselves. That means that they were taking money from their own countrymen to give to the enemy.

Not only that, but the tax collectors also lined their own pockets with the money they took. They were personally profiting from their crime against their country. But their betrayal didn’t stop there. They also passed on information about their own countrymen, like spies, to the Romans.

So, tax collectors were considered to be the lowest of the low. They were not respected; they were not trusted, and they were certainly not liked.

Zacchaeus was one of these people. In fact, he was not just a tax collector, he was a chief tax collector. His so-called job had made him very rich at his countrymen’s expense.

So, the people despised Zacchaeus. If you had seen him walking towards you on the street, you would have crossed over to the other side to avoid him. He was resented for who he was, and he was loathed for what he did.

Now, one day, Jesus was passing through Jericho, which is where Zacchaeus lived. Jesus had just been teaching about God’s justice and mercy, and had also done miracles of healing along the way. So when the people of Jericho heard that Jesus was in the area, they came out as a big crowd to see him.

Zacchaeus also wanted to see Jesus. But he was short, and he couldn’t see because of the crowd. It’s not hard to imagine, really. There were lots of people there, and none of them liked Zacchaeus. Do you think that they were going to make way to give him a better view?

So, what did he do? He ran ahead and climbed a tree so that he would be able to see Jesus when He passed by.

Many years ago I saw the Gion Festival in Kyoto. I have never seen so many people in my life. Shijo Kawaramachi was just a sea of heads. You couldn’t see the horizon.

I wanted to see better, so I climbed the safety rail on the side of the road. But as soon as I stood up, two police officers quickly ordered me to get down again.

“I see! The nail that stands up will be hammered down!”

Well, if I had thought about it properly, I should have known that I would have been told off.

But what about Zacchaeus? Was this just a case of curiosity? Surely he must have known that climbing the tree would have made him stand out. Wasn’t it obvious that everyone else there would have reacted negatively?

On the one hand, maybe he had nothing to lose by climbing the tree. He wasn’t going to lose any friends, because nobody liked him anyway. But why purposefully put yourself in a position where you know you are going to get criticized?

Maybe it was just that Zacchaeus simply didn’t care what other people thought about him. It is quite possible, considering what he did as a tax collector, that he was totally absorbed by his own self-interest, and so was completely indifferent to the thoughts and feelings of the people around him. If that were so, then he wouldn’t have cared about everyone’s reaction to him.

But at the same time, it makes me wonder why he seemed so eager to see Jesus. As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, at least in his own mind, must have felt very self-important. That’s why I think this is interesting. Why make the effort to climb a tree? Children climb trees. Chief tax collectors don’t! Why was it so important for Zacchaeus to see Jesus – and then, even only from a distance?

Well, Zacchaeus might have thought that he was just going to see Jesus, but something very unexpected happened. Jesus stopped right by Zacchaeus. He stopped there and called out his name. “Zacchaeus! Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.

While Zacchaeus wouldn’t have expected that anyone there would have helped him, he certainly would never have imagined that Jesus Himself would actually stop and talk to him personally. And not only that, Jesus called him by name, and then declared that He would be going to Zacchaeus’ house.

What a surprise for Zacchaeus. What a joy. In that culture, to be invited into someone’s home was a public declaration of acceptance of that person. But in this case, even though it was Zacchaeus’ home, it was Jesus who made that declaration. Jesus was offering that invitation of acceptance to Zacchaeus.

The significance of this was very clear to the crowd. So, while this “reverse invitation” was a happy surprise for Zacchaeus, it was also a bitter shock for everyone else there. And they were quick to voice their disapproval.

• All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner." (Luke 19:7)

This story is full of surprises! First, it is interesting that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, in spite of his contempt for righteousness. It is mysterious that he would go to the extent of climbing a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus as He passed by. It was amazing that Jesus then stopped by Zacchaeus, called him by name, and then declared that He would be going to stay with him.

And now, the people who had come out in great numbers to see Jesus, now suddenly turn against Him.

But the surprises are not over. What happened next was not only unexpected, but incredible. Even unbelievable!

• 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." (Luke 19:8)

This was no superficial show aimed at just impressing Jesus or gaining anyone else’s favor. It was not impulsive, careless or reactionary.

Something dramatic had just taken place. Not something, but everything, about Zacchaeus had completely changed.

This was Zacchaeus, who had been indifferent about the welfare of those he unscrupulously taxed. Until now, they hadn’t been valuable enough in his eyes to gain his attention or compassion. But now he was giving not a small, token donation, but half of his total wealth, to support the poor.

This was Zacchaeus, who had felt no guilt about betraying his own country to its enemy. Until now he had held no reservations about hurting others in order to protect himself. But now he declared he would not only repay all those whom he had cheated, but he would pay them the fullest legal penalty for his crimes against them.

Zacchaeus’ usually tight purse had suddenly become opened. But that was a reflection of what had happened to his eyes and his heart. His eyes had been opened, and where there used to be indifference, now there was compassion and care. His heart had been opened, and where there had been self-centeredness and self-justification, now there was humility, repentance, and a heavenly based righteousness.

Zacchaeus used to take from others to protect himself. But now, he gave all that he had to protect others.

What had caused this sudden, dramatic, and very powerful change?

When Jesus stopped by Zacchaeus, the crowd’s expectation most certainly grew. Surely Zacchaeus the tax collector was finally going to be called to account. But instead of putting Zacchaeus down, Jesus called him down (from the tree.) And as Jesus invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ home, He was also inviting Zacchaeus into His own Heavenly kingdom.

Yet Jesus did this fully knowing that showing acceptance of Zacchaeus would result in His own rejection by that crowd.

Jesus showed Zacchaeus, and He showed everyone else there, that Zacchaeus was truly valuable to Him. Even though it would cost Jesus His reputation, Zacchaeus saw that he was THAT important to Jesus.

Why? It was certainly not because of Zacchaeus’ reputation or record ((what he had done.)) No, that was the very reason that no one else accepted him.

But there was a very good reason, a very deep reason, why Jesus accepted Zacchaeus.

Jesus saw beyond what everyone else saw in Zacchaeus. He saw deeper than even Zacchaeus could see about himself.

What did Jesus see?

In that broken figure of rejection, Jesus saw His own perfect and holy image. He saw the potential of His own unchanging and immeasurable love. He saw a life that was valuable enough to give up His own reputation to protect. He saw a life that was precious enough to give up His own life to save. So Jesus gave Zacchaeus His very self.

John tells us that:

• "(For) God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Zacchaeus had certainly been alone. Not only in Jericho, but he was desperately far from God. The people of Jericho had already condemned Zacchaeus. They would have felt justified had Zacchaeus received his deserved judgment right there. But God looked at Zacchaeus through a different set of eyes.

As John continued to explain:

• (For) God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

Let’s remember that little girl. She didn’t know that her pearls were not real. She didn’t know that they had no real value.

At the same time, she didn’t know the value of the pearls that her father had. In fact, she didn’t even know that her father had them.

So, she continued to cling desperately to something that had no value, because she didn’t know that her father was wanting to give her the “real thing.” She didn’t really understand his love for her until she saw the value of the gift that he had for her.

This was what changed Zacchaeus. When he saw that Jesus’ gift of acceptance and forgiveness was the real thing, he understood that, in spite of the terrible mess that he had made of his life, he was, nevertheless, so valuable, so priceless, to God.

God gave His most valuable gift – Jesus, because Zacchaeus was so valuable to Him. And so when Zacchaeus realized he himself was THAT valuable, he was suddenly released to see the value in the people around him.

What is your sense of self-value based on? What do you grasp onto in order to protect yourself?

Jesus calls your name too. He says, I will be with you. I will show you how valuable you are.

He just wants us to come down from the trees that we have climbed and exchange our treasures for his.










「勿論よ。お父さん 私が愛してるってわかってるでしょ。」











































イエス様がザアカイのところで立ち止まった時群衆の期待は大いに膨らみました。遂に取税人のザアカイはこれまではたらいてきた己の不正の釈明を求められるのだと誰もが思いました。 しかしイエス様は彼から権限を取り上げるのではなく 彼を木から呼び下したのでした。ご自身を彼の家に招き同時にザアカイを彼(か)の天国へ招かれたのでした。


イエス様はザアカイそしてそこにいる全ての人に ザアカイはイエス様にとってまことに高価であることを示されました。たとえご自身の評判を犠牲にしてでもイエス様にとってそれほどまでに自分は大切な者だということにザアカイは気づいたのでした。