You Monkeys, You!

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.46.19 PMWhen you owe the IRS ten dollars, assuming you’ve calculated correctly and file on time, you pay the IRS ten dollars.

When you owe Rome ten dollars, a tax collector shows up at your door, demands ten dollars plus the tax collector’s fee. That fee is what the tax collector uses to support self and family.

This was reasonable and expected, if not liked. Thing is Rome was an occupying power. Rome collected taxes to pay for the occupation that the people did not ask for or like.

And Rome hired locals to do the dirty work.

Worse? The tax collectors set their own fee. As long as they gave Rome, Rome’s portion, Rome was satisfied. As far as the occupying authorities were concerned what the tax collector got out of the people was their own business.

Commonly, then, tax collectors could become quite rich. That ten dollars Rome wanted, might cost you twenty dollars. And that tax collector who got so wealthy did so by betraying his own people, by betraying you.

You can imagine that folks were not very fond of tax collectors.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector. But more, he was a chief tax collector which meant he had his own thugs who collected money from folks and paid him.

It’s no wonder he was hated and despised. I certainly wouldn’t invite him over for dinner nor would I accept an invitation from him to watch the game at his house.


If you bought a cap from the peddler, assuming he had the color you wanted, you would get years of wear out of it. You would pay a fair price.

And if, for some reason the one you got was sub-par, the peddler would be through your town again before long and make it right. He was an honest peddler who would wander from town to town shouting,

“Caps! Caps for Sale! Fifty cents a piece!”

One day he came upon a tree. It had not been a very good day selling caps and he thought a nap might be a good idea. And, so,

He sat down slowly
Under the tree
And leaned back little by little
Against the tree trunk,
So as not to disturb the caps on his head. (Caps for Sale)


Zacchaeus was in Jericho the day Jesus was passing through town. He had heard about the amazing things this Jesus was saying and doing.

He wanted to hear Jesus for himself. He wanted to see Jesus with his own two eyes.

But Zacchaeus was short. And he couldn’t see over the people. He spotted a tree up ahead. The tree was along the path Jesus was traveling.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. Luke 19:4 CEB


When the peddler woke from his nap, he reached to his head to see if the caps — the ones he spent his days selling to feed himself and his family — were still there.

But before standing up he felt with his hand to make sure his caps were in the right place. All he felt was his own checked cap! (Caps for Sale)

He looked to the left, to the right for his caps. When he looked up in the tree,

What do you think he saw?

On every branch sat a monkey. On every monkey was a gray, or a brown, or a blue, or a red cap! (Caps for Sale)


As Jesus was walking through Jericho, he was followed by a group of people listening to his many teachings. Jesus came upon a sycamore tree. It was the tree that Zacchaeus the tax collector had climbed.

When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” (Luke 19:5 CEB)

And what do you think Zacchaeus did?

So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus. (Luke 19:5 CEB)


The peddler looked at the monkeys. The monkeys looked at the peddler. He didn’t know what to do. Finally he spoke to them.

“You monkeys, you,” he said, shaking a finger at them, ” you give me back my caps.”

But the monkeys only shook their fingers back at him and said, “Tsz, Tsz, Tsz.”


And what do you think Zacchaeus did?

So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus. (Luke 19:5 CEB)

And what do you think the crowd did? They criticized Jesus for eating with a tax collector!

Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Luke 19:7 CEB

Zacchaeus explained to Jesus that he had changed his ways.

Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord,

“Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.” (Luke 19:8 CEB)

But it didn’t make any difference to them. They found it hard to forgive the tax collector who used to cheat them. They found it hard to forgive one of their own who had taken advantage of them to become rich.

They didn’t like that Jesus was able to see the good in the short, little man.



The peddler,

shook both hands at them and said, “You monkeys, you! You give me back my caps.”

But the monkeys only shook their hands back at him and said, “Tsz, tsz, tsz.” (Caps for Sale)

The monkeys weren’t listening to the peddler.


The crowd,

…saw this [and] grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7 CEB)

“Tsz, Tsz, Tsz,” grumbled everyone because Jesus forgave Zacchaeus  — a sinner who was trying to make things right by giving half his possessions to the poor and repaying anyone he’d cheated fourfold —

but that wasn’t good enough for the people who saw Jesus go home with a tax collector.

“Tsz, tsz, tsz,” grumbled the monkeys.

And what do you think Jesus said to his critics? What do you think he told Zacchaeus?

Jesus said…, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. The Human One came to seek and save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10 CEB


Rather than being like the monkeys who sit in the tree mocking the peddler (tsz, tsz, tsz), may we be like Zacchaeus who

came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus. (Luke 19:5b CEB)

May we strive to

 “…give half of [our] possessions to the poor. And if [we] have cheated anyone, [may we] repay them four times as much.” (Luke 19:8 CEB)

May we forgive, may we confess and repent, may we emulate and listen to Jesus. Amen.

Tim is a runner, a hiker, a devoted husband, a father of two adult children, and their spouses, and a grandfather of four perfect children. A former early childhood educator, Tim is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He has served as pastor of both Disciples and United Church of Christ congregations. As we enter what we hope is the final phase of the pandemic, Tim is beginning a journey of rediscovering himself and discerning next steps. He writes from his home in Albany, Oregon and wherever the Spirit lures him.

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Posted in Habakkuk, Habakkuk 1, Habakkuk 1:1-4, Habakkuk 2, Luke, Luke 19, Luke 19:1-10, New Testament, Old Testament, Sermon

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All materials by Tim Graves unless otherwise noted. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

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