2010 Luke’s Gospel
To Seek and to Save the Lost
Key Verse: 19:10 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. "
In today’s passage we will learn why Jesus came down from heaven, giving up all his glory as the Son of God through a meeting between Jesus and a tax collector. And also we will learn how we can meet Jesus and live as a child of God through the tax collector’s life changing story. Actually, we have learned so many times about today’s passage, and yet this time I pray that the Holy spirit may give us new heart and humble mind to hear God’s voice and to deepen love relationship between Jesus and us. Let us pray that we may be touched and healed in our heart by the word of God through this worship time and praise Jesus for his unconditional love and grace upon sinners like us.
I. Zacchaeus came to Jesus by faith (1-4)
Look at verses 1-2. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” Finally Jesus entered the Jericho after he had healed a blind man. Soon, people from every corner gathered together to see what was going. People from surrounding areas were talking about Jesus and the blind man. “Oh, man, the blind man, whom I have known for 20 years, now can see with his 20-20 vision by his faith. Now he is helping other beggars to beg well and teach them how to cry out desperately by faith to Jesus for his mercy.” At that time, one man overheard what people said about the blind man’s healing in the darkness of the corner. Actually he heard so many great things that Jesus had performed in other neighboring towns. He was short and skinny, but his eyes were like a blazing fire. He felt desperate for his blind spot in spirit and he really wanted to open his spiritual eyes by faith in Jesus, too. His inner voice already had cried out all the more when he thought about the blind man’s crying out to Jesus for his mercy. People called him Zacchaeus and he was wealthy since he was working as a chief tax collector.
Look at verse 2 again. “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” Who is Zacchaeus? First of all, his name Zacchaeus means “upright” or “righteous” or “clean.” Usually one’s name is given by his or her parents. In Genesis 41, Joseph became the prime minister second to the king Pharaoh in charge of the whole land of Egypt. For first seven years of abundance he collected all the food and stored it in the cities. Afterwards, two sons were born to Joseph right before the years of famine came. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.(Gen.41:51-52)” In Exodus 18:3-4 Moses named his one son Gershom, for he said, “I have become an alien in a foreign land” and he named the other Eliezer, for he said, "My father's God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh." Just like Joseph and Moses in the Bible, I also named firstborn Gloria and said, “It is because God would show me his glory from all my trouble. The second daughter I named Victoria and said, “It is because God would give me victory in the land of my suffering.” The third one I named Jacob and said, “It is because God would make him a father of 12 tribes in faith.” The fourth one I named James, even though Jacob and James are same name in the meaning and origin, and said, “It is because God would make him a great spiritual leader like James Jesus’ brother who was the head of the early church in Jerusalem.” Of course, your parents also gave you your name with great hope and vision for you when you were born. Just like other parents, Zacchaeus’ parents gave him his name and said, “It is because God would make him righteous.” His parents might seek and long for God’s righteousness under the oppression of the Gentiles.
Second, he was a chief tax collector. Benjamin Franklin said, “...in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes” Where there are taxes, there must be tax collectors. Zacchaeus’ occupation was tax collector like that of Matthew one of the Twelve. It seemed not to be bad to be a tax collector. But, what did it mean by being a tax collector in Jesus’ days? To answer that question, we had better understand the Roman Empire tax system called “tax farming.” In US we pay taxes to IRS the government agency every quarter or every payroll according to the written tax code. But Roman tax farming system was kind of investment, meaning that the tax agent must invest their own money initially to pay off the tax debt with the hope of collecting a larger sum subsequently. That’s why it’s called tax farming; sowing and harvesting. The tax farmer Zacchaeus tried hard to collect as much as possible from the taxpayers his countrymen by any means because that’s how he became wealthy. The more Zacchaeus could squeeze out of his people, the more he could keep. Accordingly, he was despised and his name changed to blood-suckers or dogs that profited off their countrymen’s misfortune. He was a public sinner. Ironically and unfortunately, his life became unrighteous, the exact opposite of his name “righteous.”
Look at verse 3a. “He wanted to see who Jesus was…” This represents the state of Zacchaeus’ heart. When do we feel we want to see who Jesus is? It might be when we are humble and poor in spirit due to our sins, or frustration from failure, or emptiness in heart in spite of great success in the world. Saint Augustine says that our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord. In other words, there is room in our hearts that should be filled by God--his love, grace, and mercy. We cannot fill it with things in the world. Without God, we feel the sense of emptiness and live a hollow life even though we are rich in the world. Tennis star Boris Becker was at the very top of the tennis world. He was the youngest-ever winner of the men's singles title at Wimbledon at the age of 17-- yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed ... It's the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.” One does not have to read many contemporary biographies to find the same frustration and disappointment. We have seen many popular but unhappy celebrities commit a suicide or ruin their lives. If some are still not happy in spite of their great success, fame, and honor in the world, how much more would Zacchaeus who were blood-sucker for his own people. His heart should have been devastated and become as desperate in spirit as the blind. His only way out is to meet Jesus since he heard about Jesus who is the Son of David. Thus, he must see who Jesus is.
However, there was a problem. Look at verses 3b-4. “But being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” Zacchaeus was a short man. Crowds of people had already lined the streets, and he could not see over them. Most likely, people who were bitter over their tax bills would have enjoyed the chance to frustrate Zacchaeus. When he tried to go through, they joined together and repelled him. When he tried to crawl through them on his hands and knees, someone put a leglock around his neck, choking him, while others pinched his buttocks. Zacchaeus could have given up. But he was determined. Stepping back, he thought for a moment. Then inspiration came. He figured out where Jesus was going, ran ahead, and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. This put him in a good position to see Jesus. Here we learn that when Zacchaeus had a strong heart's desire, and used his mind and strength, it was possible for him to meet Jesus. In Jeremiah, our Lord promises, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a). It is God's promise that when we seek him with all our hearts, we will find him. Let us pray that we may seek God with all our heart to find a way to meet Jesus by any means.
II. Jesus said, "Salvation has come to this house" (5-10)
Look at verse 5. “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”” To our surprise, Jesus zeroes right in on one man in the tree even though there were many people in the crowd. Jesus had never met him before, but called him by name. “Zacchaeus, hurry down, for I mean to stay at your house today.” Jesus’ calling sounds just sweet and nice as between close friends. However, the calling of Jesus and his invitation were a great shocking to the crowd as well as to Zacchaeus. For the crowd it was taboo; they forbade entering the houses of public sinners. They branded as guilty by association anyone who did so. For Zacchaeus, it was amazing that Jesus whom he wanted to see and know was aware of his mane and even wanted to stay in his own house even though he himself was a public sinner whom everybody hated and despised. Making everyone shocked, Jesus deliberately went to Zacchaeus' house. Jesus demonstrated publicly that he accepted Zacchaeus and his family just as they were. Jesus did not expect them to change first, but only to receive him in faith. Jesus really wanted to be their shepherd and to have an intimate relationship with them. This represents Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Let us praise our Lord Jesus who wants to stay with us even though we are sinners. Let us give thanks to Jesus who is our true shepherd and welcome us with his love.
Look at verse 6. “So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” When Zacchaeus heard his name from Jesus’ mouth he was almost stunned into silence. All the people in the crowd were looking at him in the tree. Then, he did not know what to say and what to do. At that moment, Jesus told him to come down immediately. Then he came down without hesitation and might have run to welcome Jesus with his whole heart. Maybe he wanted to shout loudly like the blind man in the previous passage. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” He is like a child who runs to his mother after some period of separation. Here we learn that if we have strong desire to meet Jesus for some reason, we should take an action actively. Both the blind man and Zacchaeus were common in their initiative. They had their own obstacles in meeting Jesus and there were a lot of people who were against them when they tried to come to Jesus. Many people say that they want to believe Jesus when their problems are solved because it is very shameful to let other people know their problems during the course of believing Jesus. Or they do not want to believe Jesus because people around Jesus are not nice or worse in characters than unbelievers. In any case, we’ve got to have some nerve and pay attention, not to other people, but to Jesus alone who can give us salvation and eternal life. I pray that we may come down right away from our own fig-tree and welcome Jesus gladly when we hear Jesus’ calling in our heart.
Look at verse 7. “All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” People were grumbling about Jesus who was associating himself with a public sinner. They were not happy with what Jesus was doing because they thought it was bad to hang out with ‘a sinner.’ In their minds, Jesus must have spent his time with some good, nice, and righteous people. Maybe they are like a mother or a father who is concerned about her or his children who hang out with bad friends. In a word, Jesus acts beyond our understanding, which seems unreasonable or makes us grumbling from human point of view. “What? Jesus loves sinners? I thought he was a good person.” But from God’s point of view it was really amazing for Jesus to call and invite a sinner to salvation and eternal life. That’s why Jesus was supposed to suffer, die, and rise from the dead. Sometimes we do not understand what Jesus is doing in our life. But let us trust Jesus, who does right things always for our salvation and let us stop grumbling about Jesus who handles current situations.
Look at verse 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.’” Zacchaeus called Jesus “Lord.” Zacchaeus realized that he had met God in Jesus and received God's unconditional love and grace. He willingly surrendered to Jesus as his Lord. Moreover, Zacchaeus had come to know God's heart in Jesus. As God loved Zacchaeus one-sidedly, he wanted Zacchaeus to love him and others. Until now, Zacchaeus had been limited by his money. But when Jesus' love touched his soul, either money or his high paying position of chief tax collector did not matter to him anymore. He was compelled to love God and others as Jesus had loved him. So he gave half of his possessions to the poor. He also promised to compensate anyone he had cheated by repaying four times the amount. This was in accordance with the Law of Moses (Ex 22:1). After he met Jesus personally as his Lord, he truly repents of his sins and was making a new beginning of life. From now on, his goal would be to please God and to live by the love of God and the word of God. Like Zacchaeus, we must repent with actions indeed, not just with lip services after we realize that Jesus loves us and he is our Lord.
According to certain encyclopedia, The Romans sometimes compelled a captive to be joined face-to- face with a dead body, and to bear it about until the horrible discharge and scent destroyed the life of the living victim. It describes this cruel punishment: “At the command the living and the dead were coupled face to face, and hand to hand till choked with stench in loathed embraces tied. The lingering wretches wasted away and died.” Without Christ, we are shackled to a dead corpse -- our sinfulness. Only repentance frees us from certain death, for life and death cannot coexist indefinitely. Hearing Jesus’ calling and meeting him personally in his love are not enough in following Jesus. We must repent of our sins and by repentance we can prove we live as a child of God. Do we still need to breathe with our sinful dead body face to face even though there is a way out through repentance? Let us pray to repent of our sins by certain actions.
Let's read verses 9-10. "Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.'" Here, Jesus teaches us what had happened to Zacchaeus and his own purpose in coming. First, Zacchaeus became a son of Abraham. Jesus recognized Zacchaeus as a spiritual descendant of Abraham, who followed in his footsteps of faith. Abraham was 75 years old and childless when God called him. Yet Abraham believed God's promise to bless him and make him a blessing and obeyed God's call immediately. Romans 4:5 tells us that Abraham believed in God who justifies the wicked and was justified by this faith. To Jesus, Zacchaeus had the same faith as Abraham. Through his faith Jesus justified him to be a child of God, restored his identity as one of God's people, and renewed his great purpose for him. Jesus offers this salvation to anyone who would receive it by faith. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God....”
Second, Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again. But he stopped in Jericho and spent a day with a man named Zacchaeus. Though their meeting seemed to come about by chance, it was actually a divinely ordained moment when the holy God met a sinner who hungered for him from his soul. Jesus is seeking the lost, even as they seek him. Like the good shepherd in the parable, Jesus seeks the lost until he finds him. When a lost sinner takes one tiny step back to him, Jesus runs with outstretched arms to embrace him with love and fully restore him or her as a child of God. Jesus is seeking the lost in our times. He does not give up on struggling sinners or look down on those who have failed or gone astray. Jesus is seeking the lost.
Today we learned about beautiful story between Jesus and a public sinner who was saved by Jesus’ amazing love for him and changed to a child of God through deep, practical repentance. Most of all, Jesus revealed his purpose of coming down onto the earth, which is to seek and save what is lost. Let us pray that we may be an excellent instrument in Jesus’ seeking-and-saving ministry as a good, obedient child of God. In this way we may make American a kingdom of priest and a holy nation for the world mission purpose.
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