Intro: Can we seek God in order to get saved? Is it in man to be able to know God and choose to be saved? Is man capable of understanding and finding the way to heaven? The answer to all these questions is No. Here’s why?
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one.” Rom. 3:10-12
Last Sunday we heard stories from the Bible of the lost son who returned home, the lost sheep sought by the shepherd and the lost coin found by the owner and how the father, the shepherd and the owner of the coin rejoiced after those who were lost returned and were found. It was a day of rejoicing and celebration . We also celebrated God’s faithfulness to bless the church of His Son these five years. The prodigal son who squandered his inheritance in wild living returned, the sheep who got separated from the flock and can’t find his way back was sought out by the shepherd and the coin that was in the wrong place was found. These illustrated to us that the prodigal son already belonged to his father, the sheep had a shepherd and the coin belonged to the owner. But what about those who do not yet belong to God and are saved? Today we will focus on who does the seeking and the saving?
“Jesus came to Seek and to Save the Lost”
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. He wanted to see who Jesus was, 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. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” 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.” 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.” Luke 19:1-10
When Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming, he went outside his office to see. Of course everyone knew him and I believe the people lining the street did not want to share what they expected of Jesus to this man. I can imagine what they are saying in their hearts that this tax collector does not deserve to know Jesus. News was spreading that Jesus is their Messiah. Tax collectors were considered the scum of the earth for taking advantage of their own people? Rome had appointed Jews to collect taxes for them and they abused their position by overcharging the people and pocketing money for themselves. When John was baptizing in the Jordan,
“Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what must we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.” Luke 3:12-13
Zacchaeus was not one of those who got baptized. He was the chief tax collector and that made him wealthy. That day there was something that moved him to see who this Jesus was and so he went. And the people who saw him coming blocked him from seeing Jesus. He was short and cannot see yet it did not stop him to find a way to see Jesus. He figured that Jesus would pass this way and finding a sycamore-fig tree he climbed to get a full view of Jesus. He persevered to see Jesus because God had a plan for his life. Here’s the most amazing thing that happened.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
I want us to take note of this truth, “When Jesus reached the spot.” What spot was that? Directly below where He can see and speak to Zacchaeus. Did Jesus know that he was up on the tree? Yes and how? Let’s not forget when Jesus started His ministry, the Holy Spirit came down to be upon Him at His baptism. After that this is how the Holy Spirit worked in the life and ministry of Jesus,
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1
And on one occasion Jesus said this to those who were starting to persecute him after He told them that God was His Father.
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” John 5:19-20
So in whose life was God working in Jericho? How did Jesus know whom the Father was drawing to Him? Did Zacchaeus come out to see Jesus out of his own desire to seek Him? No. Here’s why he went to see Jesus.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:37, 44
Another truth we see here is when Jesus looked up, He knew who was up the tree. I am sure that this was the first time Jesus saw him and yet He knew his name, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit revealing to Jesus whom God His Father was drawing to Him. Jesus totally relied and was dependent on His Father to do His will. Just as when He was to choose the twelve apostles this is what Jesus had to do,
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” Luke 6:12-13
As the Son of Man, Jesus had to pray seeking who His Father was giving to be His apostles. In the same way Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to go through Jericho to seek and save this one man by the name of Zacchaeus. Jesus did not ask to be invited but told him that He must stay in his house. Did Zacchaeus have a choice? Was it possible for him to resist the will of God? If that was you, would you have refused? He immediately obeyed Jesus and welcomed Him gladly. I cannot imagine how he must have felt knowing the rejection and hatred the people had towards him even preventing him from seeing Jesus but now he was singled out and given the privilege to have Jesus stay in his house? Did he know that he was a sinner? Here’s what the people said, “All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” They were right. Zacchaeus knew he was a sinner but what about them? This is what happens when people see others who are really bad, that they think of themselves to be good. And the bad news for them is they disqualified themselves for salvation.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” 1 Tim. 1:15
So then if anyone thinks that he is good enough to go to heaven because he has done good things and is not as bad as the others he is deceived and has disqualified himself. What qualifies a person to be acceptable to God is the one who sees himself as a sinner, for the truth of the matter is “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because of sin God will judge every sinner with death in everlasting hell, except when God is pleased and wills to show mercy and grace on the person He chooses to give to His Son and given the gift of eternal life.
“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
How did Zacchaeus qualify to be saved? Here is his confession to Jesus.
“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
Before anything, he acknowledged Jesus as “Lord.” Jesus did not have to tell him to repent, he already saw himself as a sinner and confessed it in the presence of his family and probably relatives. No doubt he has heard from the other tax collectors what John the Baptist told them before they were baptized. He did not only admit his sins but also pledged to make restitution and return what he overcharged with 400 % interest. That’s not just being sorry but willing to lose everything to make up for what he did wrong. It’s like a criminal who turns himself to the authorities and confess all he had done. Do you think he will overcharge taxing his people again? Never. This is what repentance is all about. Turning away from sin and do what is right and correcting the wrong whatever the cost may be. The same thing happened when Gentiles were saved and born again in Ephesus.
“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. “ Acts 19:18-19
And what did Zacchaeus hear from Jesus after he confessed his sins?
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.” Luke 19:9-10
Surely that must have been the greatest thing that has ever happen to Zacchaeus. He was a full blooded Jew and knew God has chosen the descendants of Abraham as His people. But being a Jew does not automatically save anyone. One time Jesus was telling the Jews about setting them free from the slavery of sin and who are His true disciples. Here’s their reply,
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we can be set free?” John 8:33
No doubt the Jews are Abraham’s descendant but that does not make them sons.
“Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus said, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own but he sent me.” John 8:39-42
The same is true with children of parents who are Christians. They cannot inherit salvation from their parents nor parents pass them on to them. We read last Friday from our Everyday with Jesus Bible this truth from the Old Testament.
“Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes – his own teeth will be set on edge.” Jer. 31:30
And this is affirmed to us in the New Testament how one is saved.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
Who was and is Jesus seeking today and finding and saving?
“She will give birth to son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21
Who then are His people? Those whom the Father has chosen to give to His Son. Would Zacchaeus have come to Jesus if He were not chosen and drawn by God? No. From the account that we read, Jesus passed by Jericho to save the one God has chosen out of the whole crowd. I believe God may have saved his household because everyone will see the saving power and the grace of God to save this big sinner Zacchaeus. Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
You may be here today and have not yet repented just as Zacchaeus did and surrendered your life to Jesus as Lord. This is your day of salvation. Just as Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” That house is your body where Jesus wants to come in as your Lord to save you. But first this is the good news you must believe.
“By this gospel you are saved…For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:2a-4
Come to Jesus…Invite Him into your heart.
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10