The Great Seeker
In Luke 19:10 Luke declares that “The Son of Man (Jesus) came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.” Then in verse 1-9 Luke tells the story of Zacchaeus’ meeting with Jesus and his conversion, a wonderful illustration of Jesus’ mission statement.
This event takes place about a week before Jesus was crucified. As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem for that fateful event with destiny, He traveled through Jericho, a city about 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem. It would be the last time He would pass through that city. The crowds were building as Jesus’ popularity grew with the common people.
In that city was Zacchaeus, a publican. He was a Jewish tax collector for the Roman Empire, and as such, he was known as a publican and a sinner. He not only collected the required taxes, but collected as much as he could beyond the taxes to line his pockets. As such, he was hated and despised by the Jews.
Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was passing through. It was the big story of the day and everyone knew it. By some powerful compulsion, Zacchaeus desperately wanted to see this righteous Man. The problem was that he was short of stature and it was impossible to see Jesus because of the crowded streets. So he got an idea. He ran down the street ahead of the procession and found a sycamore tree hanging over the street. Climbing up into the tree he found a branch where he could perch and get a good view of Jesus as He passed by. Now he waited with growing anticipation to meet this great Man.
Most sinners run and hide from Jesus. Zacchaeus, was different. He made every effort to see Jesus.
As Jesus passed by, He stopped and looked up into the tree, gazing right into Zacchaeus’ eyes. Then Zacchaeus was stunned when Jesus spoke his name and made a shocking announcement. “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down: for today I must abide at thy house.”
Zacchaeus must have almost fallen out of the tree with shock. He thought to himself, “Why would such a righteous man want to come and spend the evening with me?” But he gladly and excitedly came down and assured Jesus he was welcome to come to his home.
The crowds were disgusted and shocked with Jesus. “Jesus, don’t you realize that man is a sinner? Why on earth are you choosing to spend an evening with Him, of all people?”
They could not fathom that Jesus loved sinners. He came into the world to save sinners. In a week He would be hanging on a cross to shed His blood and die that sinners could be saved from their sins and be given a new life.
That evening, perhaps at the supper table, Jesus saved that hungry-hearted sinner. We don’t know what was said. All we know is that Zacchaeus was saved and became a changed man from that hour.
Who was Seeking Who?
What caused Zacchaeus to seek after Jesus? Was it mere curiosity? It may have been that, but it was something far deeper than curiosity. Zacchaeus was hungering to know God and be a righteous man. He somehow knew that this was his last chance to see Jesus. Though he probably was not aware of Isaiah’s call to sinners in Isaiah 55:6-7, he was seeking God, though he knew not why.
Isaiah warns in that passage, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord and He will have mercy upon Him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Jesus had earlier preached in His Sermon on the Mountain, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the necessary material things of life) will be added unto you.”
Why did Zacchaeus seek after Jesus? Because God had taken the initiative and was seeking after Zacchaeus. That’s the way it always is with sinners. Sinners don’t take the initiative to seek after God. God takes the initiative to seek after sinners. If that were not the case, no man would ever seek after God.
Paul write in Romans 3:11 “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” You remember in the Garden of Eden after Adam sinned that he and his wife Eve tried to hide themselves from God. They did not seek God. He sought after them and found them and confronted them with their sins.
He provided salvation for them through killing the first animal and shedding its blood for their sins. That sacrifice of an animal began a long series of animal sacrifices throughout the Old Testament, all a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would one day be sacrificed once and for all for our sins.
A Changed Man
So there in his home that night, his Guest, Jesus, led Him to salvation. How do we know he was saved? His life was radically changed. He was no longer a thief. He stood and announced that night or the next morning, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
There’s no question about it. Zacchaeus was a changed man. Jesus announced to him, “This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”
Jesus explained that Zacchaeus was saved; not by his own righteousness, not because he wanted to make restitution for his sins; but he was saved just as Abraham was saved, by faith and not by his works. Read the story of Abraham’s faith in God in Genesis 12 and 17. Then read the explanation of the story in Romans 4:1-13 and Galatians 3, If you wish to go into this in more depth, go to my series of messages on the book of Galatians which you will find under the category FREEDOM. In that series I cover Abraham’s faith and show you that you and I are saved exactly as Abraham was saved by faith in God alone, apart from our works.
No, Zacchaeus was not saved by his works; nor are we saved by our works. Rather His faith in Christ resulted in his salvation which was evidenced by his changed life. II Corinthians 5:17 makes it clear that any genuine conversion is evidenced by a changed life. One who claims to be a Christian, but continues in his old life of sin with no desire to be clean, evidences that he was never saved in the first place. That’s why in II Corinthians 13:5 we are admonished to “Examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. We must prove the genuiness of our faith. If Christ is not living within us by His Spirit and if our lives do not demonstrate the change, then we are deceiving ourselves. We have never been saved.
If God is speaking to your through His Word and calling you to trust Christ for your salvation, do it now. Don’t put it off. Jesus is passing by this moment. He wants to come and spend some time with you right now. Will you invite Him in or will you reject Him. Your decision today could be final for you. If He is knocking on the door of your heart, invite Him in and He will spread a feast of salvation for you and change your life so that you might glorify Him with whatever days you have left on this earth. Read Revelation 3:20 and open the door to His knock right now.
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