Beautifully and Perfectly, Without Fail
May 8, 2016
The main point of this story is found at the end - in the last two sentences. Jesus says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus because he is a son of Abraham. And Jesus says that he came to seek and to save the lost.
It's easy to think that Zacchaeus was doing the seeking in this story. It seems like he did all the work. After all, it was him who did all the running and the climbing. Jesus, on the other hand, seemed to just be “passing through.”
But think about this. Whose idea was it for Zacchaeus to be short? Whose idea was it for Jesus to pass through Jericho? How did Zacchaeus end up as a chief tax collector in that city? Who arranged this entire story and event? Who created repentance and faith in Zacchaeus' heart?
And who put that sycamore tree there?
Brothers and sisters, this story is not really about Zacchaeus. It is about Jesus. It is about Jesus seeking and saving a sinner. God perfectly arranged everything so that on that very day, at that very place, Zacchaeus would be saved. Because Zacchaeus must be saved. That is why Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” This was predestined and planned before Zacchaeus was even born. Amazing. When the Lord Almighty saves someone, he does it beautifully and perfectly, without fail.
This is heart-warming. God seeks sinners, and God looked for you too. Like a good shepherd, God went far and wide to find you as a lost sheep. He picked you up, he put you on his strong and loving shoulders, and he brought you home.
But there’s more. God doesn’t just seek sinners. He chooses them! He loves them and wants them! In the second-to-last sentence, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” Jesus sought Zacchaeus that day because Zacchaeus was chosen. He was a son of Abraham. This means that Zacchaeus was a spiritual descendant of Abraham. He had faith, just like his father Abraham did.
Brothers and sisters, you are sons and daugthers of Abraham as well!
Father Abraham had many sons.
Many sons had Father Abraham.
I am one of them, and so are you.
So let's just praise the Lord.
Sons and daugthers of Abraham, think about how God looked for you. You didn’t really seek God first. God sought you first. When you confessed your sins and trusted in Christ, you were only able to do that after God gave you the gift of faith and after God changed your heart to repent and believe in Jesus. This is very humbling too. We really did nothing. We cannot take any credit for our salvation. God did everything to save us. Let us be thankful that Jesus did all the work of salvation for us. Let us love Jesus and worship him.
Sons and daugthers of Abraham, think about how God picked you. He picked you and chose you by his grace and mercy. You do not deserve to be chosen. You don't deserve repentance and faith. This is very humbling. Let us tremble before God with fear and awe of his mercy and grace. And let us be thankful and worship and love him because he chose us.
Notice how Zacchaeus changed. He was a different man. He said that he would give half of his possessions to the poor and restore all that he robbed from others times four. On that day, Zacchaeus lost pretty much everything. But Zacchaeus was born again. He lost the world, but he gained life everlasting. The world would call him a fool. Heaven knows better.
The Bible calls this change in Zacchaeus one thing: repentance. When you get saved, you stop doing things that you used to do before, things that were sin, and you start doing things that you never did before, things that are right and just and holy. I hope and pray that there is change in your life as well. That is true repentance.
But repentance is not just about changing your behavior. Non-Christians can change and clean up their act sometimes. But Christians change because they have a new master - a king. Notice what Zacchaeus called Jesus. He called him "Lord."
This is very deep and serious. If Jesus is your Lord, then that means that his will is your command. To have Jesus as your Lord means that you are no longer your own master. It means that the Bible becomes your ultimate authority for what to believe and how to live. It means that you no longer want to do what you want to do. You deny yourself and begin to do what pleases Christ. That's repentance. Repentance is not just a change of behavior. It is a change of kingship. Jesus is the Lord. May your life show that Jesus is your Lord.
It is good and right to be glad for Zacchaeus. We should be happy for him and cheer for him - especially when we learned earlier that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter then kingdom of heaven. We should be happy because the impossible became possible.
But notice that there were people in the story who grumbled. This is really wrong. When a sinner receives eternal life with Christ and a place in his kingdom, we should not grumble. When a lost sheep is forgiven of sins and given a new heart, we should rejoice and be glad. There is no room for grumbling or jealousy or anger in the kingdom of God. Let us not be like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Instead, let us praise God when he seeks and saves lost sinners. Let us pray for our enemies. And if God saves our enemies, let us praise him and be glad for them and welcome them into the family.
As Christians, we are supposed to evangelize the good news of Christ to our friends and family members. We may be scared to do it. We may feel like we’re not good enough. We may not be sure about our personalities or about our sinfulness. We may be afraid of rejection, humiliation or persecution. We don’t want to lose our non-Christian friends. I understand these things. I thought and felt the exact same things when I was in junior high and high school.
But brothers and sisters, know this. Your job is to share the gospel. But Jesus is the one who will do the seeking and saving. Remember, when God saves someone, he does it beautifully and perfectly, without fail. So be encouraged and evangelize. The number of people written in the book of life is fixed. You can't mess up God's plans. In a very real sense, there is no such thing as failure in evangelism. If you get rejected by someone, it’s because he or she was not picked (at least not for that moment). And if someone accepts your invitation to repent and believe in Jesus, it's because he or she was picked a very long time ago, and God planned to put you in the perfect place and time to bring salvation to that person.
In closing, when Jesus comes back, we will receive the kingdom. The dead bodies of God's people will be resurrected. We will have new bodies. And we will go around and meet other believers. You will be surprised who is in the kingdom. Zacchaeus will be there. Sinners will be there. Jesus will be there. And we will all laugh with joy over who put that sycamore tree there.