“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 – and read verses 1-10 for context)
In Bible times, Jewish tax-collectors were hated men. Do you know why? They were considered to be traitors – because they worked for the Roman government. They were considered to be thieves – because they cheated their own countrymen out of money that was not rightfully supposed to be taken. Maybe you have heard a song about Zacchaeus, who was a Jewish tax-collector during the time of Jesus’ ministry. Zacchaeus may have been rich, but he was hated by his fellow-Jews, and he was not a happy man. His riches and his job did not make him happy. If Zacchaeus believed that quitting his job as a tax-collector would help him be friends again with his countrymen and help make him happy, he might have tried it – but he must not have thought that, because he did not quit collecting taxes. Instead he decided to try something unusual: He decided to listen to what Jesus had to say.
Zacchaeus was not a tall man. In fact, he was such a short man that he could not see Jesus above the crowds of people who gathered around Him. So Zacchaeus climbed up into a tree to get a better look. This might have been humbling for such a rich man, to climb up into a tree like a little child trying to see over the crowd. But maybe Zacchaeus was used to being mocked by his fellow-Jews, anyway, or maybe he just wanted to see Jesus so much that he didn’t care what people might think of him.
This little man was open to Jesus’ message. He was learning a lot about himself and how short he had fallen of God’s glory. The Bible says that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. From his place up in the tree, Zacchaeus was getting a glimpse of his own sinful heart.
Suddenly, all eyes were on Zacchaeus. If he was able to hide before, there was no possible way of hiding now. Jesus had looked up into his tree and told Zacchaeus to come down. Jesus was inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ house for supper. What was this little sinful man’s reaction? Zacchaeus got down out of the tree joyfully and took Jesus to his home. The Jewish people were not happy about Jesus’ decision to dine in the home of Zacchaeus, of all people – a cheating, stealing, unpatriotic tax-collector!
Neither Zacchaeus nor Jesus seemed to mind what the people were saying. For Zacchaeus’ part, he had learned that he was a sinner, and he was sorry for what he had done. He stood before Jesus and told Him he had decided to give half of everything he owned to the poor, and he promised Him to pay back four times the amount of anything he owed to anyone he had cheated. After promises like that, Zacchaeus would probably not be a rich man anymore, at least not for a long time! The Bible does not say he stopped collecting taxes after that, but he was a saved tax-collector after that, not a cheating or traitorous tax-collector. And best of all, Zacchaeus was a joyful man after that.
Jesus wasn’t listening to the people’s complaining, either. When Jesus heard Zacchaeus’ testimony of faith and repentance, He said, “This day is salvation come to this house”! And Jesus did eat with Zacchaeus and his family, even though the people said He was eating with sinners. Jesus said He had “come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Maybe the people did not think they were sinners who needed saving, but Zacchaeus knew for a fact that he was lost and needed to be saved from his sin. Because this little man humbled himself and placed his trust in the only Savior of lost sinners, he was gloriously saved. Jesus did not come to help those who think they can save themselves; He came to help those who know – by faith, through grace – that He is their only hope for salvation.
Jesus came to seek and save sinners who need His salvation.
» Do I sometimes look at others and think of them as worse sinners than I am?
» Did Jesus really come to save only the sinners who look better off than other sinners?
» How can I, like Zacchaeus, show others by my life that I have changed my mind about sin and following Jesus?