Grace For The Journey
We have been studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we find ourselves this morning at the first ten verses of chapter 19. I suppose most of us will be familiar with this passage, the account of a short man named Zacchaeus who climbs a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. How many of you have read or heard the story at least once? Many of you know the children’s song . . .
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
A wee little man was he,
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see
This happened as Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying a sacrificial death on the cross so that those who believed in Him might be saved from their sins. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for the purpose of accomplishing our salvation when Luke tells us about this man named Zacchaeus who is seeking Jesus. But as we study these familiar verses, let me invite you to look at them with this question: “Who is seeking Whom?”
We do not usually think of heart surgery when we read the story of Zacchaeus. It is not the first thing that enters our minds. We read of a little guy climbing a tree and Jesus’ calling him down from the tree, salvation, and a happy ending. We do not usually think of a guy lying on an operating table having his heart repaired or replaced.
In recent weeks we have been drawing comparisons and contrasts between the physical and the spiritual realm. Last time we were studying Luke, we talked about the difference between seeing Jesus physically and seeing Jesus spiritually. You can have good physical eyesight like the rich young ruler, but fail to be saved because of a love for riches that blinds you and keeps you from seeing Christ for Who He is. On the other hand, you can be blind physically like the man at the end of chapter 18 last week and see Christ–really see Christ spiritually–believe in Him and be saved.
Think now about heart surgery. If I have a physically bad heart and I need a new heart, I cannot fix myself. I go to a doctor, and he puts me on a table and he cuts into my body, removes the bad heart and puts in a good heart; heart surgery. And again, before the surgery, I can do nothing to fix my situation. I may be able to do some temporary things to make myself feel better; take some medication or rest, but I cannot fix my bigger problem of needing a new heart. I need someone else to do that for me. I need a medical intervention.
Now, in the spiritual realm: when we are born into this world – a world plagued by darkness and depravity – a world whose sin originates in Genesis 3. We are born into this fallen world with a nature bent to sin. Our hearts – are they naturally good or naturally bad? How many of you think, “Good?” The Bibles says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Because of sin, we have a bad heart. Because of sin, we need a new heart. Because of sin, we need someone from the outside to perform surgery on the inside. We need what the Bible refers to in Ezekiel 36:26 as a “heart of stone,” a dead heart, a heart unresponsive to the promptings of God and His Word. We need this “heart of stone” to be replaced with a “heart of flesh,” a heart that is soft and responsive to the things of God. And only when we get this new heart are we able to respond appropriately to the Word of God and the will of God.
Now what is extremely interesting to me is that God – in His love – sets His affection upon certain ones who themselves are dead in sin, possessing stony hearts, lost and undone – God comes along and sets His loving affection upon such as these. There is nothing noteworthy about these certain ones, there is nothing really special about them, they are sinners. But God takes the initiative and out of His electing love alone performs His spiritual operation of heart surgery and gives and grants new hearts that are responsive to His Word and His ways. This is why some of you reading this lesson right now would say, “You know, I have one of those hearts. It is a new heart. It is a heart that is soft and responsive to the things of God. I did not get it myself. It was given to me by God.”
We must not assume that everyone has this spiritual heart. We look around and we are certain everyone we see has a physical heart. Most of us know we have physical hearts and yet we dare not assume that everyone has a spiritual heart.
But this is important . . .
If we have one of these hearts, granted to us by God
Through the Gift of what is called regeneration
– If we have one of these hearts,
Soft & responsive to the things of God
– It is not because we did something to deserve it,
Not because we were worthy to receive it,
But only because God loved us and delighted to give it to us.
What does all this have to do with Zacchaeus? Well, let’s see. Why don’t we just make our way back through the verses together. Verses one and two say, “Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.” We are introduced to this guy, a tax collector, and not just a common everyday tax collector, but a “Chief tax collector.” That is a phrase found nowhere else in the entire New Testament. The Roman Government, to support their vast and powerful empire, had to levy huge taxes upon the people. A Jewish man could get a job as a tax collector for Rome, but he would be considered a traitor by his people. What is more, tax collectors were despised because of the way in which they skimmed from the profits, pocketing sizable percentages for themselves. As Jericho was a major toll collection point for commerce traveling east and west, we may imagine Zacchaeus had a very lucrative business operation. The title, “Chief” tax collector suggests he had people working underneath him.
Verse three tells us, “And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.” I like the phrase at the beginning of the verse, “He sought to see who Jesus was.” Zacchaeus was curious. Zacchaeus was inquisitive. Zacchaeus was on an investigative journey into the spiritual realm. In my study this week I found it helpful to trace the steps of Zacchaeus under three main headings. First . . .
I. Consider His Investigation.
Zacchaeus is seeking Christ. There can be no doubt about that. It is precisely what Luke records here in verse 3, “And he sought to see who Jesus was.” Zacchaeus is seeking Christ. Zacchaeus is on an investigative journey into the spiritual realm. He had heard about Jesus and now he is investigating the person Himself. We may wonder what drew Zacchaeus to Jesus. Why was he interested? He had much in his life, did not he? He had what so many of you want – riches, power, and influence. What on earth does Zacchaeus want with a poor, Jewish messiah? It is certainly not the main point of this encounter, but worthy of slowing our pace long enough to remind ourselves that all the money in the world is powerless to provide a sense of real meaning and purpose. Zacchaeus was rich, but he was only rich.
He sought to see who Jesus was, but he had a problem. What was his problem? Luke tells us in verse 3 that Zacchaeus “could not (see Him) because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.” The Greek word is mikros, from which we get “micro.” He was a very small man! What does Zacchaeus do that he might be able to see Jesus? Verse 4 says, “So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.” He climbs a tree that he might look down upon the crowd and see the approaching Jesus. Picture this shrewd, wealthy, and well-dressed businessman running down Jericho’s Main Street and shimmying up a tree on the square to see this Jesus about Whom he had apparently heard much.
Second . . .
II. Consider His Celebration.
Verse 5 tells us, “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’” I wrote in my notes this week, “How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name?” Think of it! Jesus comes through Jericho and He stops right there at the tree and He looks up right there at Zacchaeus and then He calls Zacchaeus by name. The whole encounter is guided by God’s hand. He even says to Zacchaeus, “Today I must stay at your house.” This is “Divine Necessity,” this is not an option. I Must!
The encounter reminds us of Jesus’ seeing Nathaniel in John 1, verses 47-48, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” The encounter is guided by God’s hand.
Verse 6 says, “So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” This is now the eighth time Luke has used this verb usually translated “joyfully” or “rejoicing” in his Gospel (Luke 1:14; Luke 8:13; Luke 10:17; Luke 13:17; Luke 15:5, Luke 15:9, Luke 15:32; Luke 19:6). Joy accompanies the response faith and repentance.
It is very likely that Zacchaeus has already at this point placed his faith in Christ. The text does not tell us the exact moment Zacchaeus becomes a believer. If he is not saved at this moment, he is very close as true joy is that which accompanies true salvation. Zacchaeus “received Him joyfully.”
Jesus is interested in Zacchaeus! Maybe this is the first time someone has taken an interest in him. Others had shunned him, avoided him, and cursed him. But here is this miracle-working mystery Man, a person Zacchaeus had heard was the promised Messiah, the One who opened the eyes of the blind and set the captives free. Here is Jesus, Savior, Lord who says, “I must stay at your house.”
This is for Zacchaeus quite a celebration. But as is frequently the case in Luke’s Gospel, we see that not all are celebrating. Verse 7 says, “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’” Zacchaeus had a reputation. They knew him. They knew he was a sinner. Greek Scholar, A. T. Robertson, notes that the word translated, “complained” is an onomatopoetic word, a word that sounds like what it means. These self-righteous religious folks did not want to defile themselves with sinners, but Jesus always drew these sinners to Himself for the purpose of revealing to them the Good News.
Thirdly . . .
III. Consider His Transformation.
Verse 8 tells us, “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’” Zacchaeus is a changed man, a transformed man. He had previously ripped people off, skimmed the profits of his tax-collecting business, and made himself filthy rich. Having encountered Christ, he is different now. Money does not mean as much as it once did, proving the truth of what Jesus had said in an earlier chapter 15 and verse 15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Zacchaeus gives half his goods, not just his salary. He has liquidated his clothing, furniture, collectibles, and jewelry. He is willing to do what the rich young ruler was unwilling to do in Luke 18:22, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus had said in Luke 18:24, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” Hard, but not impossible! Though “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Luke 18:25), God can make possible the impossible as illustrated here with the changed heart of Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus has a changed heart. He is willing now to make restitution according to Old Testament Law (Exodus 22:1; 2 Samuel 12:6). He says in verse 8, “I give,” and, “I restore.” These verbs are in the present tense, indicating something Zacchaeus is now doing this. He is now a changed man, doing things differently with his possessions from this point on. Zacchaeus has traded out an old, worldly and temporary joy in riches for a new, eternal joy in Christ Jesus.
Verse 9 says, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” The idea Jesus is conveying here is that Zacchaeus has shown himself to be a true Jew in every way. He is a true believer who has embraced his Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Zacchaeus’ actions reveal that his faith and repentance are genuine. If there has been a change on the inside, it will lead to a change on the outside. Outside behavior indicates inside change.
As we apply this passage to our lives, lets consider these three questions . . .
1) Do I Continue To Possess A Childlike Curiosity About Christ?
Zacchaeus did not care what people thought of his climbing a tree to find out more about Jesus. He was naturally curious and was willing to do whatever it took to find out more about Jesus. How about you? Do you continue to possess a childlike curiosity about Christ? Are you learning new things about Jesus? Growing day by day in your study of the Word and your attendance in worship and Sunday school?
2) Do I Really Joy In The Things Of The Lord?
Zacchaeus proved that one’s life does not consist in the things that he possesses. What causes your heart to flutter? What do you joy in? Seriously. Do you find it more natural to joy in sports, recreation, ball games, parties, things, than Jesus Christ Himself?
3) Do I Live With Greater Commitment To Christ Each Day?
Zacchaeus was ready to give away half his stuff. Here is a guy who has truly encountered Christ and is committed to trusting Him with all of His heart. Do you trust God through your giving? Do you tithe? Do you live with greater commitment to Christ each day?
Zacchaeus had a change on the inside. Zacchaeus had a heart-change. Who changed Zacchaeus’ heart? Look at verse 10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Think of it now: who is seeking whom? Verse 13 says Zacchaeus sought Jesus, but verse says Jesus has come to seek Zacchaeus. The very reason Jesus comes through Jericho and stops at that very tree, looks up, and calls Zacchaeus by name and says to Zacchaeus, “I MUST stay at your house,” is because Jesus has “come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
What was it that drew Zacchaeus to Jesus? In a word: God. God drew Zacchaeus to Jesus. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” In His infinite love God comes to men and women like Zacchaeus and performs spiritual “heart surgery” upon them and draws them to Himself through the saving power of the Gospel. He comes to us. He surgically removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. He changes us on the inside, and we begin to live differently on the outside.
If you have come to Christ it is because He first came to you. The Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” We never cease to marvel and be utterly amazed at this divine, electing love of God.
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of Thee.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”