To Seek and Save that which was Lost

Intro: I recently read on an Entrepreneur website that every company should have a mission statement. Do you know what that is? It is defined as “a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or person, its reason for existing. It goes on to say “The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.” It’s like a goal for what the company wants to do for the world.”

  • As I studied the scriptures in reference to our subject for April I came across a couple of “mission statements” for Jesus. One such is found in the immediate context of our lesson last week – Luke 19.
  • Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
  • I am convinced that these words spell out the overall goal of Jesus, They provide a path and guide for our decision-making as disciples of Jesus; they also seem to provide a framework or context for formulating our strategies, and they certainly describe what Jesus (and we) want to do for the world.
  • Turn to Luke 19. Let’s look at the event that prompted Jesus’ illuminating “mission statement”.

Read Luke 19:1-10

I. The Setting:

A. Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Jericho is about 17 miles east of Jerusalem. The road going to Jerusalem from Jericho was a great leap in elevation and treacherous. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, and the crowds following Him were large. Thousands were on their way to the Passover. As we saw last week, many who were following were anticipating that Jesus would use His miraculous power to oust the Romans and set up His kingdom. The enormous crowd presented a problem for one who wanted to get a good look at Jesus.

B. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. Notice that Luke does not just mention Zacchaeus nonchalantly (there was a man named Zacchaeus). He uses the imperative “behold” or “lo” (KJV). This was not the ordinary groupie in Jesus’ entourage. Luke uses two words to describe Zacchaeus.

1. He was a chief tax-collector. Your Bible may say publican, but that is what a publican was – one who collected taxes for the Romans. Zacchaeus was a chief of tax-collectors. He had others working under him and had, no doubt, gained a level of notoriety in his successful occupation. Most Jews considered tax collectors to be political traitors, and morally corrupt. Many were, no doubt, unscrupulous. Although we cannot be sure if Zacchaeus was dishonest in gathering taxes, we can be certain that he was considered to be “a sinner” by his peers. (v. 7)

2. He was rich. This suggests that he had power and authority in Jericho. He could not have purchased the right to collect taxes for the Romans without being both rich and influential.

II. The Seeking: “And he sought to see who Jesus was but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.” (v. 3) This may be the most unusual thing that we learn about this wealthy tax collector. He wanted to see who Jesus was. The verb used indicated continuing action – He was making a determined effort. Was he just curious, or was he responding to Jesus’ teaching and miracles? Luke tells us he was trying to see who Jesus was. But he could not because the crowd was too large, and he was too short. He was a wee little man. His resolve is seen in that he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree. A Sycamore tree (Fig-Mulberry?) had large low branches.

A. “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (v. 5) It seems fair to assume that Jesus did not accidently look up and see Zacchaeus. Jesus knew who where He was going to stay that night, and He knew where Zacchaeus was. In fact, it would seem that Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus, even as Zacchaeus was seeking Him.

1. Jesus calls him by name and commands him to hurry and come down (imperative, indicating urgency) from the tree. This must have amazed and maybe alarmed Jesus’ disciples. Why would Jesus even acknowledge this man? Jesus did more – He invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’ house! “Today I must stay at your home”. Jesus uses the word “must”. IT was not because He did not have anybody else who would put him up for the night. He was on a mission. Someone needed saving.

2. Zacchaeus respond “joyfully” (rejoicing) This is the natural response to one who is seeking and finds what he is seeking for (woman and the lost coin; the Father and the lost boy). Jesus’ mission brings joy.

III. The Complaint: “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” (v. 7) Luke only accords one verse to record the public reaction to Jesus reception of Zacchaeus, but it is a common refrain. Men often object to God’s methods and choices. We want Him to save, but only save those whom we accept.

A. Jesus saw the same response when He greeted and stayed with another tax collector in Matthew 9. Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector to be His disciple and “as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matt 9:10-13) There is another mission statement. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. That is the same thing as Jesus seeking and saving the lost. Unless a person repents he will perish (Luke 13:3). Those who only consider others as sinners see no need to repent, and thus, Jesus will not save them. Jesus did not lodge with Zacchaeus because He excused his sin, or because his sin did not matter. Just the opposite, Jesus spent the night in His house to bring him to repentance.

IV. The Saving: “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.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; (v. 8-9)

A. We cannot know exactly when Zacchaeus made this statement. As a result there are questions that seem difficult to answer with certainty:

        • Were they still at the tree, or in the house? The verbs of v. 6 and v. 7 seems to imply that Zacchaeus had received Jesus into his home.
        • Did Zacchaeus make these statements in response to the complaint of the crowd? Was he simply telling them that he was not dishonest as they supposed? The verbs of v. 8 are in the present tense, but can have a future implication, indicating a promise or commitment. Notice the NIV translation: “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.” (NIV)

B. Contextually, and from Jesus’ statements, it seems best to understand Zacchaeus’ words of true humility and repentance. He was making a commitment of restitution. Colly Caldwell writes… “It seems appropriate, however, to assume that a major change was taking place in the life of this man. The object of the entire story is that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (v. 10).”That which is lost” refers to men in sin and Zacchaeus illustrates that… Salvation requires repentance and change resulting in a different way of living. Zacchaeus had some things to change which are duly noted in his own comments.

1. If you stood before Jesus as others were condemning you, and murmuring against Jesus for even talking to you, would you speak these kind of words (humbly express penitence and determination to do what is right)? Or would you be defensive and proud? This is the attitude of those whom Jesus will save. He seeks this response.

C. Zacchaeus’ promise of restitution went beyond what was required in the law. He promised to give back 4 times the amount he had taken illegally. What is displayed for Jesus to see is a changed heart. It is a heart that does not hold back, but is willing to obey in all things, in all ways.

D. Jesus’ response is twofold:

1. First He speaks to Zacchaeus. Or more accurately He speaks about him in the third person, for there are others who are present to hear. “Today salvation has come to this house”. Some suggest that Jesus was talking about himself personally. He was the Savior who had come to his physical house. But Jesus is saying more. He is proclaiming that Zacchaeus has gained what he was seeking – He has been forgiven. The salvation that had arrived was salvation from the wrath of God, or the punishment of sin. Now there was a true child of God in that house and family. His salvation would provide blessing to his household and perhaps lead others there to Jesus.

a. “because he also is a son of Abraham – this must have pushed the crowd back on its heels. How could this outcast sinner ever become a son of Abraham? Did his promise of restitution save him? Can anyone be saved through penance or doing more good than evil?

b. Read Luke 3:7-14 – John demanded fruits worthy of repentance as evidence that they were true children of Abraham. Jesus proclaimed that this one who had repented was a son of Abraham.

c. Paul said that Abraham is “the father of all those who believe,” even the “uncircumcised” Gentiles (Rom. 4:11-18). He stated in Gal. 3, “Know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham“If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Zacchaeus was a child of Abraham, and saved, because he had faith like Abraham. He evidenced that faith through a changed heart and life. Jesus saved him by grace through faith. Colly Caldwell says… “He was a rich person (in worldly goods) who divested himself of its evils and thus was able to go through the eye of the needle.”

2. The second half of Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus is His mission statement that we mentioned at the beginning. – “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10.

              • The word “for” makes this statement the reason for Zacchaeus’ salvation and sonship. Jesus accomplished it in accordance with His mission of seeking out sinners through and saving them by grace through faith.
              • The Son of Man identifies Jesus as the Messiah, but also identifies Him with those whom He came to save. He has come down among us and become like us in order to save us. This affirms His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross as the means of our salvation.
              • God seeks the lost through the provision of salvation itself. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. HE is constantly looking for the good and honest heart that will seek to be saved.
              • save is from “soza” – defined as “preserve or rescue,” “to bring out safely from a situation fraught with mortal danger”. It implies the love and concern of the one who is seeking to save.
              • “That which is lost” identifies the Jewish nation in their lost condition. Elsewhere Jesus said that He was sent “to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 15:24) But it also identifies all those who have been and continue to be lost through the practice and guilt of their sin.

Conclusion: His mission points us to our purpose as His church. The church of God is the pillar and ground of the church, and we are called to seek the lost through the preaching of that which saves sinners – the gospel of Jesus Christ – It is the power of God unto salvation. Are you saved?