To Seek and Save the Lost:
Redeeming the Past, Transforming the Present, Redirecting the Future
There are some great children’s books that Kimberly and I have been given as parents, and ones that we have purchased for our children. Some classics that I loved reading to my kids were the “Frog and Toad Treasury,” by Arnold Lobel, and Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “If you take a Mouse to School” series by Laura Numeroff. One of the books that stayed on the shelf and that I really didn’t like was Shel Siverman’s, “The Giving Tree.”
It is the story of the relationship between a tree and a little boy. The tree gives the boy apples, branches, and eventually it’s trunk – only the stump was left. The boy took and took, and the story ends with the boy, now an old man, sitting on the stump. It always bothered me that the boy never learned to give, only to take. It bothered me that the tree gave and gave, eventually having someone sit on it – unable to give anymore.
Today we will look at a man who has taken, and taken, and taken from his community to such so that they hate him. He is isolated and miserable because of his decision to do these things. Have you ever regretted a decision that you have made, and now have to live with the fall out? Are we to live with the guilt, shame, and weight of our sin forever? What if there was a way out? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there is.
We will start and the end of the text for today, verse 10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This was his mission summarized into one sentence.
Seeking the Lord Who Redeems the Past (vv. 1-4)
“He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.”
“There was a man named Zacchaeus” – his name means “pure and clean” and for the Jewish people, a person’s name was very important. Parents would name their children with the hope that they would exemplify their name.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of a very active area for the Jericho region, which was part of the Roman empire. He had heard about Jesus and wanted to see who he was. Why would a wealthy man, who held a high position want to see Jesus?
Perhaps he had heard that Matthew (Levi) the former tax collector had become one Jesus’ disciples. As the chief tax collector, he may have known Matthew and heard about how he walked away from his tax collecting booth one day. Matthew himself, describes the encounter “he [Jesus] saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9) If Jesus had something to do with other tax collectors, then maybe he would talk with Zacchaeus too.
In the preceding passage a blind beggar pleads with Jesus to heal him of his sight, Luke 18:35-43 “As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” The blind beggar called out, and would not stop. Luke takes the reader from a man lost in blindness and poverty to the deliverance of a man lost in wealth and corruption.
Zacchaeus, even though he was wealthy, and held a prominent position, climbed a tree (which would have been very embarrassing for the people of his day) just to see Jesus. “he was seeking to see who Jesus was” It is a very sad picture of a man isolated from his community, hated and despised, lonely just wanting a glimpse of hope of a new life. He was anxious to see Jesus, this morning are you too anxious to see Jesus? Do you want just too see who Jesus is?
The Lord sees those who seek him, Deuteronomy 4:29-31 “But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”
Receiving the Lord Who Transforms the Present (vv. 5-6)
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.”
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. . .” “This is Jesus’ last personal encounter before his arrival in Jerusalem and the events leading to his death.” Zacchaeus did not know Jesus (personally), he “was seeking to see who Jesus was,” yet Jesus calls him by name, and it seems he was why he had even traveled that way through the city, “for I must stay at your house today.”
There was a drawing happening in the heart of Zacchaeus, and there was a Savior who was seeking him out, meeting him in the street, coming to his house, calling him by name. Zacchaeus went up the tree lost, but came down the tree saved, “he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.”
Jesus is making the first move, he sees Zacchaeus, and he calls him by name. 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”
In John 4:3-6 we see similar language with the woman at the well, “he [Jesus] left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” He is waiting for the woman to arrive. Jesus is given direct instructions from the Father – there are divine appointments all throughout Jesus’ ministry. Zacchaeus is one of these appointments, “I must stay at your house today.”
Saved by the Lord Who Redirects the Future (vv. 7-10)
“7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
“they all grumbled,” – in the original language it gives the word picture of bees buzzing, or doves cooing. Jesus is the hero that everyone is swarming around to see what he will do, and hear what he will say, but now the crowd is shocked that Jesus wants to spend time with the chief publican, a notorious sinner, who had robbed nearly everyone in the city by exorbitant taxes and no doubt those in the crowd.
Jesus fully understands that when he says that he wants to associate with Zacchaeus then the anger of these people toward the corrupt tax collector would turn toward him as well. Jesus freely associates with sinners. “Under the impact of unconditional acceptance by Jesus, a transformation is worked in the life of Zacchaeus.”
The man whose name means pure and clean – was not pure or clean. He was a thief, a traitor, and had gotten wealthy by stealing from others. “In that moment Zacchaeus saw it all: what his past had been, what his present was, what his future must be.
The grumbling and murmuring had reached Zacchaeus’ ears and before Jesus and he enters, he turns around and faces the crowd and said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” This was the Mosaic law requirement for anyone who had stolen from another person.
Exodus 22:1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.”
Numbers 5:6 “When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, 7 he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong . . .”
Restitution is a good sign of a changed heart, and he seems to be willing to make it right with people right there on the spot.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Why would Jesus seek out this man and then go to his home? “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus’ mission is to seek out and save the lost – this man was lost and needed a Savior. The lost Zacchaeus was sought out and now saved.
Earlier Jesus had taught, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” The camel is going through the eye of the needle. God is doing that which is incredibly difficult. This meeting was ordained before the foundation of the world. Jesus had to go this way, he had to go to Zacchaeus’ house, and salvation would happen that day.
Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham” Jesus gives Abraham has an example of how one receives salvation. So, how is that Abraham, who lived way before Christ, is saved?
Genesis 15:5-6 “And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Righteousness is “holy and upright living, in accordance with God’s standard. The word “righteousness” comes from the root word that means “straightness.” It was Abraham’s faith in what God told him that made him righteous or upright before the Lord.
So what was it that brought salvation to Zacchaeus’ home that day? Zacchaeus put his faith and trust in the person of Jesus Christ, just like Abraham believed God’s promise to him.
God has also promised us, that we can be freed from our sin, like Zacchaeus – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world,9 that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
For Zacchaeus, he went from being lonely and miserable to being accepted by God. He craved riches and power, but now freely gives it away – He is changed.
The Lord who had to go through Samaria to see the woman at the well, and the same Lord who had to stay with Zacchaeus at his house, now comes to our service today – He sees you, he is speaking to you, and wants to save you from your sin – to take off that weight. He says, Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 8 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abington Press, 1952) 320.
 Milton, Paradise Lost, Bk. 1 “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and hell of heaven.”
 A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Luke (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 239.
 James Russell Lowell, The Present Crisis, “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side.”
 Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Luke (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Press, 2015) 656.
 John Nolland, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 35c (Dallas, Texas; Word Books, 1993) 903.
 Hughes, 655.
 Robertson, 240.
 Clifton J. Allen, Gen Ed. The Broadman Bible Commentary, Luke-John (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Publishing, 1970) 147.
 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers, 1993) 718.
 Ephesians 1:4-6
 Ronald Youngblood ,Gen. Ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee; Nelson Publishing, 1995) 1089.