A STUDY OF THE MESSAGE OF LUKE
You Must Be Lost Before you can be Found
The Christian life is a life of service until Jesus comes. The challenge is to keep this focus all throughout one’s life. This is illustrated by the salvation of Zacchaeus. It is also reinforced by the motivation Jesus gives him to live a faithful Christian life. That life has a beginning we call salvation. It also has an ongoing aspect which we call sanctification. Getting to heaven initiates this life. Preparing for the heaven one is now going to predominates this life.
TRUSTING CHRIST FOR THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE TRANSFORMS PEOPLE
Verse 1-6: Notice that Jesus picked a very wealthy man who was also short and invited Himself over to the rich man’s house. We do not know all of the conversation but this rich man was never told to sell all he had and give it to the poor. He notices Z and invites himself to his house. By doing this he is honoring him and recognizing him. Jesus request and recognition of Z motivates him to scurry down out of the tree and welcome Jesus into his home. This is quite an unexpected outcome for Z.
Verse 7: The naysayers who have been dogging Jesus for quite awhile now have nothing but contempt for the spectacle they just observed. They grumble their disapproval—all of them—of Jesus becoming the guest of such a sinner—one who is the chief tax-collector in town and very wealthy to boot. Jesus purposely attached himself to sinners like Z and everyone of us should be glad about that for the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 6:23.
Verse 8-9: When Jesus came to Zaccheus’ house Z said, Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much. And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. Jesus did not mean Zaccheus was saved because he of his commitment to do good, or that he repented but because he is a son of Abraham in that he had faith like Abraham (Genesis 15:6). Paul defines a true spiritual son of Abraham as one who comes by faith (Romans 4:16). He has become a spiritual son of Abe because he has believed.
The willingness to compensate people is evidence of a change of attitude because of his faith in Christ. Z was evangelized between verse 6 and 8. Luke is writing to Theophilus and as he reads this story he does so as a Pauline Christian reads it. At some point of Jesus visit to Z he had believed. He became a son of Abraham. The joy of being saved motivated him to give. Jesus flattered him by noticing him. Then visiting him. Then eating with him. Jesus is giving him his attention. He is giving him a visitation. He then gives him salvation. Here is a rich man who gets through the eye of a needle.
Z’s response to please Jesus is to give magnanimously. Once we know we have eternal life its natural to express our appreciation as a newly saved persons. One has the impulse to give. We want to express our appreciation to God in some way for the salvation he has given to us.
Verse 10: Jesus has a shepherd’s heart toward the unsaved. It is interesting that the mission of Jesus included seeking the lost, that is seeking those who consider themselves to be lost. God does not seem to change the hearts of people into those who seek Him but rather He looks for those who’s heart is sensitive to sin and longing for God. Like with Z, Jesus wanted to seek the lost. He wanted to persuade them and lead them to faith. Jesus shepherded Z to salvation. A lost man was now found. A sinner was now saved. Jesus initiated this encounter with a lost man. Now this ‘found’ man is transformed by this encounter. His salvation changes him. If you ask the progressive liberal today “Are you spiritually lost? Do you consider yourself a sinner hopelessly lost and unacceptable to God?” They will say “No.” So Jesus did not come for them.
PT: It is interesting that Zaccheus was not given the same standard as the disciples or the rich ruler of chapter 18:18-30. Zaccheus offered to give half of his wealth to the poor, not all of it and to pay back four times to any he defrauded. But since he was wealthy, he no doubt had a lot of wealth left and would get more. Yet Jesus said, today salvation has come to this house, apparently because Zaccheus was willing to take his focus from earthly wealth and put it into heavenly wealth.
INVEST YOUR SALVATION INTO ETERNAL REWARDS
Verse 11: This parable was told as they were approaching Jerusalem because the disciples thought that when they reached Jerusalem the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately without Christ’s suffering and death on the cross (Luke 18:31-34). The point is that Jesus was going to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return at the Second Coming. In the meantime, during the coming church age, His followers were to fulfill the responsibilities He gave them. On His return, He would reward the faithful according to their service to Him, and His enemies would be judged. They had heard the things between Z and Jesus.
Verse 12-26: This is a parable about money. Z had built his entire life around money. Now as a saved man Jesus wants to teach about money and wealth and life. Here are ten persons all on the same level. There is a sense in which every Christian is on the same level. We all have the same opportunity to invest our life situation eternally. We are all living one life here. It is the outcome of that life that God will judge. Here is a descending level of approval of one’s life. In v 17 it’s elaborate. In v 19 it’s abrupt. In v 22 it’s scathing. This a difference not in opportunity but in performance. Here is a range of possibilities within the servant with a range of judgment between them.
Verse 14 and 27: Here are citizens who hated the nobleman and are his enemies. There is a sharp distinction between the servants of the nobleman and his enemies. They are going to get executed in the presence of the one they reject—Great White Throne Judgment. Cast into the lake of fire is the second death. So we have two judgments here—the judgment seat of Christ and then when that is finished, he says bring my enemies before me—great white throne.
They have to be brought there. We know that the grave and the sea will give up it’s dead to be there. Here is a contrast then of judgment between believers and unbelievers. The judgment for believers leads to lose of opportunity. The judgment for unbelievers leads to loss of eternal life. They never want Jesus reigning over them. That is the difference. Unbelievers want none if that. Believers do.
Every one rejecting him will be judged. Jewish people did not want Jesus reigning over them. So they crucified him. The delegation of haters in v 14 are represented by people like Stephen and others who formed this delegation sent to God by martyrdom that his citizens still hated him and rejected Jesus. They are reaffirming they are enemies of Jesus Christ. This band increases until finally at Armageddon it crescendos into we do not want this man reigning over us. So everybody who has resisted his reign will finally be judged v 27.
PT: Z hears this and realizes there are levels of achievement here. He wants to impress Jesus and the one who really does that is the one with ten minas. This would be a lesson for Z to hear and learn. Invest what you have for eternal reward. Don’t be satisfied with what you have said here Z. There is an accounting and so aim for full approval and reward for what I have given you. Here is a motivation to get to the top. Nothing is gong to stop Z from his objectives even as a short man. He compensates for it in these various ways like climbing the tree. Climb as high as you can on the spiritual ladder. After Jesus is long gone he can think about this encounter and story. Jesus repays himself again and again as he remembers this story. Be maximally faithful. The second fella lost the warm commendation from the nobleman. Then the rebuke to the third. Our greatest need is for approval. Jesus says this is how you can get it. Be faithful with what you have and continue to invest it for eternal profit.
1. Ministry is initiated. Ministry just does not happen all on its own. Jesus chose to stay with Z. Jesus chose to teach Z, the disciples, and others about profiting eternally with their salvation. We are to preach the gospel. We are to make disciples.
2. Ministry is service to people with their eternal profit in mind. What is the most eternally profitable service I can provide for another is the definition of ministry. We do not serve people well if we only have their temporal welfare in mind.