Images of the Savior (39 â€“ His Coming in to Zacchaeus' House)
In all the gospel of Luke, we may encounter no more concise and compelling description of the Messianic task than that which we meet with at the end of this account: â€œThe Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lostâ€ (Luke 19:10). In this declaration we may learn something of the person of Jesus, and his peculiar office: for he is the Son of Man, that is, the divine Messiah whom Daniel saw in his glory (Daniel 7:13-14). We may also learn of the nature of his work, which is to seek and to save. How appropriate it is that both these elements should be so admirably joined together, for we can no more seek for a Savior, than we can save ourselves (see Romans 3:10-11). Jesus did not come to a world that was clamoring for his grace, and then give it to them in response to their pleas. No, he came unto his own, and was despised and rejected (See Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11); he came unto a world that hated and opposed him, and was mocked and derided by all. Therefore, if he would save anyone, he must first seek him out and draw him. An effectual call must be joined to his effective sacrifice, or else the salvation transaction will never be completed. Ah, let us be grateful that Jesus did not merely come to announce a general offer of salvation, but that he came to seek the individual sinner, and to save him indeed! And finally, we may learn of the subjects of this mighty work of mercy: who are none other than the lost. Many there be in this world who do not consider themselves lost, and see no need of a Savior. Let us be certain that these will be lost indeed before they are ever saved. Jesus saves none but lost and hopeless sinners; and so we who are the chief of sinners may all the more fervently rejoice, for no other quality does the Savior require of men, than that they be as we, and unable to help save themselves.
But let us turn to the account to see these truths illustrated. First, we will note the obstacles which stood in the way of this manâ€™s salvation; or in other words, we will consider how hopelessly lost he was, before our Savior sought him out. We immediately notice that this man Zacchaeus was from the city of Jericho. Let us not forget that it was this city in particular that was first devoted to Godâ€™s complete destruction, when the children of Israel conquered Canaan (Joshua 5:17-19). Everything that was in the city was under a fearful curse, and was so utterly cut off from Godâ€™s mercy that the mere presence of a few of its banned items in one manâ€™s tent was sufficient to cut off all Israel from Godâ€™s saving presence (Joshua 7:10-12). And furthermore, the city was at that time put under a perpetual curse, so that the one who dared to rebuild it would do so at the loss of his own sons, from the first to the last (Joshua 6:26); which prophecy came to pass in the rebuilding efforts of Hiel (I Kings 16:34). We must realize that this city was an outstanding type of the curse of God which rests upon us all, inasmuch as there is any unclean thing remaining in our hearts. We are a cursed race, and all our offspring are born to certain death, because of our congenital impurity. How great must this Son of Man be then, to enter into the cursed city, snatch out the cursed sinner, and bring him to God, whose fierce wrath but a moment before he stood ready to inherit! Let us observe first, that Jesus, in his Messianic work, removes the curse from the lost and hopeless sinner; and we must not fail to mention this wonder of all wonders, that he does so by taking that curse upon himself and undergoing the destroying wrath of the Father, so that we might go free and find blessings in Canaan (see Galatians 3:13). Oh, what a Savior we have met with!
Second, we observe that this man was a tax-collector, and the chief tax-collector at that. To the Jewish people of this era, this is the same thing as if one were to say, â€œhe is a Gentileâ€ (see Matthew 18:17). The Jewish people were very confident that they themselves would inherit God's blessings, for they were the seed of Abraham; but tax-collectors had forfeited that peculiarly Jewish privilege, and were no longer heirs of the promises. How ironic it is, then, that Jesus said of Zacchaeus, whom the rest of the Jews had disinherited, that he was in truth a child of Abraham (Luke 19:9). So then, in order to save this man, Jesus not only overturned the curse, but he made him a child of Abraham indeed, when the rest of the world had disowned him. And is that not what he did with you and me? We were strangers to the covenants, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13), but God made us Abraham's heirs by faith, when we were but Gentiles before (Galatians 3:7, 27-29).
Third, we see that he was rich. Ah, how great a stumbling block worldly riches are! How difficult to overcome! The rich young lawyer was finally tripped up by this deceptive master, and it is a veritable wonder that Zacchaeus was not (Luke 18:18-30). Truly has Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:24); but as impossible as this is with men, with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), and God brought even rich Zacchaeus into his Kingdom. Under a curse, alienated from the promises, and beset by the fiercest and most deceptive enemies â€“ what kind of Savior could save such a man, lost beyond all hope of deliverance? But as deep as our distress may be, Jesus is great enough to plummet its depths, and bring us up from the pit of despair to the dizzying heights of speechless wonder. Thus we have examined the irretrievable wilderness in which Zacchaeus was lost; let us now see the way in which he was saved by this Seeker of hopelessly lost men.
First, Zacchaeus was made to forego all his dignity, before he could see the Savior. This was a great man, to whom, although men despised him behind his back, they bowed down in his presence â€“ for thus has it always been with men of great riches. But this dignified gentleman of the highest class was unable to see Jesus until, forgetting all pride, he was willing to climb up a tree as a common schoolboy. Ah, how many gentlemen are kept from the borders of the Kingdom by their dignity and concern for public appearance! Let us learn that, if we would enter the Kingdom, we cannot do so by ways that are dignified on earth. To enter the Kingdom is to degrade oneself before the world's eyes, who blindly worship material things, and can neither understand nor countenance those fools who would give up all their worldly goods for that which cannot be seen. There will be many a janitor and beggar in the Kingdom of heaven, but how many chief executive officers will we find among the ranks? To those who love outward dignity, the Kingdom is still far off â€“ so let us strip off all our pride, and run like Zacchaeus to the nearest convenient tree so that, by disregarding the world's petty standards of dignity, we may behold the One whose glory far outshines the richest fool of them all!
Second, we notice that Jesus made his effectual call to this roundly-derided fool. Now, we must be certain that it was only the Spirit's working that made him willing to be so debased before the world: but the same grace that made Zacchaeus foolish likewise made him blessed beyond measure, when the Savior passing by looked upon him and said, â€œCome down! For today I must abide in your houseâ€ (Luke 19:5). This was not a request, or an invitation to share in his fellowship, but rather a statement of unalterable necessity. The plan of redemption from the foundation of the world demanded it: Jesus must that day abide in Zacchaeus' house. Let us be sure as well that, when we were called, it was not by a mere offer, but an offer that stirred our dead hearts to life, and made them spring up and follow after the Savior as naturally and irresistibly as the smoke follows the wind. When we were called by our Shepherd, then we gladly left the fold and followed him, for he taught us his voice, and it was sweet to us beyond compare (John 10:3-4). And that this was not merely a general call, but made to Zacchaeus specifically, may be observed in that the Savior called him by name â€“ and so is it ever with those whom he calls. The Shepherd calls us all by name, and we delight in our intimate communion with him. Oh, what a privilege it is to be loved by the King, not just as one of his nameless subjects, but as ourselves, closely, dearly, and intimately! In this, Zacchaeus had much cause to rejoice, and dear brother or sister, so do you and I.
Finally, we observe the effect of this marvelous call: for by it, Zacchaeus was utterly changed, so that he was willing to give up all his riches, admit all his wrongdoings, and exercise tender compassion upon the poor, from whom he had once sucked his lavish subsistence. We may be sure that no one who claims to have met the Savior, and who still tramples upon the poor so that he might be enriched, is a true Christian. If we have looked upon the fair face of One who left all his riches so that we might be given all the wealth of heaven, how can we then turn around and strangle our fellow men so that we might stuff our pockets with their hard-earned pennies (Matthew 18:23-35)? How can we not give of ourselves to help those in any want, when Jesus poured out his own life to give us the aid we so desperately needed, being hopelessly cut off from any hope of comfort or salvation? Note well: he who does not love his brother, in deed and in truth, and not just in word (I John 3:16-18), is no true child of God.
As we turn now to other affairs, let us not fail to rejoice in the marvelous Savior of men! When we were desperately lost, he sought us out, called us with his tenderly powerful voice, saved us from a host of evils, and so utterly transformed us that we were willing to give up all that had been dear to us, and follow in his steps. Who can do this, but One with all the power of the Godhead joined with all the humility of the lowliest of men? Who could do this but the Son of Man, whom Daniel saw so long ago, and who received an everlasting Kingdom in the presence of the Ancient of Days? This is our Savior: oh, how we ought to rejoice that when we were lost, he sought us out and saved us indeed!