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October 6, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1415

October 6, 2019 Luke 19.1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“To Seek & Save the Lost”

 

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. 5 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. 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.”

 

 

  • Noticing a Seeker

 

Thus far in our series on conversations with Jesus we have been examining not only what Jesus says, but how He says it. We have looked at His approach and technique with each interaction. Today is a little different. Today we are looking less at words and conversation and more about actions. Sometimes our actions speak louder than words, so the saying goes. While there are some very important words to consider today, let’s begin by noticing Jesus and others in action.

The first action is of the character Zacchaeus who is trying his best to see Jesus as Jesus entered Jericho. It is plausible that because Zacchaeus was a small man, he could not see over the crowd and did not have one of those telescope things golf fans use to use in the fifties! So, Zacchaeus runs ahead of the crowd, dodging rocks and pot holes and finds a tree he can climb to get a better view of Jesus. It was probably a comical scene as this little guy who thought himself a big guy because of his riches, runs around trying to see Jesus. Probably quite a sight. A rich man, chief tax collector running around undignified, climbing a tree in his robes and heavy purse.

Jesus notices Zacchaeus. He looks up into the tree, probably not very high, but high enough to see over the crowd. Jesus pays attention to these things. Jesus pays attention to those around Him. It may have been especially obvious to Jesus as I suspect the crowds might have been snickering and pointing at this enemy of the people who is acting like a child climbing a tree. We don’t know that for sure, but what we do know is Jesus sees Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus sees Jesus.

How might this help us in conversations about Jesus? One thing is that it tells us to pay attention to our surroundings. Sometimes we go about our business with blinders on. We might be walking through Kroger and having that grocery list running through our minds, we might not pay much attention to our surroundings. Who is walking by? Who has climbed up on that vegetable stand to see better? Well, that might not happen! Sometimes we fail to notice people. Sometimes we even fail to notice things in people as we are in conversation. Jesus noticed. Great thing about that is that Jesus has “noticed” us. He has called us by name.

I served a couple of nights in a homeless shelter in Atlanta back in seminary days and on one of those nights I was appointed weapons guy! I was the biggest volunteer, so the director said, “You stand here and collect any weapons brought in to the shelter.” Yeah, it was strange. Mostly knives, but one of the homeless guys introduced himself just giving his first name and then he handed over his blade. The next morning I spoke to him by name and he was taken back by it, as if no one ever remembered his name. It reminded me of Jesus noticing us, calling us by name, knowing us, and giving a certain degree of dignity simply by noticing.

How did Jesus know Zachaeus’ name? Perhaps someone told Jesus. Perhaps Zacchaeus’ name was well known as a cheat in collecting taxes. We don’t know, but Jesus noticed him and called him by name. We may not know the people we talk to by name all the time and we might have difficulty in remembering names, but the point of this action is to take notice, name or no name, to pay attention to the people around us who might show signs of seeking to see Jesus.

 

  • Reverse Hospitality

 

When Jesus looks up to Zacchaeus He says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” First, calls him by name, then He invites Himself over for a visit to his house. We might think that is presumptuous to invite ourselves over to someone’s house. We would probably do better to invite the seeker to our house or to church or out to lunch. And yet, Jesus invites Himself to Zacchaeus’ house. But the action is one requiring hospitality whether on which ever party is inviting or otherwise as Jesus did it. This is a great way to extend conversations. In this case, no conversation has occurred but what Jesus sees in Zacchaeus is the desire for a conversation. Jesus uses His authority to invite Himself over. It’s a “let’s do lunch” situation. I take from this action that we find opportunities to show hospitality and, in so doing, extend conversation.

 

  • An Appearance of Impropriety?

 

This visit to the house of a tax collector is seen from the outside as a scandal. It was the Jewish way not to associate, let alone go to the house and possibly share a meal, with such people. Most, especially those of us in leadership have always been taught to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, but Jesus ignores, at least in this case, such a criticism. But this also raises for me the question of appearance in the sense of what is seen.

 

As some of you know I always pay attention to the active verbs in any given biblical passage. I wanted us to see the word “see” and how it is used in this story. The first one is verse three where Zacchaeus was seeking to see who Jesus was. Zacchaeus is a seeker, looking for something, looking to see who this man is he has probably heard about through the grapevine. Zacchaeus then climbs the sycamore tree to see Jesus. We have two times the mention of seeing from Zacchaeus. I’ve titled this part of the outline An Appearance of Impropriety? partly because of the actions of the pharisaical crowd who disliked Jesus going to a sinner’s house, but also to highlight the term appearance. To appear is to make something visible, to see it. Zacchaeus is looking for and at the appearance of Jesus to see for himself who this Jesus is. What he sees apparently changes his entire perspective on life and what he has done in the past.

The second mention of seeing is with Jesus. In verse five he looked up and saw Zacchaeus in the tree. Zacchaeus saw Jesus and Jesus saw Zacchaeus. The appearance of Jesus on the road and the appearance of Zacchaeus in the tree has brought together the Lord and a chief tax collector, someone admired and another despised. But what we see in their seeing is an encounter filled with grace.

The third use of vision is by what are probably Pharisees in verse seven who saw Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house. What they see is viewed as a terrible scandalous action on Jesus’ part. The grumble over what they saw, how dare Jesus do something like this with a sinner. To them it is an appearance of impropriety. It is what they saw and they consider it an unrighteous act.

Depending on whose perspective we take, we can see a variety of responses. Zacchaeus sees a potential savior, Jesus sees a potential repentant sinner, the Pharisees see scandal. Zacchaeus and Jesus see Good News, Pharisees see fake news!

 

What might we draw from this appearance? Sometimes we have to go with what the Lord is leading us to do. Every situation we find ourselves in needs discernment. Sometimes we do need to avoid the appearance of impropriety and other times we might need to ignore it for the sake of sharing the gospel. And to that point, we should not be too quick to judge others when we see something that might be perceived as improper. That’s what those in the story who object to Jesus eating with sinners did.

 

 

  • Simply Present

 

What is unique about this encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus is that we have no dialogue like we have in other conversation stories. We have no conversation from Zacchaeus’ home! All we have is Jesus’ presence in the home. I trust something was said that lead Zacchaeus to give away his riches to the poor and even more to anyone he defrauded. Certainly something was said, but all we have is Jesus present in the house. It reminds me of the story when Jesus and Peter are in the boat and without a word about sin or salvation, Peter just sees the catch of fish and then somehow knows that Jesus is the Christ and he himself, Peter, is a sinner.

 

Luke 5.4-9

4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,

 

That is basically all we get in this story too, nothing much said, nothing at all in the house except for Zacchaeus’ contrite statement, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Fourfold was way beyond what the law required. Zacchaeus felt like it would take a lot more restorations to pay for his sins. It reminds me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Jesus was at he house of a Pharisee and once again they felt like Jesus should have known who this woman was and should have had nothing to do with her, but Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7.47-48). I think Zacchaeus felt the same as that woman, that because he had sinned much he needed to love all the more by giving back more to anyone he defrauded.

In this action we need to recognize that sometimes all that is needed is our presence. This is especially true in times of loss and grief. Just being present speaks volumes to those who need someone but do not need a lot of words thrown at them. We might simply need to be present.

 

 

  • The Gospel Brings Salvation

 

 

Jesus declares salvation for Zachaeus’ house and then gives His purpose for coming into the world, to seek and save the lost. This is our mandate as well, go and make disciples (Matthew 28.19) ...seek the lost so that Jesus might save them. This is why we have these conversations just like Jesus did. This is why it is helpful to study how Jesus had these conversations. This is why God gives us courage and words to speak. This is why God calls us to righteous living so that both our words and our actions might testify to the gospel of Jesus and the love and grace and mercy of God. This is why you and I have been called into the family of God, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of all with whom we speak.

It is not our job to save people, that is God’s work. It is our call to bring the message of Jesus Christ to those who are seeking, to seek the lost. If we had someone in our family who was physically lost, we would go looking for them. Well, there are people who are called to be in God’s family and they don’t even know it. We seek them out and sometimes God brings them to us so that He might use us to bring them in.

 

I’ve been summarizing our look into Jesus’ conversations and here is what we have this week:

 

1) Notice people and notice what people are saying or not saying. Notice!

2) Show hospitality.

3) Discern what appears before us.

4) Be present, preferably a non-anxious presence.

5) Seek the lost that Jesus might save them!

 

Sometimes the gospel is seen as much through our actions as through our words. Conversations might have plenty of words but might also need actions. Let us speak and act in the power of the Holy Spirit so that all may come to know the Lord as we do. Amen.