THE SEEKER AND THE SAVIOR
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 20, 2019
1 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."
— Luke 19:1-10, ESV
Which is the greater miracle, making a blind man see or pushing a camel through the eye of a needle? Jesus did both in Jericho on his last pass through the city before He reached the cross. Our Lord healed blind Bartimaeus (ref. Luke 18:35-42) and He saved rich Zacchaeus (ref. Luke 18:25).
The greatest miracle of all is the miracle of salvation, when a lost person is found by God and saved. Call it conversion, or regeneration, or just being born again. But it is a miracle akin to resurrection, when the dead lives, the blind can see, and the lost is saved.
Conversion is a transaction between one person and God, like this encounter between Zacchaeus and Jesus. Today we will take a look at their meeting and learn something about the seeker and the savior.
The song says …
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree and he said, 'Zacchaeus you come down, For I'm going to your house today!' For I'm going to your house today!
Gleaning from the song and glancing at the scripture, it seems as if Zacchaeus ought to get a lot of credit for his own conversion to Christianity. He overcame his short stature. He climbed that sycamore tree with his own hands and feet. He brought Jesus to his house. He gave away great sums of money. He seems to be a good man, a seeker of God, who ultimately decided of his own free will to follow Jesus. Well, look a little closer, at this gospel passage and some other key words in God’s word.
Zacchaeus was not good.
As it is written: none is righteous, no, not one … no one does good, not even one … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
— Romans 3:10-23
Zacchaeus was notorious even among the unsaved sinners of his day. His reputation proceeded and followed him, as noted by the grumblers who identified him as “a man who is a sinner” (vs. 6). His critics may have been judgmental Pharisees, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and they were definitely right about Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus’ occupation was “chief tax collector” (vs. 2). As you know, tax collectors in first century Palestine were typically turncoat Jews who strong-armed excessive revenues from their compatriots and turned over the money to the Roman Empire, minus their hefty commission, of course. Of this group of sinners, Zacchaeus was literally “chief” (the only mention of such an officer in the Bible).
Zacchaeus was not a seeker..
No one seeks for God.
— Romans 3:11
Though the text tells us Zacchaeus “was seeking to see who Jesus was,” it does not contradict Romans 3. Zacchaeus did not think Jesus was God. Zacchaeus was not desirous of repentance and faith. Zacchaeus loved his money, his decadent lifestyle, and as a leading citizen and politician in Jericho, he was simply curious to see what all the commotion was about.
Many churches in our day trend toward what is called the so-called seeker-sensitive model. They like to cause commotions with contemporary worship apparatuses driven more by marketing, entertainment, and therapy than word, sacrament, and discipline. They plant smoke, mirrors, and sycamore trees in their sanctuaries hoping Zacchaeus will climb aboard. But the point of this story, and every true gospel story, is not that Zacchaeus was seeking to know Jesus, but that Jesus had determined to know Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was not converted by his own free will.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
— John 1:12-13
In between the lines of this great conversion story is the great conversion of Zacchaeus. The terms repentance and faith are not used, but obviously occurred. People who truly repent and truly believe are truly changed. The aftermath of this story includes the actions of a changed man who can now claim to be “a son of Abraham” (vs. 9).
Zacchaeus was already Jewish, but now by grace through faith, he was Christian. The camel had walked right through the needle, for nothing is impossible with God. It should encourage us that no sinner is so far away from God that they cannot be found. And, although people are not seeking God, God is seeking people to call His own.
God came to see Zacchaeus on this fateful and faithful day. God’s word was spoken. God was in the house. God was in the heart. God was, is, and always will be seen and heard in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
For the Son of Man … came to seek and to save the lost.
— Luke 19:10
Jesus is the Son of Man.
The phase “Son of Man” is found 193 times in the Bible. It is human and it is divine. The prophet Ezekiel used it as a title for himself. The prophet Daniel used it to describe the fourth man in the fire, a Theophany or Christophany, an appearance of God.
“The Son of Man” finds perfect fulfillment in the Messiah, the Christ, son of Mary, Son of God. As all of Scripture attests, eternal salvation is based upon the perfect sacrifice of the perfect person, and only the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ meet this criteria.
Jesus is the Seeker.
… came to seek …
— Luke 19:10
While no man seeks God, God is seeking after all manner of men, all over the world, all of the time. Curiosity seekers came and went in Jesus’ day, as they continue to do today, but when Jesus seeks out a soul, He does it with purpose.
It was no secret to Jesus who Zacchaeus was, or what tree he would be in, or that true conversion would come to his house that day. God had chosen Zacchaeus before the foundation of the world (ref. Ephesians 1:4), called him with an effectual calling (ref. Romans 8:30, granted him repentance and faith (ref. Acts 1:18, 2 Peter 1:1), and made him a son of Abraham and child of God.
God still seeks sinners, through sinners saved by grace, who share the gospel and the word of God with everyone they know. What do we share? Jesus saves!
Jesus is the Savior.
… and to save the lost.
— Luke 19:10
Yes, Jesus saves. His name literally means, “God saves.” He saves tax collectors and sinners, in this case both with one shot. He can save anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Jesus is the seeker and Jesus is the Savior. You do not have to find Him, He will find you. You merely have to admit that you are lost, that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (ref. John 14:6), and you, too, will be saved by the Savior.
The seeker and the savior is Jesus. He is main character in this and every Bible story. The sinner who was saved is Zacchaeus. He is an important character in the story, too, for he is the reason Jesus came to Jericho.
You and I are in the story, too. For we are either wearing the shoes of the pre-converted Zacchaeus or the preeminent Christ. We either need to climb down from our own sycamore tree and let Jesus into our home and heart; or, we need to be the feet, hands, and voice of Jesus, intentionally walking up to people we know are lost, holding out our hands and hearts to them, and speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What a miracle that could be!
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org