A young painter once returned to his studio to find a note attached to a portrait that he was working on. As he looked at the note he could discern that it was the obvious handwriting of one of the great, master painters of the time. It seemed that the genius artist had paid him the honor of stopping by.
Unfortunately, he had called while the young man was out.
What is interesting is that the message contained only one word. It was the Latin word, “Amplius.” It is the root of our word “amplify” or amplification. We use it in reference to sound. But it simply means larger.
That word became the young man’s life inspiration. From that point on he continually thought “Larger,” and it was this mindset that enabled him to attain to a level of high honor in his work.
Looking back over our study of this gospel, we might sum up what we have witnessed with that same word: Amplius. Over the course of these pages Jesus has presented to us a large love.
Some of you may remember that the very first message that commenced this journey was entitled, “The Crazy Love of Jesus.” It was love that impelled him to set his face towards Jerusalem, the place where he knew he would die.
Then we have seen other instances of this love throughout this study. The parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son—all of these were somewhat emotional because of what they say about the love of Christ for lost sinners like us. In more recent times we heard Jesus express his love when he said that “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Indeed, every step in this journey has been taken in love. And no doubt, we end our journey today witnessing the amplification of Christ’s love. As he makes his final approach to Jerusalem we see that Jesus has a large love for his people. And this love can be seen both in the plea that he makes and the tears that he sheds.
Now, you will likely discern where he sheds the tears. That is, of course, referenced in verses 41-44. But what about the plea that he makes? That one might puzzle you. Because in verses 29-40 he barely utters a word. You might wonder where the plea is.
But what I want you to understand is that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a non verbal plea. As he makes this final approach to the city, he makes an appeal to us spectators to trust him as our messianic savior.
I. Jesus’s love is evident in the plea he makes [29-40]
In verses 29-40 we are told about how Jesus rode into Jerusalem for what is typically called his “Triumphal Entry.” But this is more just a description of him coming into town in a grand way. The drama of this event was specifically set up in order to call the people to recognize who he was as their savior and trust in him.
What is he doing here but unabashedly proclaiming himself as their messiah, is he not?. If ever Jesus was explicit about who he was, it is here!
Some of you might remember that I preached on this passage on Palm Sunday just over 2 years ago. And in that message I said that Jesus is intentionally provoking the people. As we read the first couple of verses, what we find is that the whole event was staged.
You see that it starts off in verse 29 by telling us that Jesus had drawn near to Bethany and Bethpage. Now these cities were located just a hop, jump, and a skip away from Jerusalem.
And notice what Jesus does. He sends guys ahead to steal a donkey. Yes. You heard right. They were to basically steal it. Jesus said, “you are going to find a donkey tied up there. Go get it for me. If anyone asks you what you are doing, tell them that the Lord has need of it.”
Now, do you see what is happening? Of course someone’s going to ask, “What are you doing?” The disciples are stealing a donkey! They are not going to just sit around and watch their donkey get carted off. They’re going to say, “Hey! What are you doing with my donkey?!” When they find out that Jesus needs it, that’s going to start a little buzz through town.
You can imagine how that news just spreads like wildfire. Everybody knows Jesus by this point. He’s the miracle guy. He’s the one people are saying is the messiah. That he’s coming to Jerusalem publically (remember that last time he showed up in Jerusalem, he snuck in secretly) is a big thing.
And that he’s going to be riding on a donkey! Now, think about this. Everybody knows their OT. Everyone knows the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Everybody knows that. Jesus knows that. So this is all staged. Jesus intentionally provokes these people to be thinking, “MESSIAH! SAVIOR!”
He doesn’t even shy away from it, does he? I mean the Pharisees get a little annoyed with all the singing and the hosannas. They tell Jesus to make the people pipe down. But what does Jesus do? You know, there were times when he told people, “Be sure you do not tell anyone.” There were times when he was secretive about his identity. But not here. He says, “If they don’t say anything, these rocks will cry out.” In other words, my identity has to be known. I can’t keep it a secret any longer.
Now, what I want you to do is think about what is going on here. Jesus is intentionally letting the cat out of the bag as to who he is. It is nothing other than full disclosure as to who he is. Jesus proclaims in the clearest terms, “I am your Messiah. I am your Savior. I am the one who brings you peace with God.” And the implied question is, “Won’t you follow me?”
I think we can liken it to how presidents in the United States act from time to time. When a president’s poll numbers drop, what does he do? Well, he’s got to get people to trust him. He’s got to win their hearts and get them to believe that he is someone they can follow. So, typically, he will present himself to the people in a more grandiose way. When he walks into a room, they’ll pull out all the stops. They’ll play “Hail to the Chief” in the background. They’ll have a little entourage that escorts him. They’ll make him out to be a real leader. It’s all a staged event to get people to think, “He’s my guy. He’s the kind of fellow I can follow.”
Or maybe we can liken it to a woman who is trying to woo her man. Maybe they’ve been having some difficulties in their marriage. She doesn’t want to give up on him because she still loves him. So what does she do? She dresses up a little. She goes out of her way to not look frumpy. She gets her hair done. She puts on a little lipstick. She even puts on a little perfume.
Why does she do all that? Why does she go to all that trouble to look just right when he gets home from work? It’s because it is a plea, isn’t it? It’s her way of saying, “I love you. Give me your heart.”
I believe that’s what Jesus is doing here. In this grand entry he’s proclaiming his love as the messianic savior. And in so doing he pleads with you, saying, “Won’t you give me your heart?”
And I want you to understand that he’s making that very same plea to you today. You could be here today and you might have been tagging along in this journey. You might be like those Jews who were intrigued by Jesus, but never really put your faith in him.
Well, Jesus is calling to you today. He’s going out of his way to tell you how much he loves you and wants to be your savior. And you have the responsibility to respond to that loving announcement by acknowledging him to be your God and Savior. You need to respond by devoting your life to him and becoming a true disciple of Christ.
This dramatic entry is his plea to you to come to him and find peace with God once and for all.
But, don’t just listen to the plea he makes. Look at the tears he sheds. For this too is a demonstration of his love us.
II. Jesus’s love is evident in the tears he sheds [41-44]
In verse 41 we find something almost ironic, do we not? Certainly it is a wide contrast to the jubilation of the crowds. Verse 41 tells us that Jesus wasn’t joining in on all the hoopla. Instead of singing and shouting and whooping it up, he’s found to be weeping.
Jesus is overcome with emotion because he knows that the songs are sung in falsetto. Jesus knows that as he makes this plea, it is not working. The hearts of the people don’t really trust in him. As a matter of fact, he goes on in verses 42-44 to prophecy the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He knows that their unbelief will result in God’s wrath being poured out upon them.
And, make sure you understand that he is torn up about that. Do you sense the emotion here? His heart is overcome as he thinks about the guilt that this city has incurred. All the mercies that were offered, all the prophets that were sent to it, the labors he had in their midst to call them to faith and repentance, the offers of grace; all the promises of salvation; all of these have been neglected and scorned; all of these things weighed heavily upon him, not to mention the horrors that would be experienced down the road as the fulfilment of this prophecy.
His heart breaks because of all this. His spirit is so overwhelmed that the tears begin to stream down his face.
There are some who like to picture God as a passion-less God. They like to think of God as kind of stoic, and without any kind of emotion. But that’s not the kind of thing you get here, is it? Jesus is full of emotion. There is grief. There is sorrow. There is distress.
And, of course, these emotions flow out of his love.
Why is it that people mourn when someone dies? Is not their sorrow evidence of their love?
I remember early on in my ministry I had to officiate a funeral. I was called in to lead the service, even though I did not know the family personally or the person who had passed away. Now, to be sure, there is nothing joyous about a funeral. But I didn’t get choked up or anything. I didn’t know the person who had died or have any kind of relationship to her.
But there was one young man who sat in the front row who never stopped sobbing through the whole service. There were some points during my message where his grief was so intense that he actually began to howl. He was audibly groaning to the point of being distracting.
Now, it isn’t hard to figure out who loved the deceased more. It was pretty easy to tell that this man’s attachment her was much greater than mine. The whimpers and the tears showed that his love for her was quite intense.
And the tears of Jesus evidence the same kind of passionate love.
Don’t think for a moment though that this love will overshadow his justice. No, this passage makes it clear that the Lord will not hold back in the least. Jesus describes perfectly how Jerusalem would be sacked. And when you read accounts of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, you find that this is exactly what happened. Jerusalem was torn to the ground, and all the people in it suffered horrendously.
When I was in Israel I learned a little about the events that transpired there in the fall of Jerusalem, and how literally, how they did not leave one stone upon another. I learned that when it was attacked a fire broke out in the temple, and the temperature escalated to such a high degree that the gold that lined the temple began to melt. And as it melted, it ran down into the cracks and crevices of all the rock. The soldiers then, in their greedy plunder, tore each of the rocks down in order to get at the gold.
And what was done to the buildings doesn’t even begin to describe the misery that was inflicted upon the Jewish people.
So again, don’t think for a moment that the love and tears of Jesus indicate any sort of relent on the part of God when it comes to his justice. His wrath will be swift and painful.
At the same time, do not let God’s justice overshadow his love. The tears that Christ sheds are real tears. And they should remind you how earnestly he desires you to turn to him.
We hear here an echo of Ezekiel who said that God does not take delight in the death of the wicked.
Sometimes I think that Reformed folk do.
If God does take pleasure in it, it is only because his righteousness is being upheld.
But in Ezekiel the Lord goes on to say, “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their wicked ways and live?” Isn’t that what affords the Lord greater pleasure?
And so, as you look at verses 41-44 and as you see his tears rolling down his face, what you should hear is Christ’s desire for a sinner like you. He loves you, and he would much rather you heed his call to salvation by turning away from your sin. He’d much rather you repent of your unbelief than be condemned to hell for the rest of eternity.
The tears of Jesus are droplets of his love, and these tears call you to love him in return.
As many of you know, I had the opportunity to take a tour of Israel a number of weeks ago. One of the things that we did was walk the path which leads down the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. You want to know what is interesting though? The whole way is lined with tombs. It is basically one huge cemetery.
And one of the odd things Jews do when they visit the tomb of their ancestor is that they put rocks on the tombs. No one knows exactly why they do it. You know, when we go to the cemetery, we usually take flowers. Why do we do that? Why flowers? No one really knows. But it is a way we pay our respects. That’s what they do in Israel, except that they use rocks. This practice is said to have been in existence for thousands of years.
I wonder if it were these rocks that Jesus was talking about when he said that the stones would cry out? If there is one thing that Israel is not lacking, it is rocks. I couldn’t get over how many rocks there were in Israel. But it was these rocks that actually stuck out as distinct.
If this was the practice that Jesus was referencing, I wonder if that is a reference to the resurrection and what the Messiah Savior had come for. The rocks cry out as the tombs fling open and the bodies of the dead rise to meet their eternal dwelling. Or perhaps, the rocks will seem like they are crying out because those who are rising from the dead will be coming before the Lord to meet their eternal doom.
If that is true, you see again the love of the Savior. He has come because each of us deserves a tomb. The Messiah’s love is evident in that he has come to break the power of sin and death.
Of course, it does not matter if that allusion to rocks is true or not. Jesus has certainly made it clear that he has come for that purpose. And as we come to the end of our journey, we must remember that it ends in Jerusalem, the gravesite of Christ. In love, he has come to the city to die, so that we who trust in him might not fear death or die without hope of eternal life.
We’ve been on the road to Jerusalem. Our text for this morning starts off by saying that Jesus told this parable because they were near Jerusalem. I think that’s the Bible’s way of saying that Jerusalem is the next exit.
You know how it is when you are on a road trip, especially one where you’ve been on the road for a while. You’ve been anticipating your arrival. You’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time. Then, when you see your exit—or when you know your exit is coming up—what do you do?
My wife will even sound like a stewardess on an airplane that is making its final descent. “Please make sure your loose items are stowed and your seats are in the upright position.”
When you are nearing your destination you basically make those final preparations and begin to wrap up whatever you’ve been doing on your travels.
It is my belief that our passage this morning is something of that final descent wrap up. We began this journey back in Galilee. In chapter 9 Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. And throughout our journey Jesus has been teaching us about the life of a disciple. The heart of this book, the longest portion of this book has been focusing on the nature of discipleship.
And now Jesus is sort of wrapping up this intensive course on discipleship with this parable. We call it the parable of the Mina’s, after the unit of money that the master bestows upon his servants. And, I believe it is a fitting way to wrap up this journey. It really sums up well what is expected of us as his disciples.
This passage divides easily into three sections, with each section focusing on one of the characters in the parable. There are basically three characters: The master, the faithful servants, and the negligent servant. And so I’d like to break things down that way this morning.
And really, it is best to begin with the master and the trust that he bestows.
I. The Master bestows a special trust
In our passage Jesus likens himself to a nobleman who “went to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom.” (v. 12). But before he set off, he called his servants to himself and committed to them a certain sum of money (a mina).
Now, we are not sure exactly what the value of a mina really was. Scholars are divided on its worth. Some say it was around $20, and others say it could be up to $20,000! But, the value of the unit has no real bearing on the meaning of the parable. All we need to know is that the master has bestowed upon us a trust. And what is required of these servants is faithful service. The lesson is about proper stewardship. Servant are to be responsible. They are to take that money and improve upon it. They are to use it in a way that would benefit their master.
Now, what is this teaching. Well, I want to suggest to you that this parable is about discipleship. It is my belief that the trust that Jesus bestows upon us is his word. Throughout this series in these 10 chapters, Jesus has been giving us his word. He’s been discipling us and reminding us of how important it is to follow his word.
Now, coming to the end of his journey he’s saying, “Hey, I’ve bestowed upon you something of great value. I’ve given you everything you need to know to be my disciple. Now it is your responsibility to go out there and be a good steward of my word. You are to bring me glory by the way you obey this word and apply it in your lives.
Let’s pause here and think about how this fits. Turn back with me to Luke 9. You remember that we started off in 9:51-56. There we read about him setting his face towards Jerusalem and his encounter with the Samaritans who rejected him. These Samartians were essentially choosing not to be his followers. Then, the next passage, verses 57-62 Jesus spelled out the cost of discipleship. His first lesson, so to speak, on this journey was “This is what it really means to follow me.” In other words, being my disciple is going to mean you need to set me far above everything else in your life.
Then after that, we had the short term missions trip by the 70 that he sent out. The interesting thing about that passage is that it isn’t so much about what they did in going out as it was about what was going to happen to the people who heard the message. If they didn’t receive it, they would be held responsible for that. The more light they had, the more exposure to the revelation of God, the more responsible they were and the more harsh their punishment would be.
Do you see what Jesus is doing there? He’s pointing out how heavy a thing it is to be a disciple. Then for the next 9-10 chapters Jesus fills in what discipleship looks like. He calls down woes upon the Pharisees because they’re perverting the word of God—indicating that true disciples will be very careful with God’s word. He has a long section about repentance and points out that true disciples will be so cognizant of their failure to uphold that law that their life will be characterized by repentance. He talks about the nature of the kingdom and shows that a disciple will be a kingdom minded man who is cognizant of the way he lives in that kingdom.
Now, he has taught all these things. He has bestowed all this grand teaching. And now, here at the end of the road he reiterates this point: I am going away. I’ve given you this great teaching. You now are responsible to be a good steward of this word.
You know what the book of James says. He says we are to be doers of the word and not simply hearers. James says, “Don’t be like that man who looks at himself in mirror and then walks away and forgets what he looks like.” That’s to hear and not really listen. It is looking in a mirror and not really paying attention to what you saw there.
Jesus is kind of saying the same thing here. I’ve given you all these words. I’ve committed to you the invaluable treasure of my word. Now make sure you do something with it. Don’t be a fool who has heard these things but has not listened.
I want to reiterate this morning one of the things we’ve learned throughout this journey. Jesus has taught us that more light means more responsibility. And since you’ve been on this journey, you need to take great care with the things you’ve learned. You need to remember what Christ has said about himself and the need for repentance. And you need to improve on that.
II. The Faithful Servant receives a fitting reward
Now, the parable goes on to expand on this notion. Jesus tells us about the faithful servants who prove to be exemplary in their conduct. In verse 15-16 we are told about the first servant. He comes back and says, “Master, your mina has made ten minas more.” The master is overjoyed at this. And he rewards the servant by saying, “Well done good servant. You’ve been faithful over a little, I’ll give you 10 cities to rule over.”
The same is basically said for the next servant. His mina has made 5 minas more. And the master rewards him with 5 cities.
Now, again, it is my opinion that this is what God does to those who are faithful stewards of his word. There is coming a day when Jesus will come back. And when he comes he is going to judge the world. Those of us who have received this word and been diligent to obey it will be rewarded. The Lord is going to look upon us with great joy and he’s going to welcome us into the eternal kingdom. And in that kingdom we will be rewarded according to the level of responsibility we’ve shown.
Now, I know some of you probably looked at the faithful servants and thought, “Tough draw for the faithful servants! I mean, after all their hard work, they are given more work!” That’s not the way we typically like things to be. When we talk rewards, we want freedom from work. We want the vacation or the perks of kicking back.
But I think that really tells you something about the nature of heaven. I think a lot of people view heaven as the ultimate retirement plan. You know, a lot of people think that when they get to heaven it is going to be like hanging out at a 5 star resort for the rest of eternity. They get to sit by the poolside and sip colored drinks and just enjoy “the good life.” It is just one big vacation to a lot of people.
But that’s not what heaven is going to be like. I think that this passage implies that it is going to be a place where we continue to work and have responsibility. Work and responsibility is not a something that is a curse, or something that we are to avoid. It is a great blessing that we get to enjoy.
In other words, we are going to have more opportunities to bring more glory to God through our lives and through our productivity. Our obedience now is going to be enhance and multiplied in eternity so that the Lord will continue to receive honor in and through our conduct.
I think this may also imply that we will continue to learn more about the nature of God and his calling in our lives. Again, the idea here is discipleship and the reward for our faithfulness. And it is my opinion that our leaning and discipleship will not cease. We will have all eternity to learn more about the Lord. We will have all eternity to search out his infinite character. And as we receive more and more light, we will have more and more obedience, and thus, more and more opportunity to glorify our God.
What a joy that is for us who believe. The one thing that is our joy (i.e. our admiration of the Lord) will be rewarded and enhanced in the kingdom to come. We get to look forward to a fuller expression of our faith and deeper enjoyment of God’s honor and glory.
But let’s not forget the other servant. The passage not only tells us of the trust that the master bestows and the reward that the faithful receive. It also focuses in on the slothful servant and the punishment that is his.
III. The slothful servant receives a severe punishment
In verse 20 it tells us that one of the servants came before his master and gave back the mina which he had been given. Now, it is interesting that this mina was paid in full. He didn’t steal a dime. Every penny was there.
You might have even said that this last servant was very careful with the money. He put it in a hankercheif and kept it safe the whole time the master was gone. And when he returned, he brought it back without anything missing.
But that wasn’t enough, was it? No. The master says, “You wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why didn’t you at least put it in the bank so that I could have at least made a little interest with it?”
You see how this servant frustrates the master? Now think of what that means in terms of the parallel. Jesus has entrusted you with his word, what does that mean for your life? It means that if you don’t do anything with it, then you are a wicked person. If you are negligent and do not apply that word in your life, then you are an unfaithful servant.
But come on! I heard it! And I heard it gladly! I went to church each Sunday. I sat in on the Bible studies! I listened to the radio broadcasts! I heard the word and even went out of my way to hear it!
Friends, don’t be foolish. It is not enough to hear the word. Christ could care less if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of his word. If you are not applying it and obeying it, it is a dead letter so far as he is concerned. If you are not living a life of repentance and seeking to honor Christ’s word in your life, then you will be damned.
Christ said elsewhere, “If you are not for me, you are against me.” There is no lukewarmness in this faith. And you can be condemned not so much for what you did wrong, but what you didn’t do. Failure to be diligent is just as much an atrocity as outright attacks on Christ.
And I think that is something of what Jesus is saying in the parable. We skipped over the part about the delegation that was sent after the master. Verse 14 tells us that some of the citizens of that kingdom hated the master and they went to advocate against the master receiving the kingdom. Then at the end of the passage it tells us that these people were rounded up and slaughtered.
Now, everyone who heard this parable would have picked up on to what Jesus was referring to here. After Herod the Great died, his son, Archeleaus, went to Rome to have his rule in Judea confirmed. And there was a delegation of 50 Jews who went there too to argue against it. Knowing the character of Archeleaus, they wanted to make the case that he shouldn’t be their ruler.
Well, it didn’t work. Archeleaus was confirmed by the Emperor, and guess what happened to those 50 men when they got back? When you come to power, you typically want to make a statement. You don’t want people questioning your power. So they were rounded up and hewn down.
So when Jesus mentions this part of the parable, you can betch ya that everyone knew exactly what he was referring to.
His point here though, of course, regards the Jews of his day. Jesus is making a very poignant statement about their enmity. A point that I believe came to its fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The point is this: You failed to observe my word. You failed to heed the call of discipleship and acknowledge me as Lord, therefore you will be destroyed.
So, as our journey to Jerusalem draws to a close, our Lord makes one more sobering call to you. You must understand that your journey is drawing to a close as well. Your walk upon this earth only has so many days allotted to it. And when this journey is done, you must understand that you will be called before the great master of all the earth to account for your life.
Our Lord has bestowed upon you the trust of his word. He has called you into a life of discipleship. If your come to him and take up that call—If you are diligent to serve him and apply these words to your life, our Lord will be exceedingly glad and will greatly rewarded on the last great day.
But if you are negligent, you will be cursed. If you are lazy and do not take to heart the things that have been here spoken, you will be found to be an enemy of the state. Know for sure that those who are sluggardly with the truth of Scripture will be gathered together before the Lord and cast into the slaughterhouse of hell.
Just as the faithful experience the abundance of God’s pleasure, you will experience the severity of his stern justice. He will mow you down in his anger if you have not sought to serve him and further advance his glory.
So let not your road end with another day of sloth and sluggardly inattentiveness to his law. Repent of your laxity and flee the indifference that now characterizes your life. Turn to Christ today and become his disciple while he yet allows you grace.
The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most beloved of all bible stories. But it is also one of the most hilarious stories of the Bible. I believe this is Bible comedy at some of its best.
You have to picture the whole unfolding of this event. Here is Zacchaeus. He’s this short guy. He’s actually the second shortest guy in the Bible [the shortest is Peter—he slept on his watch]. Now you have to picture him in this crowd. You know, he’s trying to jump up and see.
Let you mind fill in some of the blanks here too. I’d picture him as a portly guy too. He’s a wealthy man and as we’ll see he’s a rather self indulgent man too.
I'm thinking that you got this little pudgy guy jumping up and down trying to get a glimpse of Jesus. Then, what does he do? He gets the idea to run ahead of the crowd. So picture him waddling as fast as his fat little legs will take him, sweat pouring down his face breathing hard from being out of shape. Now here he is trying to pull his tubby self up into a tree. This is something that would likely cause some good chuckles if not uproarious laughter.
You got to think about Jesus stopping underneath this tree too. Every eye in the crowd is now zeroed in on Zacchaeus. The whole crowd is watching this guy hanging in a tree like a portly pinata. Oh the humiliation!
But no matter how many laughs you may get from this, there is much more to be gained in spiritual truth. This passage is a favorite, not just because of the yucks you can get out of it, but because it clearly expresses the saving grace of God.
If there is one thing that this passage tells us, it is that Jesus saves. As a matter of fact, the passage concludes almost climactically with Jesus saying, “The Son of man came to seek and save the lost.” If you are hear today, that is the message that you should take home with you today. Jesus saves.
But what exactly does that mean? We see that posted in different places “Jesus saves.” What is that all about? One thing I like about this passage is that it clarifies that for us. It helps us understand the very essence of salvation.
I. The essence of God’s saving grace
The word save here in verse 10 is the Greek word “soteria.” It means to deliver or to rescue. And when we think about salvation in those terms, we can get a better understanding of what it is all about.
Christ came to deliver us. He came to rescue us. That of course, means we are in trouble, doesn’t it? We don’t need saving if we are not in any kind of predicament. We could leave well enough alone, if that were the case.
Scripture makes it clear that we are in a predicament though. As a matter of fact, we are in a perilous condition. We are sinners and as such we have offended God by the many ways we have broken his law.
And because we have broken his law, we stand condemned to die. In other words, because of the guilt that we have incurred, we are liable to the punishment that we so justly deserve for having become law breakers.
You know, today we are almost inoculated to this. We are told over and over that our actions do not have consequences. We watch the television and it tells us about free and unhindered sex. People have all kinds of sexual relationships and there never seems to be any repercussions, is there? But that is such a wild myth. There are horrible consequences, both in this life and the life to come.
And it is not just the lack of chastity. But it is every sin that we’ve ever committed. It is the lies, the unkindness, the blasphemies, profanities, the list could go on and on.
We have to understand that we have fallen short of God’s glory and are under his wrath and curse. The wages of sin is death. And every time we sin, we provoke God all the more. God’s wrath towards us has been kindled and his justice demands that we be stripped of every God given blessing and cursed with hell fire for all eternity.
But Christ came to deliver us from that. He came to rescue us from our sin and its punishment. He came, not just that we might have a better life now, but that we might have eternal life. He came so that we might be delivered from the state of sin and death and enter into a state of salvation.
And that salvation can be yours through faith in Christ. He has come to seek and save the lost, and if you are here today, you can rest assured that if you turn to Christ you too can be saved. If you trust Christ he will save you from your sins and give you the gift of eternal life.
Of course, you might be thinking, “That’s good and all, but how far is God willing to go?” You might be thinking, “Sure, God would save some people, but could he save someone like me—with all the things I’ve done?”
In other words, you might not question the essence of salvation. You get it that Jesus saves sinners, but just not a sinner like you. You think that God’s grace just can’t extend that far.
Well, this passage is an answer to that. It shows us not just the essence of salvation, but it shows us the extent of it too.
II. The extent of God’s saving grace
In this passage we have the story of Zacchaeus. I want you to understand that Zacchaeus was one seriously lost sinner. He was one of the lowest of the low. Out of all the people in Jericho who you might think that God is willing to save, it probably would not be Zacchaeus.
Look at verse 7. You hear something of the scandal of it all. Jesus has just told Zacchaeus that he wanted to go to his house. And how the people respond? They say, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Can you hear how aghast they are? The people of Jericho are horrified at this. They are absolutely appalled that Jesus would even dawn the steps of this man’s house, let alone actually spend time in fellowship with him over dinner. This was a scandalous thing to them because Zacchaeus would have been a notorious sinner in that town.
We are given a clue as to what all is entailed when it tells us his occupation. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. And not just any tax collector; it says that he was the chief tax collector. That is to say, he was the head tax collector in the city who would have had other tax collectors under him.
Now, understand, you don’t ascend to places of rank and influence in this part of the world by being a nice guy. This was a cut throat job. And it is likely that Zacchaeus, even though he was a little dude, was a real thug. He was someone who was used to getting his way, if you know what I mean. People don’t let go of their money happily, especially when they are being cheated. That’s what tax collectors did. The Roman government required that you collect so much, anything that you get above that was yours to keep.
And it tells us here that Zacchaeus was a rich man. He had accumulated quite a pile of cash, and you can bet that it didn’t come honestly. (It is likely that he didn’t spend it honestly either). And again, people don’t just open up their wallets when they are being cheated. To feed that greed Zacchaeus likely had gotten feisty with some people. He was not only involved in extortion, he was likely a thug.
Think mob. You know the mob. They extort people for money, and they don’t float around like little fairy princesses. They have their means of getting that money.
But it isn’t just that he is a greedy thug. That would be bad enough. But Zacchaeus’s occupation affiliates him with Roman Empire. He is working for the enemy. People didn’t want to pay into the system because these taxes were seen as a religious thing. To pay taxes was, to some, considered a disloyal act to God. It was to support the pagan system and a direct defiance to the nation of Israel, which is the kingdom of God.
So really, you can think of Zacchaeus as a lying, cheating, mobster, who likely hung around with some not so pleasant characters (You know, the girls he hung around with were probably not your average church going girls). And, above all that, he was a Roman sympathizer. He was a man who defied God’s kingdom on a daily basis. This guy was, in all respects, scum. In terms of people, you couldn’t get any worse than Zacchaeus.
And yet, despite how hideiously (Notoriously!) wicked this man might have been, Christ chose to stop at his tree. Chirst chose to stop at his house. And Christ said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
So, how far does the saving grace of God extend? It extends to even the worst of sinners. The thought should never enter your mind that there is no hope for you.
Most of you would likely be familiar with George Whitfield. But you might not be familiar with his brother. Whitfield’s brother was deeply despondent at times and felt his utter worthlessness. On such a occasions a friend would avail herself of the opportunity to speak with him about his soul’s salvation. She would try to induce him to come to Christ. To all her pleas he would simply respond, “Oh, it is of no use! I am lost! I am lost!”
She used many means of trying to overcome his feelings of helplessness. At one point she simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Thank God for that!” The man ask for clarification and she said, “Because Christ came to save the lost. If you are lost, then He is just the one who can save you.”
No matter how great a sinner you are you cannot out sin Christ. The grace of Christ cannot be exhausted or outdone. No matter how defiant you have been; no matter how much you have thumbed your nose at the Lord, the Lord is willing and able to forgive you.
Zachaeus really is an example of what we saw earlier in our study. Back in chapter 18 Jesus said, What is impossible with man is possible with God. Was it possible to save a guy like Zacchaeus? Is it possible for a person like you to escape the wrath and curse of God due to you for your sin? Absolutely.
Christ came to seek and save the lost. And this passage helps us understand that it doesn’t matter how lost you may be. Whether you are a little lost or a whole lot of lost, Christ can save.
But as we look at Zacchaeus we not only see the extent of his saving grace, we also see the evidence of saving grace.
III. The evidence of God’s saving grace
When someone is saved that is going to have an impact on his life. He’s going to show evidence that God has done something. In other words, he is going to demonstrate a repentant lifestyle.
And that is what we see right here. Look at verse 8. It says that “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.”
Now it is interesting that we do not hear about anything that happened at this party. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about who was at the party or anything else that might have transpired. We don’t know if they played charades or pin the tail on the donkey. We don’t know if they had any appetizers or anything. The only thing we are told is that Zacchaeus’s life changed. He changed from one who lived contrary to God’s law, to one who is now seeking to abide by the law.
That’s what is going on here. That’s the sum and substance of what he says here. In pledging to give away half of his wealth Zacchaeus is saying, “I once made a god out of money. I am now turning away from the worship of the money-god and I am pledging to follow the true and living God alone.”
Then he goes on to say that “if he has defrauded anyone, he will repay 4 times the amount.”
What Zacchaeus says here goes back to Exodus 22. In Exodus 22 we read various laws about what is to happen if a man steals something. And it tells us that if a man steals a sheep and kills it he is to repay the owner 4 sheep in its place.
What was that law all about? Why 4 sheep? Well, sheep were a huge part of one’s income. If you lost a sheep, you were out a significant portion of your year’s wages. And it isn’t easy to recoup that.
Zacchaeus doesn’t deal in sheep, but he recognizes the principle inherent in God’s word. He had burned people through his greed. He had infringed on their lifestyle maliciously by his thuggary, and God’s law required him to correct that.
What I want you to understand is that this is the true evidence that someone has been saved. Jesus comes into the world so save men from their sins. And when they come to Christ they realize that they cannot go on living the way they have been. They have to change. Instead of being a law breaker, his live must now be oriented towards obedience to the law.
There is a distinct break with one’s previous lifestyle that occurs and an evidence of true repentance.
And I’d like you to focus on this notion of restitution. Zacchaeus isn’t just saying, “I choose to follow God now.” He understands that his relationship to God is going to manifest itself in his relationships with others. It’s not just about not following money anymore. He understands that it is imperative that he restore what has been broken between himself and his fellow man.
I used to lead a Bible study for some ex prison inmates. It was supposed to focus on addictions and addiction recover and we were to use as the basis for it the 12 step program for Alcoholics Annonymous. Now, there are some critical things you can say about it, but one of the things that was really good was that it dealt with broken relationships. One of the steps said that you needed to try and reconcile with people in your past who you sinned against.
It might have been someone from whom you stole money. It might have been someone you cheated or lied to. Whoever it was, you were to seek, in so far as you could, to be reconciled.
Why was this required? What was the purpose of this step in the program? It was to be a sign of your recovery. It was to be one evidence that you had broken with your addiction and that you were on the way to recovery.
It is true: Every new man will act in new ways. If you are truly saved from your sins, then you will evidence that in your newfound obedience.
I’d encourage you to think about this. Ask yourself if there is any restitution that you need to make. Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile? Maybe you haven’t stolen any of their money, but perhaps you haven’t given them the love that they are due. Maybe it is as simple as your wife or your husband. You’ve stolen from her the sacrificial love that is rightfully hers or you’ve withheld from him the proper respect that he is due.
If Christ has saved you, you ought to show Christ how thankful you are by returning to his law and offering to restore what has been stolen. Doing this will evidence that Christ has indeed rescued you from a life of sin.
A man once stood up to give his testimony in a service. He said, “The man I am now does not know the man I used to be.”
His words were brief, but they could not better sum up the saving power of Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus does.
Zachaeus might have been a wee little man, but he had a life full of sin. And through him we see how a great salvation Christ can bring.
It doesn’t matter how sinful you may be or how desperate your condition is, Christ has the power to deliver you and bring you into a state of salvation. You need only to turn to him, like Zachaeus did, and trust him for his grace.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.