Luke 19:1-10 ESV
“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
“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.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’
“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.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”
How was Zacchaeus Different?
What made Zacchaeus stand out as different from the rest of the crowd? Certainly his height was a factor. For he was short and thus he could not see Jesus because the crowd blocked his view of him. He was a tax collector, and they were generally despised people and were called “sinners” because they had a reputation for cheating people. So, he would not generally be regarded as acceptable in a crowd of people. And he was rich.
But it isn’t just that I am thinking of. Zacchaeus was truly seeking Jesus. He wanted to know him or certainly to know about him. Perhaps it was just curiosity, at first, but he was very determined to learn about him. And so he did not let the crowd discourage him nor did he let the obstacles in his way keep him from seeing and seeking Jesus. So, he ran on ahead and he climbed up in a tree in order to see Jesus. Now, that is determination!
Now, what else was it about Zacchaeus that made him stand out in a crowd? Well, when Jesus told Zacchaeus to “hurry and come down,” Zacchaeus immediately obeyed, and he went with Jesus. He listened to what Jesus said, and he did what Jesus told him to do. He did not fight and argue with Jesus or make excuses for why he could not do what Jesus ordered him to do. He immediately submitted to Christ, received him joyfully, and did what he said.
And what else? He did not let the murmurings of the crowd discourage him nor stop him from obeying the Lord Jesus. For, when the crowd saw Zacchaeus going with Jesus, they grumbled and said, “He” (meaning Jesus) “has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner,” as though none of them were sinners. And isn’t that human nature to point out other people’s sins and then not look at the sins in one’s own heart?
Now, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with pointing out sin as long as we are doing so lovingly and not hypocritically. For the Scriptures teach that we are to call sin what it is and that we are to call sinners to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ, but there are people who like to call others sinners when they themselves are also living in sin, but they may consider their sins more acceptable. And we’ll get back to that in a few minutes.
Lastly, what I see regarding how Zacchaeus was different from the crowd is that, when the crowd accused him of being a sinner, instead of fighting back with them, he humbled himself, and he willingly chose to give half of his goods to the poor, and if he had defrauded anyone of anything, he would restore it fourfold. He repented of his sin, turned from his sin, and willingly chose to make restitution for his sins against others.
And this is why Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Amen! For, Zacchaeus sought out Jesus, he pursued him wholeheartedly, he did not let the crowds discourage nor dishearten him, and when Jesus gave him a command, he listened, and he immediately obeyed, and he followed Jesus.
He did not let the opinions of the crowd (the majority) dissuade him from following Jesus, even when they willfully called him out as a sinner in order to shame him. And he did not fight back with them, but he humbled himself and he repented of his sin and he chose to make restitution and to change his ways. And this is the biblical picture of what our salvation is all about. It is about us listening to Jesus, us obeying him, us repenting of our sins, and us changing our ways in the power of God because of God’s grace to us.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
Addressing the Crowd
Now, I want to take just a few minutes here to talk about the crowd and what they did and why it was wrong and how we must guard against being like them.
Now, again, if we are following Jesus with our lives, which is what Zacchaeus ended up doing, we are called of God to call out sin, and to call people to repentance and to obedience, like Zacchaeus repented and obeyed. We are to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness and we are to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus who called us out of darkness into this wonderful light. So it isn’t that we should not speak out against sin.
But we are not to be hypocritical. And we shouldn’t be unloving and unkind. We should treat all sinners like Jesus did, and that includes how he treated the Pharisees who were making a show of righteousness while they were sinning in secret, and while they wielded enormous power and influence over the people who were under them. And that includes speaking to the church living in spiritual adultery in direct defiance against the Lord, as Paul did.
So, it isn’t that we are to go soft on sin or to never talk about sin or the wrongness of sin, but our approach to sin should be to call people to repentance and obedience to the Lord Jesus and to give them the hope of salvation from sin and of eternal life with God if they will humble themselves before the Lord as Zacchaeus did and obey the Lord and repent of their sins. And we should be following our own counsel and make certain our hearts are right with the Lord before we go talking about other people’s sins.
But if we have an attitude that scorns all people different from us, or if we are being hypocritical in pointing out some sins but not our own, if we are indeed sinning against the Lord, too, in practice, and if our goal is just to try to make ourselves look superior and everyone not like us to appear as scum, then that is not loving, and it has nothing to do with seeking to save the lost, as Jesus did.
We should talk with people about their sin because we want to see them be free from their sin and to walk with Jesus, because we love them, and we care what happens to them. And that is not what that crowd did. They didn’t see Zacchaeus as worthy of their time and attention or of Jesus’ time and attention. They just wanted to throw him to the dogs, basically. And this is not how we are to treat any people. But the Scriptures do talk about shunning those professing faith in Jesus Christ who are deliberately and habitually living in sin and who are refusing to repent and to obey Jesus.
Near the Cross
Hymn lyrics by Fanny J. Crosby, 1869
Music by William H. Doane, 1869
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
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