Time for the Lost

While driving to church last Wednesday, I noticed an interesting couple walking down the sidewalk on Jackson Street in Painesville. The woman was wearing a full length black coat and both were dressed entirely in black. From what I learned recently, this style is an offshoot of punk rockers called Goth. My first impression was, “Those are strange people.” But after contemplating the situation further, I realize that my first response should have been, “Those are lost people for whom Jesus died.”

But how can we come to the place where we have the right reaction to people despite their outward appearance? We must look into the Scriptures. God has given us four gospels which record the events of our Lord’s life. He met quite a wide variety of interesting people during his time. And he handled each one in the right way. We need to learn from and follow his example as we seek the lost.

One of the main purposes of Christ’s earthly ministry was his seeking of the lost. How can we reach them? With the busy schedule most of us keep, what can we do to win these teens and their families to Christ? The answer can be found by recalling a familiar event in the life of our Lord. In Luke 19:1-10, Luke tells the story of the Lord’s meeting with a notable sinner and the remarkable change that took place in his life. As we review the actions of our Lord and their results, we will find that nothing can take the place of “time for the lost.”

What actions did Jesus take? (1-5)

As Jesus continued his journey toward Jerusalem, he had to travel through the city of Jericho. As he walked a crowd developed around him. Many of these people were expecting him to establish his kingdom immediately (Luke 19:11). Although, this was not his intention, you can see that the crowd was filled with expectation. This feeling spilled over into the rest of the city.

Jesus noticed the man (5a).

As he walked, the Lord Jesus noticed a man who was having a hard time getting a glimpse of the Messiah. It was Zacchaeus. He was a notable man in Jericho because he was the chief tax collector hired by the Romans. Most of the Jews hated this man because he was making his living by taking their money dishonestly. But all of his dishonest money could not make him any taller. Zacchaeus was a small man and was unable to see over the crowd of people following the Messiah. So, he took to a tree to overcome his difficulty.

How long had Jesus been watching this man? Did he see him running ahead of the crowd? Did he watch him climb into the tree? Did he see him pushing aside branches for a better look? Luke doesn’t tell us that. But when Jesus arrived at the tree, he looked up and saw him. I can imagine the disciples walking proudly along with their popular Master when his gaze upward caused them to look up as well.

Jesus spoke to the man (5b).

After noticing this little man in a tree, Jesus looked up and spoke to him. “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” This may not seem to be a big deal to us today. We have heard the story so many times that we overlook the significance of this action. Jesus was speaking to a man noted for his unpatriotic, deceitful, sinful, and greedy actions. Zacchaeus was a publican. Unless you were on his payroll, you hated the man. He was the lowest of the low and deserved to be treated that way. At least that’s the way everyong thought back then.

Think of another time during our Lord’s earthly ministry when he spoke with an outcast of society. John 4 records the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. She was an immoral woman who deserved to be shamed. In fact, the disciples were amazed to find him speaking to her (John 4:27). But despite her sinful past, our Lord loved chose to speak to her about her soul’s deepest need.

Jesus spent time with the man.

Our Lord told Zacchaeus that he needed to spend the day with him. He needed a place to stay while he was in town and he was choosing Zacchaeus as the man to house him. What an honor! But why this man? Jesus was showing his disciples and the people in the crowd that his purpose in life was to reach the lost. No matter what others thought about him, he was willing to speak to and spend time with a lost man like Zacchaeus.

What results came from his actions (6-10).

Zacchaeus rejoiced (6).

How surprised the man must have been to hear a well known teacher asking to stay at his house. All he had been hoping for was a better look at the man inside the crowd. And now he was going to have him at his home for dinner! Amazing! Zacchaeus quickly scurried out of the tree. He rejoiced that he had been chosen out of all the people in Jericho to house this great man. Imagine the smile on Zacchaeus’ face as he climbed out of the sycamore tree.

Others compained (7).

But others in the crowd had a different take on what had happened. They couldn’t understand why such a great teacher would visit the home of the worst citizen of Jericho. It just didn’t make sense. And it wasn’t just the religious leaders who responded this way. It was the entire crowd. As the Lord Jesus followed Zacchaeus away from the crowd, they all spoke out against his strange behavior.

We often look down our noses at the response toward our Lord’s compassion. But we need to be careful. This really was something odd. Of all the people in Jericho, this man deserved the attention the least. He was a bad man. I imagine that the disciples also wondered about their Master’s actions. But all of those reactions really didn’t matter because our Lord was fulfilling God’s will for this instance.

As we read the next few verses, it would be easy to think that these events took place right as Zacchaeus’ feet touched the ground. Luke doesn’t say, “Jesus entered the man’s house, and spoke to him during a scrumptious meal.” But there are several clues that show us that this is what had taken place. Look for those clues as you read verses 8-10.

Zacchaeus repented (8).

As far as we can tell, Zacchaeus didn’t drop out of the tree and immediately repent. If that were the case, we’d spend the rest of our lives looking for inquisitive people in trees! From what Luke says, Zacchaeus had climbed the tree to find out who the crowd was following. He had not heard the Lord speaking. So, it really would have taken a miracle for him to repent without hearing the Lord speak. It seems better to think that Jesus spoke to him as they walked, as the meal was being prepared, and as they ate. The Lord spent quite a bit of time talking with Zacchaeus so that he would understand his need of salvation.

After hearing the Lord’s presentation of truth, Zacchaeus knew what he needed to do. In front of all the people in the house, he stood up and declared his decision to give half his money to the poor and to use the rest to repay all that he had wrongfully taken. Pretty much, Zacchaeus was giving away all of his money! This announcement was not made in arrogance. It was a sincere statement which revealed the change Christ had made in his heart.

Zacchaeus was saved (9-10).

To show the truthfulness of his statement to others, Jesus announced that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ home. While others viewed him as a greedy Jew who didn’t deserve to be called one, Jesus saw his need of salvation. To him, Zacchaeus was a lost son of Abraham who needed to be brought back to the fold. No amount of sinfulness would keep the Savior from reaching out to this bad, little man. Why was that? Jesus sought him because this was the purpose of his earthly ministry. He had come to seek and save those who were lost.

What will you do with sinners?

If we truly desire to be like our Savior, we must learn from his actions toward Zacchaeus. He is the greatest example of someone seeking the lost that can be found.

Notice the lost

Jesus had an eye for the lost. He had come to seek and to save the lost. And so his eyes were always open for those to whom he could speak. Think of the woman at the well and others to whom he spoke. He was always looking for and noticing those in need. We too often walk past people and never pay attention to them because we have lost the focus we should have.

Speak to the lost

Have you ever looked at someone and thought they were too far gone for God to save? Unfortunately, I have had those thoughts before. I look at the way someone’s life has been marred by sin and the rebellious, ungodly attitude and give them up for lost. But this is not the way of our Lord. His way was to speak to those whom nobody else would. Shouldn’t we do the same?

Spend time with the lost.

Are you willing to be looked down upon by others? Are you willing to spend time with people who will make you reputation look bad? Are you willing to spend time with people who are sinful in an attempt to win them to Christ? Yes, we must guard our minds and hearts. But if our only contact with our neighbors is a Christmas card once a year, how will we ever earn the right to speak to them about Christ? It takes time.

If you are like most Christians, your time is filled with a large amount of busyness. You have activities at church, school, work, and sports, and also need to spend time with your family. But what about the lost? How can your schedule be changed to make time for them.

Conclusion:

The verses immediately following this narrative (Luke 19:11-27) are a parable given by the Lord. In that parable, he compares our lives to servants given resources to invest until the return of their master. The first servant invested wisely and was commended and rewarded for his faithfulness. The second servant invested wisely and was rewarded. But the third servant did nothing with his resources and was rebuked for his excuses. Now as you consider the responsibility given to us to evangelize the lost, which servant would portray your actions?

This is not a new message to most of us. But it is a message which we need to hear more often than not. Somehow, the activities of life lull us to sleep and we quickly forget the needs of the people around us. To be quite honest, after this long week of meetings, all I want to do is sleep! But we must fight off the desire to put off our responsibility to the lost around us. If we neglect to give out the gospel, who will?

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