Sunday School Lesson 4 - Luke 19:1-10 - TO SEEK AND SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST
BACKGROUND: last week, in Luke 18:9-17, we studied two parables, the Parable of Pharisee and the Tax Collector, which centered on humility in prayer, and the Parable of Jesus and the Little Children, which focused on the humility needed to enter the Kingdom of God. From them, we learned three broad principles of personal application: (1) As saved sinners and as church members, we have absolutely no basis to be proud. We can never allow ourselves to think we're better than others because of our status as believers. What we are is better off because we've been saved by grace. Christ is our only standard of comparison, and compared to Him, our sins are scarlet! (2) Justification (or righteousness) is not something we can accomplish or earn on our own. None of us have any reason to boast about our spiritual achievements, and none of are so good that we have the right to be judgmental of our fellow human beings. (3) Coming to Jesus has nothing to do with our worthiness. Coming to Jesus is all about His willingness to forgive, cleanse, and transform us. Like the little children in the Parable, we must come to Jesus without any pretention. We can only enter God's kingdom when-like little children--we depend completely upon Jesus and not on ourselves.
This week, in Luke 19:1-10, we'll cover the story of Zaccheus, the tax collector. The last half of Chapter 18 forms the background for today's text: in vv.18-23, when the rich young ruler asked Jesus how he might be saved, Jesus told him he would have to give away all his riches, and he sadly turned away. Jesus said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God" (v. 24). When the crowd asked Jesus, "and so who can be saved?" He replied, "the things that are impossible with people are possible with God" (vv. 26-27). In vv. 35-42, Jesus encountered a blind man named Bartimaeus on the road to Jericho, who called out called, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" When Jesus asked him what he wanted from Him, Bartimaeus answered, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Regain your sight; your faith has made you well."
Read Luke 19:1-4 - ZACCHEUS CLIMBED A TREE TO SEE JESUS
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. 3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable due to the crowd, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Him, because He was about to pass through that way.
v. 1: "Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through." - This reminds us that Jesus is nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem and to the cross. Jericho is a prosperous city and center of commerce that occupies a strategic position between the road to Jerusalem and a nearby Jordan River crossing.
v. 2: "And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich." - As the "chief," Zaccheus would have been in charge of a number of tax collectors whom he managed as subcontractors and collected fees in addition to his own share of the tax revenues he personally collected. This position was a virtual guarantee of substantial wealth. Tax collectors contracted with the Roman government for a particular area and paid a fee for the franchise. Because of the people's hostility towards tax collectors, Zaccheus would have had only a small circle of friends that included Roman officials, business associates, and employees. And outside that circle, he would have had mostly enemies-a lonely existence. Did the wealth make it all worthwhile?
v. 3: "Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable due to the crowd, because he was short in stature." - Like blind Bartimaeus in the previous story, Zaccheus desperately wants to see Jesus, and also like Bartimaeus, he has physical limitations that limit his ability to see.
v. 4: "So he ran on ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Him, because He was about to pass through that way." - Because of his position with the Roman authorities, Zaccheus would normally be expected to act with an air of authority and respectability; however, on this occasion, he's pushing his way through a crowd people to get closer to Jesus, and then invites even further ridicule by climbing a tree, which would only call more attention to his undersized stature. We need to see that this is truly weird behavior for someone in his line of work.
Read Luke 19:5-7 - ZACCHEUS HURRY AND COME DOWN
5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." 6 And he hurried and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 When the people saw this, they all began to complain, saying, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!"
v. 5: "And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." - Jesus reveals a divine purpose when he declares that He "must" (Gk. dei, lit. its absolutely necessary) "stay at your house," and His command, "hurry," which expresses a strong sense of urgency: You see, Jesus didn't come to Jericho by chance-He came to save Zaccheus. Those who believe that a sinner must take certain 'steps' in order to receive salvation should take note that Zaccheus does not beg Jesus for mercy nor does he express any sorrow for his sin. In fact, Jesus initiates all the action without any prompting from Zaccheus. (Yet, the result would have been utterly different if Zaccheus had failed to respond to Jesus' invitation.)
v. 6: "And he hurried and came down, and received Him joyfully." - After battling his way through a crowd of people and scurrying up a tree so he could see Him, Zaccheus must have been astounded when Jesus not only noticed him, but told him He intended to stay at his house! So, why would Jesus grant this honor, this great privilege, to a man like Zaccheus? Nobody, including Zaccheus, knows, but the sheer prospect of it fills the little man with indescribable joy as he comes down to meet Jesus face to face.
v. 7a: "When the people saw this, they all began to complain, saying," - This should remind us of the OT story when the Children of Israel "grumbled" against God in the wilderness (Ex. 15-17). In the Gospels, it is usually the Pharisee who grumble about Jesus eating with sinner, but here, it's the whole crowd. As we'll see, Jesus' popularity with the crowds was very unpredictable.
v. 7b: "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!" - This illustrates the defensive "holiness" approach we saw from the Pharisee in the Parable last week: give sinners a wide berth and never associate with them. While ordinary people most often see Jesus as a friend-someone who ministers to the sick and to the poor-in this instance, they are disenchanted when Jesus willingly associates with a man whom they regard as their enemy.
Read Luke 19:8-10 - TODAY SALVATION HAS COME TO THIS HOUSE
8 But Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I am giving to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I am giving back four times as much." 9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
v. 8a: "But Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I am giving to the poor," - In the previous chapter, Jesus told the rich young ruler that he must sell all his possessions to be saved, but in this story, Jesus asks Zaccheus for nothing except hospitality. Then right out of the blue, Zaccheus suddenly feels led to part with half of his wealth and give it to the poor. Why does he do this? Scholars agree that he did not make this offer to win approval from Jesus, but was moved out of a heart of pure thankfulness. Zaccheus is not trying win his salvation but instead, is responding to the presence of his Lord and Savior, bearing Spiritual "fruits" that demonstrate honest repentance (Luke 3:8).
v. 8b: "and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I am giving back four times as much." - As further evidence of his Spirit-led repentance, Zaccheus volunteers to make four-fold restitution to those he has defrauded in the past. This substantially exceeds the Torah requirement, which only demands restitution plus one-fifth (Leviticus 6:5). By doing this, Zaccheus has effectively impoverished himself. He's done what Jesus told the rich young ruler to do without being asked.
v. 9a: "And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house," - Jesus does not just save Zaccheus in isolation, but declares "salvation has come to this house" (Gk. oikos [oy'-kos], lit. a household, an entire family). Thus, Zaccheus' salvation becomes a blessing for his entire family. Moreover, it also brings a blessing to the entire community as Zaccheus gives money to the poor and makes restitution to those whom he cheated in the past. Jesus, by calling this one little man, used him to execute a divine transaction having the potential to transform the life of an entire community.
v. 9b: "because he, too, is a son of Abraham." - As a chief tax collector employed by Judea's Roman overlords, Zaccheus had alienated himself from the Jewish fold and become a social leper, despised by everyone. As a response to the crowd's complaint about Jesus being the guest of a "sinner" in v. 7, Jesus declares that Zaccheus has been restored to his Jewish roots as a true "son of Abraham."
v. 10a: "For the Son of Man - Jesus favorite title for Himself, "the Son of Man," (used 80 times) is derived from the OT prophet Daniel's reference to the Son of God at the throne of God the Father, whom he called the "Ancient of Days" (Daniel 7:13-14). This Son of Man, above all else, is a heavenly figure, who will rule over all things for all eternity.
v. 10b: "has come to seek and to save that which was lost." - With this statement, Jesus summarizes His mission-why He was sent and what he came to do. That He came to "seek," means that Jesus takes the initiative, just as the shepherd took the initiative in Luke 15:3-7 to find his lost sheep. That He came to "save that which was lost" is all-encompassing-it literally means that He came to save all of us. We can be certain that, while Zaccheus was climbing a tree to see Jesus, Jesus was simultaneously "seeking" to see Zaccheus so that He might "save" him. For us, this clearly means that we dare not judge any person as hopeless. Whether they are criminals, terrorists, racists, even murderers, Jesus Christ seek to save them all.
OBSERVATION-Seeking and Saving: There are people in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, and in our schools-hurting people whose lives are messed-up and in desperate need of Jesus' mercy and grace. These people need our willingness to love them rather than judge them and our willingness to go out of our way to reach out to them. Here are six principles for modern-day disciples of Jesus: