We could ask 10 people why Jesus came and most certainly get 10 different answers. Even his first disciples would have initially debated the reason Jesus came. It was evident for a while they were expecting something different than what they got. Maybe that’s why the world didn’t recognize Him when He came, they were expecting something else. Oh, but what we got was so much greater than anything we could have ever expected. So, why did Jesus come to earth? Why was he made flesh to dwell amongst us?
Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Verse 1-2) In the scripture we are introduced to a tax collector named Zacchaeus. The first thing we should understand is what the Jewish people thought of tax collectors. See these people were actually Jews but the collected taxes for the Roman Empire. That would be all well and good except for this, they were allowed to collect a fee for themselves, well above what was required. They were hated by the Jews and considered on the same level as thieves and prostitutes.
“During the time of Jesus in first century Israel, there were publicans and tax collectors who could walk up to a man and tax him for what he was carrying, and much more. These tax collectors were hated and despised because they were usually fellow Jews who worked for Rome. There were many taxes needed from the provinces to administrate the Roman Empire. These taxes paid for a good system of roads, law and order, security, religious freedom, a certain amount of self government and other benefits.” (Ref. http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/tax-collector.html)
(Verse 3-4) It must have been difficult being Jewish and being a tax collector. This is a culture steep in tradition. As a people they stick together. To become a tax collector means to turn against all you are, to turn against your own family and friends. I imagine guilt was something a tax collector had to learn to deal with. Maybe Zacchaeus was tired of being the outsider. Maybe he was missing his family and friends but just didn’t know how to make things right. He had been taking advantage of his own people for so long and hurting others that this had just become not only his way of life but what was expected of him. Even had he tried to change, they probably wouldn’t have trusted him.
Zacchaeus probably saw this as his chance for redemption, forgiveness of the deep embedded sins he carried with him day in and day out. So he ran ahead of the crowd. Being of short stature wasn’t going to stop him; he climbed a tree to find a vantage point to get a glimpse of the Messiah.
(Verse 5-6) His efforts weren’t in vain for when Jesus passed under the tree he stopped and looked up at him. Jesus called out to Zaccaeus to hurry up and come down from the tree because Jesus wanted to stay at his house that night.
Can you imagine how Zacchaeus felt when Jesus not only recognized him but wanted to come to his house to stay the night? I’m sure there was some apprehension as to what to expect once Jesus was at his house. Would he scold Zaccaeus for being so dishonest and betraying his people? Would he forgive him and clear his conscious? He didn’t care, he was excited and whatever Jesus had for him had to be better than the life he had been leading.
(Verse 7) “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” This is a great example that shows they didn’t understand the mission Jesus was on. They were expecting something else, something that fit into what they wanted. The religious leaders of the day expected to be exalted. All Christ’s attention should have gone to them and only them. Christ should have come as a mighty leader, a warrior who would defeat their oppressors. They certainly didn’t expect this mild, gentle man who sought out to spend time with commoners and the underbelly of society.
(Verse 8) In this verse Zaccaeus demonstrates what’s really important to him, he shows Christ his heart in that he’s willing to give up what he has and even make amends above what he’s done. He is telling Jesus, whatever it takes, I choose you.
(Verse 9) I imagine Jesus smiling and placing his hands on Zaccaeus’s shoulders as he tells him, “salvation has come to your house”. It was his faith that saved him. Simple faith and believing no matter what was ahead of him it was going to be better because of Jesus. It was a that moment Zaccaeus probably felt the world lift off his shoulders and love for the first time in many years.
(Verse 10) Jesus then speaks the words that could be considered his own personal mission statement. “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” To seek and save that which was lost.” This was the mindset of Jesus. What he look to each day is found in that statement. If you ask Jesus, do you want to go to a wedding? If I can seek and save that which was lost, yes! There is a multitude of people on the other hilltop, should we travel to see them? If I can seek and save that which was lost, yes! There is a leopard colony ahead, should we travel straight on? If I can seek and save that which was lost, yes! There is someone struggling with addiction, will you see them Jesus? If I can seek and save that which was lost, yes! There is a woman hurting from being physically and sexually abused, will you visit her? If I can seek and save that which was lost, yes! There is a man in despair because he can’t feed his family, will you go to him? If I can seek and save that which was lost, yes! Jesus cam to seek and save those who are lost.
In Mark 2:17 Jesus is eating with another tax collector (Matthew) along with others like him. The religious leaders of the time were upset and asked his disciples why he was eating with sinners. When Jesus heard what they said he told them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
What does this scripture teach us about Jesus?
- He can be found with sinners and those hurting and in need
- Those who seek him can find him
- He offers salvation
- Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost