Summary: I. Christ's mercy is displayed in his seeking love II. Christ's mercy is shown in his saving power III. Christ's mercy is confirmed in his wondrous pronouncemen
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Have you been to the doctor lately? Most of us at one time or another have found it necessary to go to the doctor. Having been sick for a period of time the point was reached when you said: “It is time I go to the doctor.” You go to be healed from whatever might be troubling you. Sometimes the family doctor cannot diagnose the cause of your illness and then he might send you to a specialist. The specialist runs a number of tests to try to determine your problem. You go to the doctor with the expectation that he can help overcome your sickness. However, you also know the doctor is not always able to help. Sometimes he can do nothing. All of us have heard of someone who received the bad news from their doctor stating: “Sorry, I can’t help you. There is nothing I can do.”
This is the news Zacchaeus heard from the society in which he lived. Zacchaeus was considered to be a hopeless case. It was thought that nothing could be done to help him. No, Zacchaeus was not physically sick. In fact, he was probably quite fit being able to climb a tree, but Zacchaeus was spiritually sick. The Jewish religious system had no hope for people such as Zacchaeus. The Scribes and Pharisees looked on him as if he had an incurable disease.
Yes, salvation was highly unlikely for a man like Zacchaeus, who was a rich publican. The rich young ruler in the previous chapter, Luke 18, seemed a more likely candidate for salvation, but yet Zacchaeus, a rich publican, was granted salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is granted to him because salvation is a God's free gift through Jesus Christ. Salvation is free because there is nothing to be found in us, there was nothing to be found in Zacchaeus, that could in any way induce God to be merciful. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole source of our finding favour in God’s sight.
A few chapters earlier, in Luke 15, Christ illustrated His yearning love for lost sinners in a general way by giving the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Now, in Luke 19, Christ shows His yearning love very specifically and personally in the salvation of Zacchaeus. We see how the Lord rescued Zacchaeus from all his sins and transgressions. Therefore our theme this morning is:
Christ displays His Great Mercy for Sinners by saving Zacchaeus
We will consider how Christ's mercy is:
I. Displayed in His seeking love
II. Shown in His saving power
III. Confirmed in His wondrous pronouncement
I. The mercy of Christ is displayed in His seeking love
Jesus sought out and was merciful to Zacchaeus in spite of the fact that he was the chief publican. Publicans were tax collectors for the Roman government. They were normally Jews who had sold themselves out to the Romans for their own profit. They were considered to be renegades, who sold their services to the foreign oppressor to make money at the expense of their own countryman. This work gave them opportunities to take advantage of the people. In collecting taxes often they had cheated the people, taking much more than was required. This extra money was used for their own gain. No one liked a tax collector but because of their dishonesty they were hated. However, Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector but the chief tax collector, so he was likely hated even more.
The tax collectors were mentioned in one breath with sinners. The phrase, publicans and sinners, occurs no less than eight times in the gospels. Also twice the phrase, publicans and harlots, is used. In rabbinical writings they are classified with robbers. Jesus himself recognized the common attitude towards the publicans when he states in Matthew 5:46: For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans do the same? When one was a publican, they were considered to be among the worst sinners. A chief publican, such as Zacchaeus, was considered to be the worst of the worst sinners. This attitude is also reflected in verse 7 where we read that all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
The work of a tax collector required that they maintain continual contact with Gentiles which meant they the publicans were ceremonially unclean. This makes Christ's mercy more astonishing. An unclean person was not allowed in the temple area, where he could mingle with others. To be unclean, like Zacchaeus, was to be separated from God.
Yet in spite of how the people treated the publicans, in spite of what the people thought of the publicans, in spite of what the publicans had done, in spite of who Zacchaeus was, we see this did not hinder Jesus from seeking out Zacchaeus and showing mercy towards him.