Summary: 2 of 18 messages on moving toward greater health as a church

Recalling Christ’s Call


I. His Mission—Luke 19:1-10

A. Jesus exemplifies His mission

1. He went to where Zacchaeus was

2. He called Zacchaeus by name

3. He invited Zacchaeus to come down

4. He asked Zacchaeus to receive Him

5. He ignored Zacchaeus’ accusers

6. He brought Zacchaeus to salvation

B. Jesus explains His mission

II. His Ministry Priorities—Luke 4:42-44

A. “I will remain in connection with My Father”

B. “I will not allow Myself to be distracted or side-tracked”

C. “I will continually press forward toward the goal”

D. “I will complete My mission”


Last week we began a sermon series entitled, The New Testament Church for Today. I emphasized the fact that the focus of the series is to help us move toward the goal of becoming a healthy, Great Commission completing church. I told you that in order to move forward, it was important that we first take a couple of steps backward—as a reminder of what the Church is really all about. I said that we needed to begin by having a fresh encounter with Jesus. We were confronted with His deity, His humility, His life, His centrality, and His glory. I hope that you came away with a renewed vision of our awesome Lord and Savior.

I told you that we not only needed to embrace who Christ is, but also what He is all about. So this morning we will give consideration to the call upon Christ’s life. In our investigation, we will zero in on two important aspects of His call, namely, His mission and His ministry priorities. The purpose in approaching Jesus’ call in this way is two-fold. First, it will give us insight and understanding as to why He came (His mission) and how He went about the task of fulfilling His mission (His ministry priorities). The second purpose is to help us evaluate our calling. It is crucial that we take the time to ask ourselves the hard questions of life:

• What is my mission?

• What are my ministry priorities?

I contend that in light of the fact that we are Christ’s disciples, His mission and ministry priorities should have a profound impact on our calling. His calling is our calling. His mission is our mission. His ministry priorities are our ministry priorities. By recalling and embracing Christ call, we will be fulfilling our call as individual believers, as a local body, and as a part of the Church worldwide.

We’re going to look at two key events in Jesus’ life that expose His mission and ministry priorities.

His Mission

The first event is recorded for us in Luke 19:1-10 (p. 781). In this familiar story, Jesus reveals His mission. Let’s read the passage together.

We have all probably sung the children’s song that tells the story of Zacchaeus. You can probably hear that tune ringing in your heads right now:

Zacchaeus was a wee little man

And a wee little man was he.

He climbed way up in a sycamore tree,

For the Lord he wanted to see. . . .

Kent Hughes: “We can have fun with this, but we must remember that the story occupies a very serious place in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life because it is Jesus’ last personal encounter before his arrival in Jerusalem and the events leading to his death” (PTW-WS).

There are many different vantage points from which we could view this account. We could see it through the eyes of Zacchaeus, or through the eyes of the disciples, or we could even choose to see this story through the eyes of the crowd surrounding Jesus as He traveled. But for our purposes this morning, we will try to see this event through the eyes of Jesus. So our focus will be upon His actions and words.

Jesus Exemplifies His Mission

One of the features I love the most about this incident is that Jesus exemplifies His mission before He explicitly states it. He shows us—through six deliberate actions—a tangible, practical demonstration what He had come to do and, consequently, what we are to be about: His mission is our mission. In this encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus gives us a living illustration of His mission. I encourage you to pay close attention to everything that Jesus does and says, even the “subtle” things, because everything is done purposefully and intentionally.

He Went to Where Zacchaeus Was

The first thing that Jesus did was to go to where Zacchaeus was. Luke writes, When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up (19:5a). As Jesus was making His way through Jericho, He came to the place where the sycamore-fig tree was growing. And the song continues:

And as the Savior passed his way,

He looked up in the tree.

Here’s one of the subtleties I don’t want you to miss. Luke tells us in v. 1 that Jesus is passing through Jericho. He is heading toward the climax of His ministry: He is heading toward Jerusalem and the cross. But when He comes to the spot where Zacchaeus is perched upon a limb, He stops His journey in order to attend to an important matter of business. He recognizes that the outcast up a tree is a man who is desperate for a change. He is a man who has tried his best to find fulfillment and attain success, but all his striving has left him empty. Jesus sees a man who is seeking for an answer that lies beyond himself. He sees a man in need of a Savior.

As one commentary points out, “Jesus sees every man, no matter where he is: in the dark places of his sin and shame, in his home and work and play, in his seeking to know the truth. Jesus sees everything about a man, but there is one person in particular whom he sees. He sees the man who is seeking Him” (POSB-WS). Zacchaeus was one such man. He did all he could think to do just to catch a glimpse of Jesus. And as the story unfolds, Zacchaeus discovers that his quest will reap benefits beyond his wildest imaginings.

What I want you to focus on here is Jesus’ action. He takes a moment to notice what everyone else tried desperately not only to ignore but to completely purge themselves of. Nobody wanted anything to do with Zacchaeus—he was painfully aware of that fact. But Jesus shocks everyone by going to the place where Zacchaeus was, to stop there, and look up at him.

Jesus’ willingness to go to where Zacchaeus was serves as an example to us. If we are going to fulfill our mission of partnering with God, then we are going to have to begin like Jesus did. We are going to have to be willing to go to where the needy are. We are going to have to be willing to adjust our schedules and plans to allow room for God to direct our paths toward people in need. It will be imperative that we have our eyes open and looking for the opportunities that God places before us. People come to Christ when we are willing to go to them.

He Called Zacchaeus by Name

And the old Sunday school song continues: And he said, “Zacchaeus…” Let’s stop right there. The second thing that Jesus did to exemplify His mission was to call Zacchaeus by name.

I know it seems like such a simple thing, so easy to overlook, but it is extremely significant. Jesus said the one thing that Zacchaeus longed to hear more than just about anything: He called him by name. As one commentary points out, “Jesus knew and called him by name. This was bound to strike Zacchaeus and be very meaningful to him. When anyone, especially a stranger, calls us by name, our ears perk up and our senses become more alert” (POSB-WS).

When Jesus uttered his name, Zacchaeus, He caused this calloused tax-collector to sense a stream of emotions he had not experienced in years. He heard Jesus say, “Zacchaeus, I see you and you matter to Me. Your name is not just a dirty word—it means “pure, just, clean;” and that’s what you can be. Your life has meaning. You are full of potential. I think you’re worth knowing.”

There has never been a time in history when the world has been more connected and disconnected at the same time. We sit in front of our computers and “chat” with our “new friends” who identify themselves with screen names in order to conceal their true identity. The world is referred to as a “global village,” and yet we feel more isolated and estranged from one another than ever before. “In one year the average American today probably meets as many people as the average person did in a lifetime 100 years ago. And yet [the average American is] far lonelier. There’s a big difference between being lonely and being alone, and the presence of other people doesn’t necessarily help at all” (15K-WS).

Like Jesus, we need to let people know they matter; that their lives have meaning, significance and purpose. They need to know that they are not alone, forgotten or forsaken. We need to tell them that God is on their side, that He is crazy about them, and that He wants to be their friend—and so do we. In order to do this, we will have to show them that they matter. We’ll need to learn names. And we’ll need to use those names.

He Invited Zacchaeus to Come Down

The third thing that Jesus did to exemplify His mission was He invited Zacchaeus to come down. It’s just like we sing in the song: And he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down!”

By inviting Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, Jesus is initiating a conversation with him. He demonstrates that He is interested in Zacchaeus beyond simple knowledge of his name; Jesus wants to know him on a more personal level. In essence, He is saying, “Zacchaeus, come down here, I want to get to know you better. I’m interested in who you are and what you’re about. I want to know what matters to you.”

Tom Clegg states in his book, Lost in America, “People come to earth with three fundamental needs—transcendence, significance and community” (p. 43). “Hi, how are you?” “Did you see the game last night?” “Some weather we’re having, isn’t it?” Just won’t cut it if we’re serious about advancing God’s kingdom. If we are going to fulfill our calling, then we need to follow Jesus’ example of showing real concern for and interest in the lives of people around us. We have to move beyond our normal practice of superficial conversation. We’ve got to be willing to enter into the lives of others and take a sincere interest in them.

He Asked Zacchaeus to Receive Him

After inviting Zacchaeus to come down, Jesus does something that must have completely floored Zacchaeus. What’s the next part of the song?

“For I’m going to your house today,

For I’m going to your house today.”

The NIV renders this as, “I must stay at your house today.” When we read that statement in our cultural context, we may come away with the feeling that Jesus was putting Zacchaeus in somewhat of an imposition. “Why, the nerve of Jesus, just inviting Himself over for dinner without checking to see if Zacchaeus had any other plans. What about Mrs. Zacchaeus? How is she going to feel about a bunch of strangers barging into her house? (Jesus is not alone—His disciples were also traveling with Him.) What is Jesus thinking—I must stay at your house today?”

Although in our culture it may be viewed as a deviation from social norms, this was not the case in Jesus’ day. In first century Palestine, it would have been considered one of the highest honors to have a respected Rabbi stay at your house. It was an act of blessing. But beyond the cultural significance of Jesus’ presence at Zacchaeus’ house is the intentional importance I believe Jesus meant to convey. This is the fourth thing Jesus did to exemplify His mission: He asked Zacchaeus to receive Him. Jesus was initiating a reciprocal relationship with Zacchaeus. He was letting him know that He was only interested in who Zacchaeus was, but He was also willing to let down His defenses and allow Zacchaeus to know Him. He was telling Zacchaeus that He wanted to get “real” with him.

I think the application is pretty clear here: Are we willing to get real with other people? Are we willing to remove our masks and allow people to get to know who we really are—with all our warts, and scars, and doubts, and fears, and shortcomings? Are we willing to show the world around us that Christianity is not about having it all together, but that it’s about being in a relationship with a God who holds us together? We’ve got to be open and vulnerable and real if we’re going to carry out our mission.

I’d like to make one other observation about Jesus’ statement. “I must stay at your house today,” carries a dual significance. The first has to do with a strong sense of urgency. “Jesus asked to be received and to be received with haste. He was set for Jerusalem and must not delay too long. There was no time to waste” (POSB-WS).

The second meaning conveyed by Christ is that of a sense of divine appointment. “Jesus regarded his encounter with Zacchaeus as a divine mission. His seeking Zacchaeus was a work of sovereign grace” (PTW-WS). His encounter was not just a coincidence—He knew that His Father has sent Him on that very day to that exact spot at that precise moment.

He Ignored Zacchaeus’ Accusers

The fifth thing that Jesus did to exemplify His mission was He ignored Zacchaeus’ accusers. Look again at the response of the crowd in v. 7: All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”

It was no secret how the people in Jericho felt about Zacchaeus. Because of his position as chief tax collector, he had earned for himself the unenviable title of being a traitor to Israel. Everyone despised him for working for the Romans. And tax collectors were notorious for exacting more taxes than was necessary and keeping the profit for themselves.

Jesus knew full well the reputation of tax collectors and He knew the attitude of the crowd toward anyone who would dare to associate with such “sinners,” but He chose to ignore Zacchaeus’ accusers. Darrell Bock makes this observation in his commentary, “[Jesus] does not worry about the impression on his testimony this association makes, because his priority is to associate closely enough with the lost that they may come to know the grace of God” (NIVAC, Luke, p. 479).

In order to fulfill our call as Christ’s disciples, we are going to have to be willing to put aside our reputations. We are going to have to associate with people who others may deem to be “undesirable.” We need to reach out to everyone and forsake no one.

He Brought Zacchaeus to Salvation

The final thing that Jesus did to exemplify His was to bring Zacchaeus to salvation. In v. 9 Jesus announced, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” This was the goal that Jesus had in mind from the moment He first met Zacchaeus at the sycamore-fig tree. He remained true to His call and commission from His Father. Zacchaeus came to a point of receiving salvation because Jesus never deviated from His mission.

I believe that we are called by God not only to bring to those around us the message of salvation, but also to bring them to salvation. Of course, only God can save, but do we have a sense of expectancy that our efforts to share Christ with others will reap a harvest? Do we have any deep conviction like Jesus that: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)? We need to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and believe that He will save our families, friends and neighbors.

Jesus Explains His Mission

What exactly was Jesus’ mission? In an ultimate sense, why had He entered into history? In v. 10, Jesus explains His mission: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus was a perfect fleshing out of His mission as expressed in this verse. “Jesus, the One who seeks and saves the lost, is the One who sought Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus put himself in a position to see Jesus, but Jesus did the speaking to Zacchaeus’ heart, asking Zacchaeus to receive him…after Zacchaeus received Jesus did Jesus save him” (POSB-WS).

His Ministry Priorities

The second event that we are going to look at quickly is chronicled for us in Luke 4:42-44 (p. 765). In this passage we gain an understanding of Jesus’ ministry priorities. Let’s look at Luke 4:42-44 together.

As we carefully consider Jesus’ actions and words, we come to discover four ministry priorities that governed His life and enabled Him to fulfill His call.

“I Will Remain in Connection with My Father”

The first ministry priority that we can draw from this pas-sage, which I would also argue was Jesus’ first ministry priority, is this: “I will remain in connection with My Father.” Although Luke does not explicitly tell us that Jesus has sought solitude in order to pray, we can reasonably make that inference. In Mark’s account of the same event he writes, Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (1:35).

“Jesus sought to be alone, seeking the presence of God. Jesus was exhausted and drained, spiritually as well as physically. Apparently, He had been ministering all day and night, that is, for almost twenty-four hours without a break” (POSB-WS).

Albert Barnes writes in his commentary, “Observe here:

1. That the [Savior], though perfectly holy, regarded the duty of secret prayer as of great importance.

2. That he, sought a solitary place for it—far away from the world and even from his disciples.

3. That it was early in the morning—always the best time, and a time when it should not be omitted.

4. If Jesus prayed, how much more important is it for us!” (BNOTNT-QV).

“I Will Not Allow Myself to be Distracted or Sidetracked”

Moving along speedily, the second ministry priority that we can draw from this passage is, “I will not allow Myself to be distracted or sidetracked.” The people in Capernaum tried their best to persuade Jesus to stay in their town, but He would have no part of their plan. Jesus was completely abandoned and surrendered to the purposes of God. He would remain focused and alert.

“I Will Continually Press Forward Toward the Goal”

The third ministry priority that we can draw from this pas-sage is, “I will continually press forward toward the goal.” The goal was “to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus’ reach always exceeded His grasp: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (v. 43). “Everyone had to hear the Gospel. He had to give others the opportunity as well. He knew that the more He could reach and disciple, the more others would hear and be reached” (POSB-WS).

Again, we see the sense of urgency in Jesus’ words, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also…” There is no time to waste, this good news can’t wait, it’s too important—eternity is at stake.

“I Will Complete My Mission”

The final ministry priority that we can draw from this passage is, “I will complete My mission.” Luke records in v. 44, And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. The NLT renders this verse as, So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea. He kept pressing on toward the completion of His mission: to bring salvation to the whole world.


This morning we have been recalling Christ’s call. I hope that it has been plain to see how important it is for us to embrace His call if we are going to become a healthy, Great Commission completing church. His call is our call.

Embracing His call requires us to embrace His mission. We are to be about the business of seeking and saving those that are lost. Jesus has shown us how it is accomplished; now we need to follow in His footsteps. His mission is our mission.

Embracing Jesus call also means that we embrace His min-istry priorities. We must remain connected to God, focused in purpose, constantly reaching farther, and hold perspective of finishing the mission. His ministry priorities are our ministry priorities.

We have been given a call that is larger than we are. It’s more than we can do on our own. But the good news is that we are not expected to do it on our own. God also supplies us with all that we need to get the job done. His call requires His strength—and He always comes through. Embrace Christ’s call and He will embrace you and give you success in the mission: the Great Commission.