Day 176: Seeking and Saving

Luke 19:1-10

He entered and was passing through Jericho. There was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, and couldn’t because of the crowd, because he was short. He ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” He hurried, came down, and received him joyfully. When they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He has gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner.”

Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.”

Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The details that God provides us in this story through Luke, causes me to believe that God does have a sense of humor. Here you have a wealthy man that was born short and couldn’t see over the crowds. So, this man, ignoring his appearance, actually climbs a tree next to the path that Jesus was walking on so that he wouldn’t miss Him. When Jesus gets to the tree he stops right there and informs Zacchaeus that He intended to stay at his house that very day.

So you have a picture of a happy little rich man climbing down from a tree as fast as he can next to the road in front of a huge crowd. I am guessing that this looked pretty funny to those who saw it. Obviously, neither Jesus nor Zacchaeus cared at all what it looked like.

I am sure that Zacchaeus was already well aware that he, as a chief tax collector, was considered a “chief of sinners” among the synagogue rulers. It is clear from his actions that he believed that Jesus was for real and different than the Pharisees. The presence of Jesus at his house brought the man to full repentance of his sin. He didn’t just say “I am sorry” but he brought justice to those he wronged and distributed some of his wealth to the poor.

Now, those in the crowd who were self-righteous, failed to see that Jesus was actually saving a sinner rather than becoming one. There is a big difference. It is possible to become a sinner because of who we associate with, but the crowd should have known by now that Jesus was quite different and He wasn’t about to give up any part of His relationship with His Father to party with the tax collectors. He was there to save Zacchaeus.

Notice, also that Jesus brought about justice to those who were abused by Rome. By converting a chief tax collector, some people were about to get a refund. Also, He was feeding the poor at the same time. The complaining section of the crowd judged Jesus far too early to see what He was really doing.

Giving: In this story, we get a view into an appropriate level of giving. Notice that Jesus didn’t require the man to give 100% of all of his wealth to the poor. Zacchaeus actually kept half. Jesus isn’t against saving money. He is against us living selfishly and failing to do the good that He has put into our hearts. He doesn’t expect us to harm ourselves by giving. When you are being pressured to do that, you are probably not hearing from God. Jesus puts within our own hearts the desire to give as He wants us to. If you have made up your mind that you are going to sacrifice joyfully for the Lord, then this is a very good thing.

Day 175: To the Praise of the Son of David

Luke 18:35-43

It happened, as he came near Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the road, begging. Hearing a multitude going by, he asked what this meant. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He cried out, “Jesus, you son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him, that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “You son of David, have mercy on me!”

Standing still, Jesus commanded him to be brought to him. When he had come near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do?”

He said, “Lord, that I may see again.”

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight. Your faith has healed you.”

Immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God. All the people, when they saw it, praised God.

Leave it to a “sinner” to fail to be “politically correct.” Many in Israel believed that if you were blind you were that way because of sin. On top of that, we know from John that the Pharisees had already warned the people about calling Jesus “the Messiah.” This blind man, when he heard that Jesus was going by “cried out” a well know messianic title: “you son of David!” This is a precious example of how we all come to Jesus. At some point in our lives, no matter how politically incorrect Satan makes faith in Christ to be, we stop wanting to be blind and we cry out to Jesus. When we are ready to cry out like this it doesn’t matter what people say anymore. Who really cares what “seeing” people will think, all we want is to “see again.” When the crowd tried to hush the man, he only feared that Jesus wouldn’t hear Him so He shouted even louder!

Jesus stopped immediately and told them to bring the man to Him. Jesus was willing to do something for the man and instead of just healing him He asked “What do you want me to do?” The Son of David was serving the “sinner.” That must have stunned the crowd! Jesus didn’t even touch the man but simply spoke his sight into existence saying that the man’s faith had healed Him. When we come to Christ, that’s all we need as well. We must trust in Jesus ability to save us and He will do it.

Now, Jesus could have rebuked the man for calling Him “Son of David” but instead He responded to it. By this act, he accepted the messianic term, admitting once again that He was the Messiah.

Then, the man received his sight and this brought praise to God. It is also a sign for us as Christians. When we are healed by the grace of God, we become a demonstration of that grace. This demonstration of grace brings praise to God for the glory that He has revealed. The Bible tells us that this is our purpose. God created the church to demonstrate the glory of His grace in us for all eternity. What an amazing thing it is that blind men like you and I have been given the privilege of being the objects of that glorious grace, to be looked upon with wonder for all eternity because of what God can do!

Ephesians 2:6-7

and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus;

Day 174: Things Hidden

Luke 18:31-34

He took the twelve aside, and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written through the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be completed. For he will be delivered up to the Gentiles, will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit on. They will scourge and kill him. On the third day, he will rise again.”

They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they didn’t understand the things that were said.

It is good for us to take a careful look at the prophetic description of the sufferings that Jesus was about to go through. He carefully spreads the blame in a responsible manner to include both the Jews and the Gentiles. This has been a cruel misinterpretation in the past. It is true that the Jewish leaders turned Jesus over to the Gentiles, but it is also true that the Romans (The Gentile World Leaders) beat and crucified Him. It was a shared evil. Jesus also predicts his resurrection again here as well. It is important for us to realize who really turned Jesus over to be crucified. It was Jesus Himself. He did it knowing it was going to happen when He still had a choice to get away. He did it for us and it must make Him very sad to see us argue over who’s fault it was. He wants us to accept His gift and accept our own responsibility for our own sin.

Luke admits here that the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. In fact, Jesus knew that it was “hidden from them, and they didn’t understand.” I find this to be a pattern in life. God chooses to hide things from me until the appropriate time for them to be understood. Many people are going through difficult times in their lives today and they may not understand what is going on. This verse gives us hope because the disciples didn’t know what was going on when their Lord was cruelly destroyed right in front of them. All their hopes were crushed. Little did they know that they were about to experience the most world altering thing that would happen since creation. A man would defeat death itself. Perhaps God has a resurrection yet to perform in your life. Take heart, God may be hiding a good thing for a time, only to reveal it later.

Day 173: What We Still Lack

Luke 18:18-30 (Continued)

In the next part of Jesus’ answer, He tells the man to follow the Law of Moses. We can see here that Jesus isn’t pointing the true way to eternal life because in other places He makes it clear that you can’t gain eternal life by following the Law. We know this because in the first part of the response Jesus said that no one is good. If the commandments of Moses were good enough to get the man into heaven, Jesus would have stopped at the point that the man said He did it all. The fact of the matter is, the man was still lacking. The law could get a man to heaven if there was a man who was good enough. There was only one man who was and it was Jesus.

Good works of any kind are not enough to save us from eternal punishment. We must go to the cross and believe that Jesus did the job of making us good. Notice that Jesus also brings up the point, that the man must give up all of his earthly posessions. We know from what Jesus said earlier that He must give up all of his relationships and even His own life as well to be a disciple. The disciples were the ones who were concerned by this answer. I think they realized that they weren’t even as good as this guy and He wasn’t good enough for Jesus.

I love how Peter says what was on His mind here because it is often on ours when we have doubts about our situation. Peter seeks affirmation from Jesus and Jesus is right there ready to hold up Peter’s faith. Notice, though, that the subject was an eternal reward, not salvation. Sure they needed to give up everything and give themselves away, but it was only to be by Jesus alone on the cross that they were to be saved. For this reason, I believe that it is the “following” that would have saved the man by faith at the cross and the giving up of all things that would have given him a reward in Heaven, showing him to be a true disciple of Jesus. Remember that Jesus discussed this principle in Luke 14:25-27 with His disciples.

Jesus says one of my favorite verses in the Bible in response to Peter. He says: “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.” That is what Jesus did when He came to earth. He made the impossible possible for all of us. We now can share eternity with Jesus and earn a reward if we live as His disciples here on earth.

My heart goes out to all of those I read about who are suffering great harm in Muslim countries for following Jesus and doing what He says. They have given up their families and their lives. Jesus says they have a reward. Praise God that He doesn’t forget their troubles and will take care of them forever. My heart goes out to those, even in the United States who have been falsely accused in discrimination against Christianity. May they realize the reality of their reward in Heaven.

Day 172: An Answer from God

Luke 18:18-30 (Continued)

The question that the rich ruler asks is curious, but the answer that Jesus gives is strange when taken without faith and amazing when taken in faith. Jesus asks the man why he would call Him “good” when only God is good. The misinformed or faithless position would be to assume that Jesus was scolding the man for daring to call Him a good and thereby making Him out to be God. A Bible-believing position would be to assume that He could read the man’s thoughts and was making a comment from the man’s point of view. I want to show you that not only was Jesus not denying His divinity, but that He actually communicated the exact opposite.

If you have been reading my writing for a while, you have seen the many times that Jesus has referred to Himself as God. Because of this, we know that Jesus is not intending to spread a lie about Himself by saying He isn’t God. I believe that a good paraphrase of this part of the answer would go something like this: “How can you call me good when I know you think I am just a man? Don’t you know that only God can be good?”

As we briefly looked at yesterday, this man had a problem with wanting to be good enough to “inherit eternal life.” Right away Jesus tells Him, “no one is good.” If the man would have stopped right there and believed, he would have started seeking outside help rather than trying to figure out how to perform the impossible task of gaining eternal life by merit. One would have to assume He either ignored the answer, or was so proud that He thought He had exceeded the capabilities of everyone who had ever lived. This is a basic part of Christianity. To become a Christian, we must believe that no man is good, including ourselves, and that we all need to come to Jesus in order to be saved. We clearly don’t understand the Gospel if we assume that mankind is able to solve his own problems. This is why Socialism doesn’t fit with Christianity or Judaism. Jesus and the prophets clearly state that the salvation of man comes from a place outside of mankind.

Jeremiah 17:5

Thus says Yahweh: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh.

To follow the way of Socialism, is to follow the way of a curse.

In order for us to have any hope of getting eternal life, someone good had to take action on our behalf. Jesus says here that the only one who is good is God himself. That leads us to what Jesus actually said. Because He told the man to follow Him, and told him that no man is good but God, He logically told the man He was God. Would Jesus tell people to be saved by following and believing in a bad person? We know that if the man would have followed Him at this point, He would have been lead to the cross. He isn’t saying that we should try to be as good as Jesus to be saved, we know that He is actually on His way to Jerusalem where He was about to make a sacrifice for the sin of the world.

To be continued…

Day 171: Questions of the Rich and Famous

Luke 18:18-30

A certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one—God. You know the commandments: ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ ‘Don’t murder,’ ‘Don’t steal,’ ‘Don’t give false testimony,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

He said, “I have observed all these things from my youth up.”

When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.”

But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich.

Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

But he said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

Peter said, “Look, we have left everything, and followed you.”

He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for the Kingdom of God’s sake, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.”

It is interesting that those who appear to have everything still know in their hearts that they are lacking something. This shows us that no matter how much money a person gets it won’t make them satisfied with life. Even though this man had almost everything he wanted, he was still concerned that he may have failed to “inherited eternal life.” Something must have been going on inside his mind and in his life to make him aware of this.

The Bible tells us that being satisfied is something that mature Christians have no matter if they are rich or poor. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said:

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

No matter if we have a lot of money, or are falling short, it is still Christ who strengthens us. He knows what is going on and He is capable to give us the strength we need. It appears that this man needed to know how to deal with money and still realize that it is only by Jesus that He was to be empowered. To be continued…

Day 170: Faith Like a Child

Luke 18:15-17

They were also bringing their babies to him, that he might touch them. But when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus summoned them, saying, “Allow the little children to come to me, and don’t hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Most certainly, I tell you, whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.”

When I read what Jesus is saying here, I remember that everyone who wants to be saved must first come to the place of simple faith. Christianity and God cannot be scientifically proven. In fact, the things we most desire and need can’t be scientifically proven. I’m thinking of things like love, joy, peace and truth. Even history cannot be scientifically proven because you can’t repeat history in a laboratory not to mention our future. Science is a “see it to believe it” sort of thing. It’s not that science isn’t helpful and good, it’s just that it can’t prove the existence of certain very important things. We should remember this whenever we hear the weather report! Here’s what the Bible says is necessary to be a Christian:

2 Corinthians 5:7

for we walk by faith, not by sight.

As intelligent as being “scientifically correct” may sound, it just isn’t child-like enough to get you into Heaven. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be intelligent about our faith. Not at all! In fact, we need to be careful that what we believe makes sense, and that may require intelligence that goes beyond that of a child. The Bible also says this:

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.

Having the faith of a child is not a childish thing to God! It is a wise thing. It is a foolish thing to be so proud that you won’t listen to that which others have witnessed. If you are your own wisest advisor, beware:

Proverbs 26:16

The sluggard (lazy person) is wiser in his own eyes
than seven men who answer with discretion.

A child is well aware that he isn’t as smart as others and that he needs to depend on his parents. We need to depend on our God and only those who are willing to do that make it into the Kingdom of God.