Seeking the Lost
Jesus was passing through Jericho. He had set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). The redemption of all humanity was His purpose. According to Luke 19:11, the people were expecting the kingdom of God to be established immediately. This was obviously a climax. The people expected great things.
Today we are looking at Luke 19:1-10. This passage leads into the story of the triumphal entry of Jesus told in Luke 19:28-40. The crowd that was following Him and the excitement that surrounded Him continued, climaxing in the Hosannas of His entry into Jerusalem.
This was also the end of Jesus’s ministry. He traveled about Judea, Samaria and Galilee preaching, teaching, healing and baptizing for three years. The time had come for Him to complete the work His Father had given Him.
He was on His way to Jerusalem in order to complete His work. On the way, He warned His disciples what was to come. He told them He would be killed but that He would rise again on the third day.
His route to Jerusalem lay through Jericho. Luke 19:1 tells us He was “passing through.”
A crowd was following Him. Apparently, this crowd was not quiet and somber. (We can assume this crowd started the Hosannas of the Triumphal Entry.) Just before He entered Jericho, a blind man noticed the noise of the crowd passing by and asked what was going on. He was told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” (Luke 18:37, ESV[i]) When he heard this, the blind man called out saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38, ESV) This term “Son of David” refers to the promise of God to David that one of David’s descendants would sit on the throne of David forever. Ezekiel 44:3 refers to Him as “the Prince.”
As far as the crowd was concerned, Jesus was on important business. When the blind man called out to Jesus it says, “And those who were in front rebuked him [the blind man], telling him to be silent.” (Luke 18:39, ESV) The crowd thought Jesus was too important and His business was too important for Him to be bothered by a beggar. However, Jesus “commanded him to be brought to him.” (Luke 18:40, ESV) The blind beggar received Jesus’s full attention, was healed and became an important part of the story.
Luke 19:11 tells us of the crowd saying, “…they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” The blind man was just a little delay. Now, they could get on with the journey to the important place, Jerusalem. But, it was necessary to pass through Jericho.
Luke 19 tells us there was a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus in Jericho. Zacchaeus was small in stature and the crowd surrounded Jesus. Zacchaeus, wanting to see Jesus, climbed a tree. As Jesus passed, He stopped and invited Himself to Zacchaeus’s house, and spent the rest of the day in Jericho.
To the crowd, this was another interruption. Jesus was on important business. Jerusalem was where it was all happening. They were just “passing through” Jericho on the way to the important place. Now there had been two interruptions in a very short distance. Some in the crowd probably thought, “At this rate, we are never going to get to Jerusalem.”
They did not complain about the interruption with the blind beggar. They could understand. Besides, it did not take long to heal the blind man and it was an incredible miracle, resulting in praise. However, Zacchaeus was a tax collector, not just any tax collector; he was a chief tax collector. When the crowd saw that Jesus was stopping and not only stopping but also going to Zacchaeus’s home, the text says, “they all grumbled.” The text emphasizes the universality of the complaint, everybody objected, everybody grumbled. The crowd was unified in their disapproval.
Their complaint was “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7, ESV)
As a tax collector, Zacchaeus was despised by the Jews, and being “chief” made him particularly odious. Ironically, the name “Zacchaeus” means “pure.” Can you imagine the slurs people would have made? “Yeah, pure evil!”
Zacchaeus apparently heard their complaints because he stood up and said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8, ESV)
As an explanation for all the delay and the visit to the house of this sinner, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, ESV)
There are two parts to Jesus’s statement, to seek and to save.
You may not feel that you are important enough. Jesus is just “passing through” on His way to more important places for more important business.
Or, you may feel that you are a sinner and not worthy to have Jesus in your house.
These feelings or objections correspond to the two parts of Jesus’s statement, the seeking and the saving.
Jesus spoke a lot about seeking.
He told a number of parables to explain His seeking.
He told of a lady who lost a coin and stopped everything, swept the floor and cleaned house until she found it. (Luke 15:8-9) He also used the following example:
4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. (Luke 15:4-5, ESV)
The blind beggar was the one. Zacchaeus was the one. You are the one, the one that Jesus is willing to leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go searching for, the one that takes precedence over His overarching purpose to save the world. Sure, He has the universe to rule and the world to save, but He is willing to drop everything and stop by your house for the day. We see this in the story of Zacchaeus, the story of the blind beggar and in the example Jesus used of the sheep.
In case you still do not believe me, I want to use an example from the Old Testament. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Can you imagine, the eyes of the LORD searching the entire earth? Now, I know you may not have a heart fully committed to the LORD, but we will get to that. For now, realize with me that God is seeking. He is seeking the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost treasure.
According to Jesus, this is why He came. He came to seek the lost.
He also came to save the lost.
The blind beggar had a problem. He was blind.
Zacchaeus had a problem. He was a sinner.
If you have no problems, Jesus is not looking for you. He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32, ESV) He also said, "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do.” (Luke 5:31, NLT[ii])
There was a group of religious people in Jesus’s day who kept all the rules and never did anything wrong. At least on the surface, they never did anything wrong. These people were the first to complain that Jesus ate and spoke with sinners. These good people had tremendous influence. You will notice that when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’s house “all the people” grumbled, not just some of the people, not just the super religious, all the people grumbled. Earlier in His ministry Jesus told these people “…you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:40, NLT)
The blind beggar was not the only beggar present when Jesus passed by. Zacchaeus was not the only tax collector in Jericho. Why did Jesus single out these two out of all the blind men and tax collectors in Israel?
The answer is simple.
They sought Jesus.
The blind man called out to Jesus. When he was told to be quiet, he called out all the more. Zacchaeus climbed a tree. Seriously, they wore robes in those days, not pants, robes. Personally, I would not have been under that tree for anything. (As a side note, God forbade the use of steps approaching His altars for this very reason. Exodus 20:26) Zacchaeus was serious about seeing Jesus.
There are two aspects to their seeking Jesus that stand out. One is their acknowledgement of their need, and the second is their faith.
First, they had to acknowledge their need.
Many people have died early because they did not think the lump they discovered was important enough to go see a doctor. Or, they were too afraid of what the doctor would tell them.
Many people are dying because they do not think they are bad enough to need a Savior. Or, they are too afraid to admit they have a problem.
Many of us who have acknowledged we are sinners and have come to Jesus for salvation still live in bondage to one sin or another because we refuse to admit we have a problem. Have others told you of your problem with anger but you refuse to listen? Have others told you of your problem with lying, but you refuse to listen?
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We need to recognize that we are lost. In addition, we must also respond to Him.
I mentioned that the second aspect of Zacchaeus and the blind man’s seeking Jesus was their faith.
God responds to faith.
This is why Romans 10:13 says:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (NLT)
Salvation is by faith not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 1:17) This is why the promise of salvation is to all who believe. (John 1:12, 3:16)
God rewards those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
In order to seek Him, in order to be motivated to call on Him, we must believe that He can help. We must believe that He can save us.
The blind man had to believe that Jesus could heal his blindness. Otherwise, why cause a commotion? Zacchaeus had to believe that Jesus could cure him. Otherwise, why give up all his wealth?
You and I will have to believe Jesus can heal us. Otherwise, why give up our favorite sins?
[i] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked NLT are from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.