Christmas is the time when we celebrate Jesus’ coming to earth. Yet why did Jesus come? What’s the reason?
Why Did Jesus Come?
In this sermon Martin Morrison looks at the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19:1-10 and focuses specifically on verse 10 where Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Of course this statement forces us to ask even more questions. Who is the Son of Man? Who are the lost? And what is this person saving them from?
Some of the areas covered in this sermon are:
- How do we know God is personal?
- How do we know Jesus really is God?
- Why do we long to see the places depicted in songs and pictures?
- Are we really lost?
- Is there any alternative to the ladder we are all trying to climb?
- What is grace?
If we want to know who Jesus was in history, a good place to start is what Jesus said about himself.
Preacher: Martin Morrison
Text: Luke 19:1-10
Date Preached: 25 December 2018
Location: Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Father we thank you so much that we can gather together on this day and all round the world remember the birth of the saviour – of the king of the world – who came to rescue people like us. And so Lord, we do pray that you may speak to us through your word and you may draw us to yourself. And we pray this for Christ’s sake, amen.
Well it’s Christmas day and it’s a day that we remember the incarnation. Incarnation means that God became flesh. We remember the birth of Christ.
Jesus Tells Us Why He Came
The great question is why did he come? What was the purpose, what was the point of the coming of Jesus? I think the best place to look is to look at the words of Jesus. To see what he said about his coming. And we find that in Luke 19:10. And we are going to spend most of our time in that one verse.
Jesus tells us why he came; why he was born. “For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
We want to have a look at that and ask three questions. Who is speaking? Who is lost? And how can we be found?
Firstly, Who is God?
Let me just go down one side road. Especially if you are new or a guest or a visitor. Or you may be new to the Christian faith. You may be listening on the website. Who is this God of the Bible? The subject of the Bible is God. The source of the Bible, the author of the Bible is God. But who is this God?
God Is A Creator
There are many gods. People have many definitions of God. But who is the God of the Bible? Well the God of the Bible is a creator, supernatural god. That’s what we are told from page 1 Genesis 1 to the end of Revelation. That the God of the Bible is the creator of the universe. He made all things. He himself has no source, he has no origin. He has no beginning, he has no end. He is the source of all things.
God created all things: visible, invisible; seen and unseen. But He is also a supernatural God. Well that’s obvious – if he created the world from nothing. You can’t create something from nothing! No, God created from nothing because He’s God. He’s supernatural.
God Is Supernatural
You’ll never understand Christianity if you don’t understand that it’s a supernatural faith.
In actual fact you won’t understand the Christian faith, you’ll never understand Christianity if you don’t understand that it’s a supernatural faith. We have supernatural God. We have a supernatural book. We have a supernatural saviour. We have a supernatural conversion. We have a supernatural heaven. We have a supernatural hell. You won’t understand the Christian faith if you don’t understand that the Christian faith is supernatural.
But I’m A Man Of Science…
You may say to me this morning “Martin, I’m a man, I’m a woman, of science, of facts. I’m not sure that I can go that far.” You’re not only a person who holds to the world of science, you also hold to the world of emotions don’t you? Love. Hate. Grief, sadness, joy, pain. We can’t quantify those things. We can’t measure those things. We can’t put them into a definition – and yet they are so much part of our lives.
Perhaps you know 5% of the knowledge of this world. Don’t you think it’s possible that God and the supernatural could be in the other 95%?
There’s not just a world of science, there’s a world of emotions. And couldn’t there be a world that is supernatural? Outside of this natural world. Outside of what we can see and tell and smell and count.
Imagine all the knowledge of the world – all of the information in the world. How much do you think you know? Think of all the information – think of all the knowledge. 10%? Well, I think that’s a bit of a push. Perhaps 5%. Perhaps you know 5% of the knowledge of this world. Don’t you think it’s possible that God and the supernatural could be in the other 95%?
God Is Personal and Speaks
We also find that the God of the Bible is not just a creator God, is not just a supernatural God, but He’s a personal God, and He’s a speaking God. So God has spoken to us in creation. He’s spoken to us in our consciences. He’s spoken to us in his Word. He’s spoken to us in his Son. He’s a speaking God. He’s a personal God.
Let me just say, once you accept that God is the creator, you’re actually snookered.
Now, let me just say, once you accept that God is the creator, you’re actually snookered. You either have to say there’s no God at all, or you’ve got to say there’s a creator God. And if He is the creator God, it means He’s a personal God, and He’s a speaking God. Why do we know that? Because we as his creatures can speak. We are personal. We can share the most intimate things in words, in writing, in thoughts.
So if we the creatures can write and speak, well surely the creator can write and speak. Surely the creator is personal? So the minute you accept that there’s a creator God, you’ve got to accept – rationally – that He’s a personal God and a speaking God.
Question 1: Who Is Speaking?
Well let’s have a look at this passage. Three questions. Who is speaking. Zacchaeus actually is asking the same question there in Luke 19:3. “He entered Jericho” (Jesus) passing through. “And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.”
Who is speaking here?
The Son of Man
Well Jesus calls himself – notice Luke 19:10 – he calls himself “the Son of Man.” Now that actually has a double meaning.
The Humanity of Christ
So of course it means that he’s human. He’s pointing to his humanity. The humanity of Christ. And when you read the gospels you see the humanity of Christ. He would eat, he would drink, he would sleep, he was happy, he was sad, he was grieving. He felt abandoned. He shared all the emotions, all the feelings, all the humanity that we have. Because he was in the flesh. God was in the flesh.
Jesus shared all the emotions, all the feelings, all the humanity that we have. Because he was God in the flesh.
The Deity of Christ
But any orthodox Jew would also know that the phrase “Son of Man” was a reference to deity. In Daniel 7:13-14 you have the first time when that phrase is used “Son of Man.” And Daniel has a vision. And in his vision he says “and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days” (that’s God the father) “and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Any orthodox Jew would also know that the phrase “Son of Man” was a reference to deity.
Well who is Daniel talking about? He’s talking about God. I mean who else has everlasting dominion? Who else would all the people, nations and languages serve? Who else will have a kingdom that will never pass away?
So when Jesus uses the phrase “Son of Man” he’s not only talking about his humanity, he’s talking about his deity. He has an everlasting kingdom – all nations, people will worship him.
We Imagine Jesus In Our Own Image
Now, as you well know, it’s not all that PC in our culture to talk about Jesus as God. People don’t mind talking about Jesus, but they’re not so keen to talk about Him as God. So they almost kind of make Jesus in their own image. Interesting, in the 1st Century, the Greeks represented Jesus after his death, his resurrection, they represented Jesus as a beardless young man like Apollo.
People don’t mind talking about Jesus, but they’re not so keen to talk about Him as God.
The Cubans many years ago represented Jesus with the gun over his shoulder. You have the health and wealth Jesus of the TV Evangelists. You have the New Age Jesus of Oprah. In the 1800s, just before I was born… you thought the ancient of days was me! No, no, no the ancient of days is God!
In the 1800s the French and English as always were fighting. And the English would chant, “the Pope may be French, but Jesus is English.” And they were wrong on both accounts!
To Relate To Someone, You Must Know Them
You see we like to make Jesus is our own image. He is more tolerant. He’s less demanding. We domesticate him. He won’t hold us accountable. The problem is, unless we know who Jesus is, unless we know his true identity, you can’t actually properly relate to him. Have you thought about that? If you don’t know that he’s God in the flesh, you can’t properly relate to him.
You can’t relate to someone if you don’t know who they are. And so it is with Jesus.
A couple of months ago a man came up to me and he was roughly my kind of age, and he greeted me by name. I sort of vaguely recognised him. And he greeted me by name, he asked after my wife, after my children, and I just couldn’t place him. Have you ever had that? Someone meets you, greets you, mentions your name. You can’t quite place them. And your mind is going round and round – trying to work out where do I know this person from? Was it from university? Was it from another church? That’s what I was thinking – was it from another church.
I couldn’t ask him, you know, how’s your children – because I didn’t know if he had children! I couldn’t ask him how’s your wife because – who knows? Perhaps 20 years ago I buried his wife. I’m not sure! It’s like that. You can’t relate to someone if you don’t know who they are. And so it is with Jesus. If you don’t know who he is – who is speaking – you can’t relate to him properly.
How Can We Trust Jesus?
Well, Jesus makes it quite clear who he is. The God who became flesh. The Son of Man. He makes it quite clear. He is come in his humanity and his deity. And how do we know that? How do we know that’s true? Many people have called themselves God. Many people have called themselves the Messiah. They are mostly in hospital wards and rightly so.
We know because of the death and resurrection of Christ. He said I will die and on the third day God will raise me from the dead (Mark 9:31). That’s why you know it’s true. You see if I said that I was God, if I said to you “the words that I speak to you will give you eternal life,” you would think that I’ve had too much brandy in my Christmas pudding.
You see I can’t do that can I? No. God in the flesh has come. We are speaking to God. That’s the one who is speaking. Who is Jesus? Critical question. If he is the king, I think it would be a smart move to meet him and get right with him.
Question 2: Who Is The Lost?
Second question is who is the lost? Notice Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Well the Bible says that everyone of us is lost. Perhaps you didn’t know that. But the Bible says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The Bible says that everyone of us is lost.
But We Don’t Feel Lost…
It’s an extraordinary thought because generally speaking we don’t feel lost. Do we? We normally use the word when something can’t be found. It’s kind of a one off event. You can’t find your keys, they’re lost. You can’t find your cost, it’s lost. Perhaps you read in the newspaper “dog lost at sea.” It’s kind of a once off event.
And yet when Jesus uses that term lost, he uses it in two ways here in Luke’s gospel. The first way is a loss of relationship. That’s how he uses it. So it’s not like a dog who’s lost at sea – it’s not a one off event. No. We’ve lost a relationship.
The Longing In Our Hearts
Have you discovered that when you listen to your favourite music, when you look at your favourite landscape, it awakens this kind of longing in your heart. Doesn’t it? This inexplicable longing. You wish it will never end. You wish you could live there. Sometimes it’s so deep it’s painful. Have you ever wondered what that is?
Well, we read in Ecclesiastes that God has set eternity in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Everyone’s heart. That’s the longing. It’s a longing for eternity; it’s a longing for heaven; it’s a longing for God. And even if you deny it, that inconsolable longing is still there.
Eternity is not what you believe, eternity is what you are.
Now you may say to me “look here Martin, I don’t believe in God. I actually don’t believe in Heaven and Hell. I don’t believe in the supernatural. I would never call myself Methodist or Muslim or Baptist.” Well that may well be true. But it’s equally true that you can never escape eternity inside of you. Because eternity is not what you believe, eternity is what you are.
A Splinter In Your Mind
In the movie The Matrix Morpheus says this to Neo. I quote. “Let me tell you why you are here. It’s because you know something. What you know you can’t explain but you feel it. You’ve felt it all your life. There’s something wrong in the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there – like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
You can deny the supernatural, you can deny God, but you can’t deny that inconsolable longing.
So you can deny the supernatural, you can deny God, but you can’t deny that inconsolable longing. It’s like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.
The Loss Of Innocence
Not only have we lost our way, we’ve lost our innocence. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God “(Romans 3:23). So the Bible tells us that we are sinners by birth. We are sinners from birth. The Bible teaches original sin. It’s one of the truths that no other religion will teach you. In fact our world and our culture hates the teaching of original sin. And yet that’s what the Bible says. We are born sinners.
Jesus said the fruit is corrupt because the tree is corrupt. What is he saying? He is saying we are not sinners because of what we do. No. We are sinners because of what we are.
The greatest sin is that we have sought autonomy from our creator.
So the fundamental sin is not stealing and lying and murder. Adultery… of course those are sins. Those are dreadful sins which have dreadful consequences. But that is not the greatest sin. The greatest sin is that we have sought autonomy from our creator. That’s the greatest sin.
The Greatest Sin
I will be the king of my own life. I will be the lord of my own life. I will define my own rules, my own world view, my own happiness. that’s the heart of sin. It’s autonomy, it’s independence. We’ve rebelled against God.
Malcolm Muggeridge describes sin as that dark little dungeon of my own ego. Does that strike a chord? The poet Byron who lived a hugely immoral life said “the thorns I have reaped are from the trees I have planted. They have torn me and I bleed. I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.”
Perhaps you know exactly what Byron is talking about. The lies. The half-lies. The deceit. The affairs, the stealing, the broken promises, the broken people. The one night stands… you wish you could – you desperately wish you could undo it.
The Loss of A True God
There’s a loss of way, there’s a loss of innocence, and there’s a loss of a true God. I think that’s what happened with Zacchaeus. You see Zacchaeus was a rich man. He was a chief tax collector. Tax collectors in those days weren’t sort of nice boring men who worked at SARS. You didn’t joke about tax collectors. No, you spat on them. Because they collected… they were Jewish men who collected taxes from Jewish people for the Roman oppressors. They were traitors. You hated them. But he was rich.
And then he met Jesus. And he realised that he couldn’t live for money anymore. He couldn’t live for wealth and things. So he says Luke 19:8 “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” He realised he’d been worshiping the wrong God.
Everyone has a ladder. You try and get to the top, and when you do, you discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
So temporary, so transient, so finite. You can’t take it with you. What’s the point says Zacchaeus.
What happens when you spend your whole life trying to get to the top of the ladder? Whatever your ladder is – everyone has a ladder. You try and get to the top of the ladder and when you get to the top, you discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. Well that’s what Zacchaeus discovered.
Question 3: How Can We Be Found?
Well what is the answer? Let me close off. What is the antidote. How can we be found? Well Jesus found Zacchaeus. So it’s not actually we who find Jesus, it’s Jesus who finds us! That’s what happened here. Luke 19:5 “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today. 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
And Jesus says Luke 19:9: “Today salvation has come to this house…10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
It’s not actually we who find Jesus, it’s Jesus who finds us!
The Gospel Is For Those Who Are Lost
Now let me say this, that Jesus and God can’t do anything for you – he can do nothing for you – unless you realise you are lost. So if you don’t realise you are lost – if you don’t realise that you’re a sinner – he actually can’t do anything for you.
Jesus and God can’t do anything for you unless you realise you are lost.
The Christian gospel is not for the good and the righteous – for the self-righteous, for nice people, respectable people. No! It’s for those who are lost.
Zacchaeus was a traitor. That’s why Jesus came. He came to seek people like Zacchaeus – like you and me. And if you don’t realise that you are lost, if you don’t realise that you’ve blow it – that you’ve failed, that you’ve sinned – Jesus can’t do anything for you. That’s the first step in becoming a Christian. It’s that you realise “I’m a failure, I’m a fraud, Oh God have mercy upon me!”
The Shocking Teaching of Grace
You see the second truth that no other religion will teach you is not only original sin, but is grace. It’s free. It’s a gift. Now religion – almost per definition – has to do with doing certain things. So Islam has the 5 steps of Islam. There are the 8 steps, the 5 pillars of Islam. There’s the 8 steps of Buddhism. ‘Church-ianity’ says “be good.” Say your prayers, be good, be nice to the pastor (not a bad idea) and you’ll get to heaven. That’s religion.
Our culture even says that. No pain no gain. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You get what you pay for. The early bird catches the worm. It’s duty, it’s works. And the gospel is grace. It’s Jesus that comes to find Zacchaeus – he takes the initiative. And he says let me come to your house and have a meal with you. That’s what Jesus says today.
Let me come to your house, let me come to your home. Let me come into your life and give you rest. Give you peace. Forgive you, cleanse you, wash you. Adopt you into my family.
Jesus Came To Seek and Save The Lost
Many years ago there was a great movie called The Last Emperor of China. And in the movie the last Emperor is just a young boy. And he has thousands of servants in his palace looking after him. And his brother asks him, what happens if you do something wrong? And the young emperor said “if I do something wrong someone else gets punished.” And to prove it he pushes over this precious Chinese porcelain jar and it smashes into millions of pieces. And immediately they take out another servant and beat him outside.
This Emperor is different. We sin, and he gets beaten. We do the sinning, and he does the dying – to rescue us. That’s why he came. To seek and save the lost.
Jesus can do nothing for you. Nothing. Unless you realise you are lost.
We sin, and he gets beaten. We do the sinning, and he does the dying – to rescue us. That’s why he came.
Let’s spend a few moments of quite as we reflect on God’s word and you tell God where you are.
If you’ve never turned to Christ, if you’ve never submitted to him as king, wouldn’t today be a good day to finally stop ducking and diving. To finally bow the knee before King Jesus, my Lord and my God.
If you have felt God the Holy Spirit speak to you as we’ve been singing, as we’ve been reading God’s word, as we’ve been praying, you may want to pray this prayer. Because you know that God is dealing with you today. You repeat these words quietly in the back of your head. Lord Jesus, I don’t understand it all, but I know that I’ve sinned, I know that Christ died on the cross for me. Will you rescue me. Will you forgive me. Will you help me to live under your leadership.
And father again we thank you so much that when we turn to you, in prayer and call on your for mercy, that you hear and you answer. Will you work amongst us this morning we pray, for Christ’s sake, amen.