Seek and Save

by LA UBF   04/17/2014     0 reads



Has anyone ever seen the movie called “The Guardian”.

-about many rescue efforts of a US Coast Guard team saving the lives of people drowning at sea.

-It’s a really good movie, and I recommend watching it.

-One of the main messages in the movie is that it takes a combination of loving character, will, and ability in order to successfully do seek and save lost and drowning people.  One young hot shot Coast Guard rescuer has a ton of skill but lacks the character and will that the veteran rescuer has.

-The title of this message tonight reveals the same about Jesus.  His loving character, his will, and ability to seek and to save the lost.

So the title I have for this message is…


The key verse comes from the passage we just read a few minutes ago.  Can we read it all together please?

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

This phrase “seek and save” is the title and theme of the conference.

Jesus, the son of man, who was really a man, yet also more than a man – Jesus came to this world to accomplish many things actually.  But through this conference we want to think primarily about two of the purposes he came for. And these are not small purposes at all.  To seek the lost and to save the lost.

The three messages to follow mine (but mine as well) will show very real and clear examples of Jesus saving lost people.

Nobody likes to be lost.  I hate to be lost in the classroom where I don't understand what's being taught.  I hate to be lost in a movie because I missed the beginning.  And I hate to be lost on the road not knowing how to get back on track to where I'm supposed to be going.

But the type of being lost that Jesus speaks about is a much more serious one than any of these.  It is a lost condition of our very selves, our spiritual selves. Our spiritual self is the eternal part of our self.  If this part of ourselves is lost and remains lost how can we possibly say that anything else matters?

Jesus once proclaimed, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Or sometimes Jesus would say "yet lose their soul". Our “self” and our souls are essentially the same thing, for our soul is the eternal part of ourselves.

But thank God for Jesus. Jesus hates for us to be lost too. So, in love he came to seek and to save the lost.  Tonight’s specific case is Zacchaeus who was a man on this very dangerous track: gaining the world and yet losing his soul.

But let's see the work of Jesus to seek him and to save him.

Part 1. Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house today

Let me read for you verses 1-4 again.

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

In just this short passage we find out a ton about Zacchaeus.  Let’s get to know him a little better be profiling him:

What’s the first thing we learn about Zacchaeus in this passage?

1st – his name.  His name Zacchaeus means “clean or pure”.  But by his lifestyle of cheating people we can see that he is already lost for he doesn’t come close to living up to the good purpose behind his name.  What a good name.

ok, how about the second thing we learn about him?

2nd -Chief tax collector

Now, all who need to file taxes just had the big American filing deadline come and go this past Tuesday.  April 15.  Did you file your taxes?  This deadline is a very meaningful deadline for me since I’m a tax professional, working at a tax firm preparing many tax filings for individuals and businesses.  It’s fitting I guess that this is the message I’m giving and giving at this time of year right past April 15th.  As a tax professional I have many mixed feelings about the IRS and our US tax system in general.  Overall I can say it is not a terrible system but at the same time not everything is fair, and it has its flaws, and surely there is corruption at many levels.  I don’t know your view about it but one thing I can tell you is that at least our system of collecting taxes is much better than the tax collecting times of Jesus and Zacchaeus.  In those times too their was such thing as income tax, sales tax, import and export taxes, emergency taxes, and so on.  But the biggest difference was the collection system.  As many of you know Rome was the dominant world power of the time, and so Rome would exercise its might to collect taxes from much of the world.  This included poor places like many of the Jewish territories, including Judea where Jesus is passing through in this event.  But here’s how the taxes were collected.  Chief tax collectors like Zacchaeus got their positions by purchasing the right to be a tax collector of a territory.  They would then have many tax collector subordinates doing the work of squeezing out taxes.  And both the chief tax collectors and subordinates worked together making their money by exhorting more than the legal amount due.  But it wasn’t really totally illegal.  After all the authority to do this had come from Rome when the chief tax collector purchased the position from Rome.  To make matters worse was that the vast majority of taxes that went to Rome stayed in Rome and benefited the taxpaying territories very little.  And most of the time the tax collectors were not Romans but native to the land they collected the taxes in.  So essentially they are traitors to their native land, working only for Rome and of course their own financial gain.  This would have been the case with Zacchaeus too since his name is a Hebrew name meaning “clean, pure” of all things.  Needless to say, these tax collectors were despised, and the Jewish people labeled them as the worst of sinners, the scum of the earth.   Now it was known that you were pretty much lose all your family and friends if you decided to become a tax collector like this.  But for Zacchaeus that seemed to be ok for he knew that this job also had an upside.

This 3rd part of his profile: 

Verse 2 says very clearly that “he was wealthy”.  So to Zacchaeus (at least at first) it was worth it.  It was worth trading relationships with family and friends for the life of a wealthy man.  Although he had been given the name meaning “clean and pure” he didn’t see much value in that but became a chief tax collector, and wealthy man.

The next piece to his profile is that he “wanted to see who Jesus was”. Now we’re not told exactly why he wanted to see who Jesus was but most likely he had heard the stories down the grapevine of the things that Jesus was doing.  The interesting and fresh teachings Jesus taught and the miracles he performed, like changing water into wine.  To Zacchaeus most people were not worth maintaining a relationship with.  But the things he heard about Jesus made Jesus out to be more than human, and at least checking out.  So when Jesus passed through tax territory of Jericho he went out because he wanted to see who Jesus was.  But he had a problem which is the next part of his profile.

What was his problem?  He was short.  Yes I am tall but Zacchaeus was short.  And there were many other crowds around as well, trying to catch the spectacle of Jesus too, and they were blocking the view of this short man Zacchaeus.  So what did Zacchaeus do?  He became creative.  He strategized.  His strategy:  To run ahead of them all and climb a sycamore-fig tree and look down from there.  (show picture of fig tree)

These sycamore-fig trees are known for having very long limbs that stretch out wide so that they are unusually low to the ground.  As you can see in the picture.  So Zacchaeus could literally have been hovering over Jesus with a 1st class view.

Now in this way I believe all conference attendants here are to some degree like Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus climbed a fig tree; you climbed this mountain.  Like Zacchaeus I understand you have made some efforts to come to the conference, overcoming obstacles.  As Zacchaeus overcame the crowd and his shortness you overcame perhaps a hectic schedule or other engagements, and of course LA traffic).  As Zacchaeus was short, maybe you were short on cash.  Why did you do it?  Probably it's because you have some interest in knowing more about who Jesus is. And why do you want to know who Jesus is?  Maybe it's something you've heard from others about who he is, maybe you have heard how he transformed someone's life and you want the same for yourself.  Maybe you're just a little curious and want to investigate about him more.   Or maybe you do know him and want to get to know him better.  For Zacchaeus I believe it was mostly just his curiosity based on the testimony he had heard from others.  This Jesus sounded different than most other people who did little more to him than just judge him.  Anyways, he believed there was something worth checking out in Jesus, some hope perhaps in Jesus, so he wanted to know who Jesus really was.

Look with me at verses 5 and 6.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

As I mentioned before we might not know precisely the motive of Zacchaeus in going to see who Jesus was but Jesus sure knew.  In fact Jesus knew him exactly for Jesus had come to seek and to save him that day, although Zaccheaus had no idea either.  Jesus knew where he was.  He knew he was in the tree but Jesus also knew where he was in life and all his agonies as a sinner and a social outcast.  Jesus knew his name so to Zacchaeus’ surprise Jesus suddenly looked up and called out to him “Zacchaeus, come down immediately”.  Jesus also knew what it was Zacchaeus wanted wanted, even though we don’t know.  But the most important thing that Jesus knew was how to help Zachaess.

Part 2. Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house today.

What do you think most people thought should be done with Zacchaeus?  Surely some thought that he should just go away and never come back.  Maybe some thought a good beating would do him good.  Opinions of course must have varied.  But what most everyone could agree on was that Zacchaeus was not someone to associate with, and certainly not someone to spend any serious time with, like going to his house.  But that’s what Jesus did!

Verse 7 says “all the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

According to the text “all the people saw this” and began to mutter like this.  They were unanimously surprised and critical of what Jesus did, which to me means that the thought never had crossed anyone’s mind that this is what should be done with such a labeled sinner like Zacchaeus.  This was really a shocker to them and against all social norms.  Here Zacchaeus was as a known public sinner.  Even Zacchaeus himself would not deny that.  And here Jesus was a devout religious leader.  Yet Jesus went to his house?  It was very opposite what all the other religious leaders would do.  They would often keep clear of even more common folk most of the time because most of them viewed themselves as more righteous than the rest and felt proud by keeping this distance.  But in regards to known public sinners like Zacchaeus it was literally unheared of for a religious leader to enter his house.  It was viewed basically viewed as sin itself to do such a thing.

But as surprised as everyone was they may have been even more surprised in hearing the news of what happened through Jesus’ visit.

Verse 8.   But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

At first glance I thought these people had somehow followed Jesus and Zacchaeus to the home but in further study I could see that is very unlikely the case since they would not want to enter the home of this sinner.

What’s going on here I’m confident is this.  These people are left at the place of the sycamore-fig tree muttering among themselves of how absurd this is that Jesus is going to this sinners house.  Meanwhile back at Zacchaeus’ home Jesus is doing the work of literally saving Zacchaeus.

I don’t know what their conversations consisted of precisely but Jesus was performing a work of salvation on Zacchaeus – fellowshipping with him, loving him, likely have lunch and dinner with him, and sharing with him the words of God, all the very ingredients for salvation that Zacchaeus needed.  Maybe they enjoyed an hour or so of Zacchaeus’ favorite hobby as well, like playing pool or something.  Zacchaeus must have had some activity available in what I’m guessing was a big house.  Jesus knew exactly what Zacchaeus wanted and needed, and he provided it to him.  Primarily these ingredients I’m confident were the words of God (Bible study) which provide the knowledge of salvation, and Jesus’ real love and tender care through quality time spent with him in his very home, the place nobody else ever visited anymore.

So look again with me at the change that took place in Zacchaeus.

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Zacchaeus’ outlook on life changed 180 degrees.  Before this he had given his whole life to this business of tax collection to get wealthy.  He had sacrificed relationships to get it.  But the relationship with Jesus was different.  When he met Jesus and tasted his love he wanted to give up what he knew was a life of wrongdoing.  Very practically he wanted to show Jesus his gratitude and commitment to him by giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back those he had cheated (4 times worth).  I don’t know how much money he could have had left after this. But the point is that he had really changed.  And he wanted to make sure Jesus knew about it and knew his commitment to Jesus in this new life.  So he said “Look, Lord!  In Jesus he found a relationship of far greater wealth than money.  Jesus had in the realist of ways changed his life.

Part 3. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Zacchaeus knew that something had changed inside him.  And Jesus confirms this.  

Please look at v. 9-10.  Let’s read it altogether please.

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What Jesus says here reminds me of a doctor announcing the results of a successful surgery procedure that saved a life.  This unlovable Zacchaeus had just received salvation.  He is saved from his condemned life of being a wealthy crook and an outcast of society because of it, and now he has a life blessed with Jesus at the center of it.  

And his soul is saved.  He was on the track to gaining the whole world yet losing his soul for eternity.  But the day of meeting Jesus this was reversed.  Such an indulgent life of wealth he gave up willingly for the poor out of his great joy.  And his soul was saved.

Again, like a doctor announcing the surgery results Jesus also gives some explanation about how it was that the surgery was successful in saving him.

How did it happen?  There were two main components to the surgery procedure’s success that saved Zacchaeus’ life:

1. “Because this man too is a Son of Abraham”

The word “because” tells us that this was one important component in the saving of Zacchaeus.  “because…” The way this guy Zacchaeus lived most of his adult life would shock most people that this guy could be saved, but Jesus says that it is the reality.  He too is a Son of Abraham.  When the Bible speaks of the children of Abraham it means those who walk in the same faith Abraham had.  Because Abraham is given the title father of faith.  Through faith is how people from the beginning to the end of time always come to be saved, if they come to be saved.  Salvation is by faith alone, a real trusting of God.  By this faith Abraham was made righteous and saved, and by this same faith Zacchaeus received salvation that day.

2. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

The word “for” tells us that Jesus’ seeking and saving efforts were crucial for the saving of Zacchaeus.

Going back to the Coast Guard Guardian movie I mentioned earlier that showed the necessity of both the character of the rescuer as well as his ability, this key verse right here reveals that it is because of the character and ability of Jesus that Zacchaeus’ life was saved.

If the loving and sacrificial character of Jesus was not what it is then forget about it.  Forget about the reality of salvation.  Think if his view and opinion about sinners is what the rest of the people’s opinion was: only judgmental and keeping a far distance from them.  Jesus would have kept himself completely away from this world filled to the brim with sinners.  He would pay no attention to it but let it be as it is.  There would be no possibility for Zacchaeus’ salvation, or anyone else’s because we need Jesus, desperately need him.  But we thank and praise Jesus because his view of lost sinners was not like theirs.  To Jesus sinners were people who should be sought after and saved.  Though people’s sins got them in the mess, in love Jesus found them worth seeking out and saving.  Jesus did not avoid sinners.  Jesus did not come to condemn and judge, look down on, and separate himself from sinners.  In love he came to seek them, even staying at their homes when necessary.

Right now I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you my testimony of how Jesus sought after and saved me.

I too was once lost and needed someone to save me, although I didn’t know I was lost.  I had grown up in a sheltered Christian home but did not understand much about sin due to a severe lack of real Bible study.  So in ignorance and by my sinful desires I steadily progressed towards the darkness.  Being the shy guy that I was I didn’t have any girlfriends and so I didn’t have any outwardly adulterous relationships although in my heart I had many of them.  I fulfilled my sinful adulterous desires by just watching a lot of porn and masturbation.  I could sense a darkness when I did so but really I didn’t know much about what I was doing.  I just did what felt good in the moment, not knowing what it might be doing to my soul.  Honestly most of my childhood life all the way through high school was pretty simple.  There’s not a lot of stories to tell.  I was a decent student, a kind of nerdy guy, and spent the majority of my time outside of school watching a lot of sports and playing roller hockey, and doing dumb things for thrills, liking egging houses and cars and such.  These simple sins of lust, pornography, and masturbation though were darkening and infesting my heart more and more.  And my life was not on a good track going forward.  By the time I graduated high school I had mostly decided that money and fulfilling my sexual lusts were the best things worth living for.  So I had some plans to join some fraternity or some clubs where I knew I could get the sex I craved.  But this is not what happened.  Jesus sought me and saved me before I could do so.  In 1997 I was a freshman just about to enter college.  I was invited to Bible study and then a Bible conference like this one.  There I heard the sins of sexual immorality like my own spoken of very openly.  But also the gospel message of Jesus who loved sinners was spoken of.  I experienced God’s grace, shedding many tears and knew that something had changed in me on the inside.  I remember being so happy and thankful, and then going home and throwing away all of my pornographic magazines.  It was the best day of my life, the day Jesus sought me and saved me.

Let’s pray.

Today Jesus’ efforts to seek and save is carried out through the church who the Bible calls the body of Jesus.  So today too the work of salvation continues, and lost people, even the ones that have been largely shunned and that nobody really likes (like Zacchaeus) have the hope to be loved and hope to be saved.

He hadn’t gotten these very well before because the religious teachers didn’t go and teach people with his kind of label.  And nobody really liked him because truth be told he was quite an unloveable man, not even likeable really by human standards.

Notice with me 

Wants to save him more than Zacchaeus wants.  Zacchaeus perhaps didn’t even know that he needed to be saved.

The problem was that he was a short

Profile of Zacchaeus

Understanding Zacchaeus:
-background of tax collectors
-how he felt
-where he was now in life
-how he was lost
-why he is trying to find out who Jesus is

Zaccheus notes:

He then gives Zack a two-fold command: “Come down immediately.” Get out of the tree, Zack. Right now. There’s always a sense of urgency about following Christ. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “…Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of those who were walking with Jesus that day? How did Jesus know his name? Why did Jesus stop under that particular tree? Why did Jesus want this sinner to come down right away?

It's obvious that Jesus was fulfilling one of his primary purposes - to seek and save the lost


Said to The Lord "look Lord..." He didn't want Jesus to reject him.

Profile of Zacchaeus

Must is a very strong word

Seek indicate a lot of effort. It's because it's very important to him to save people.

The reason for seeking is in order to save

What it is to be lost - not functioning according to original purpose. The purpose of mankind is to glorify God and maintain a good relationship with him forever.  But because of our sin we are instead separated from God and not able to do either of these.  We are lost.  We are stuck in our sins, unable to fulfill our original purpose. Many are lost not even understanding their purpose of life very well.  And because of our sins which separate us from God and bring punishment upon us - punishment which we deserve - we will remain lost forever without some intervention.  It is this destiny that Jesus came to save us from.  But thank God. As the key first of this message states clearly - Jesus has come to intervene. He came to seek and to save the lost.

I believe Jesus is seeking and saving people through this conference as well

How Jesus spent time with the center while the Pharisees did not and criticized him

Can I learn something from Jesus' approach for seeking and saving him?  Method of spending time with. Happened in one day.  Doesn't have to be gradual though-think of peter in acts 2

Efforts to seek and efforts to say – Jesus gets the job done. Speak about what it means to seek and what it means to save

My message is kind of an overview of the conference showing how Jesus sought and saved people

Many kinds of lost people. Jesus interested in saving them no matter what the kind of sinner.  We'll look at some good examples of this throughout the conference.  What we'll see is that some looked pretty bad and some didn't look so bad but there are two things they all have in common. They are lost and they need to be saved.  Jesus knows this.  Knowing this Jesus seeks each if them out personally in order to save them. Jesus meets them where they were at and helps them no matter how bad they looked or how good they looked.

Zaccheus knew what they were muttering and repented because he felt sorry for Jesus.  He felt bad that Jesus was being mistreated because of his sins.  Half is a lot.  It is concrete evidence of his repentance.
Pay back 4 times.

Perhaps that’s how some of you are feeling this morning. You’re drawn to Jesus. You’re intrigued by who He is and you want to get to know more about Him.

Because of sin but we are so short on resources to come to God.  Our sins separate us. But thank God that Jesus came to seek into save the lost

In what sense was he lost? What dos being lost mean?