Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder
October 27, 2013, Pentecost XXIV – Memorial Sunday
Remembrance of the Faithful Departed
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Habakkuk 1:1-4, Psalm 32:1-7, II Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10
From the Prophet Habakkuk:
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear?
From the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the peace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
When Christopher Columbus made his voyage west in 1492, he kept two log books, one of which contained falsified information. He wanted his men to believe that they were closer to land than they really were. Apparently Columbus felt that the morale of the crew was more important than the integrity of the captain.
As Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem, He told His disciples what would happen there, but they could not grasp what their Lord was saying (Luke 18:31-34). Some of the people in the crowd thought He was going to Jerusalem to deliver Israel from Roman bondage and usher in the kingdom of God. Still others followed Him just to see the next miracle He would perform.
In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus introduces us to another tax collector named Zaccheus, which means “righteous one.” Imagine us referring to the IRS as being righteous, and this supervisor of tax collectors was not living up to his name. Certainly the Jewish religious community in Jericho would not have considered him righteous, for he not only collected taxes from his own people but also worked for the unclean Gentiles! And publicans, which we learned last week, were notorious for collecting more taxes than required; the more money they collected, the more income they enjoyed (Luke 3:12-13). Though Zaccheus was a renegade in the eyes of the Jews, he was a precious lost sinner in the eyes of Jesus.
It is interesting to see the changes Zaccheus experienced that day, all because Jesus visited Jericho.
In the East, it is unusual for a man to run, especially a wealthy government official; yet Zaccheus ran down the street like a little boy following a parade. And he even climbed a tree! Curiosity is certainly characteristic of most children, and Zaccheus was motivated by curiosity that day. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).
John Calvin wrote, “Curiosity and simplicity are a sort of preparation for faith.” This is often the case, and it was certainly true of Zaccheus. Why the big crowd? Who is this Jesus of Nazareth they are following? What am I missing?
Jesus said, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall in no way enter therein” (Luke 18:17). Perhaps more than anything else, it is pride that keeps many “successful” people from trusting Jesus Christ.
Zaccheus thought he was seeking Jesus (Luke 19:3), but Jesus was actually seeking him! (Luke 19:10). By nature, the lost sinner does not seek the Saviour (Rom. 3:11). When our first parents (Adam and Eve) sinned, they hid from God, but God came and sought them (Gen. 3:1-10). When Jesus was ministering on earth, He sought out the lost; and today the Holy Spirit, through the church, is searching for lost sinners.
We do not know how God had worked in the heart of Zaccheus to prepare him for this meeting with Jesus. Was Levi, the former publican (Luke 5:27-39), one of his friends? Had he told Zaccheus about Jesus? Was he praying for Zaccheus? Had Zaccheus become weary of wealth and started yearning for something better? We cannot answer these questions, but we can rejoice that a seeking Saviour will always find a sinner who is looking for a new beginning.
St. Paul stated that he wanted the Thessalonians to be worthy of the kingdom when they entered glory in the future. But in our Epistle reading this morning, Paul emphasized their present situation. God’s calling was in grace and love, and Paul desired that they might live up to that calling.
The future prospect of glory motivated the apostle to pray for the saints. We must never neglect a present responsibility because of a future hope. On the contrary, the future hope must encourage us to be faithful today.
Trials do not make a person; they reveal what a person is made of. When our faith is tried, we are revealing our worth (1 Peter 1:6-9). God certainly knows our hearts even before we are tried, but we do not know what our own hearts. And others do not know what we are worth. We need to pray that God will build our worth and make us more valuable Christians because of the trials we have endured.
Character must lead to conduct. Paul prayed that the Thessalonians might have a resolute will, empowered by God, to do what He wanted them to do. Obedience and service do not spring from human talent and efforts, but from God’s power as we trust Him.
It was not Zaccheus’ fault that he was “little of stature” and could not see over the crowd. He did what he could to overcome his handicap by putting aside his dignity and climbing a tree. In spiritual sense, all of us are “little of stature,” for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No one measures up to God’s high standards; we are all “too little” to enter into heaven.
The tragedy is, many lost sinners think they are “big.” They measure themselves by man’s standards – money, position, authority, popularity – things that are an “abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). They think they have everything when really they have nothing (Rev. 3:17).
Zaccheus trusted Jesus Christ and became a true “son of Abraham,” meaning, of course, a child of faith (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:7). That is as big as you can get!
The people thought Zaccheus was a wealthy man, but actually he was only a bankrupt sinner who needed to receive God’s gift of eternal life, the most expensive gift in the world. This is the only instance in the four Gospels of Jesus inviting Himself to someone’s home, and it illustrates the words of Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Zaccheus was not saved because he promised to do good works. He was saved because he responded by faith to Christ’s gracious word to him. Having trusted the Saviour, he then gave evidence of his faith by promising to make restitution to those he had wronged. Saving faith is more than pious words and devout feelings. It creates a living union with Christ that results in a changed life (James 2:14-26).
Under the Mosaic Law, if a thief voluntarily confessed his crime, he had to restore what he took, add one fifth to it, and bring a trespass offering to the Lord (Lev. 6:1-7). If he stole something he could not restore, he had to repay fourfold (Ex. 22:1); and if he was caught with the goods, he had to repay double (Ex. 22:4). Zaccheus did not quibble over the terms of the Law; he offered to pay the highest price because his heart had truly been changed.
The child of God is born rich, for he shares “every spiritual blessing” in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3). We have the riches of God’s mercy and grace (Eph. 1:7; 2:4) as well as the riches of His glory (Phil. 4:19) and wisdom (Rom. 11:33). These are “unsearchable riches” that can never be fully understood or completely exhausted (Eph. 3:8).
Jesus Christ will be glorified in His saints when they return with Him (2 Thes. 1:10); but He should also be glorified in our lives today. The amazing thing is that the believer who glorifies Christ is likewise glorified in Christ, “glorified in you, and you in Him.”
How can this be done? “According to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:12). Grace and glory go together, as do suffering and glory.
Jesus invited Himself to Zaccheus’ house, and Zaccheus received Him joyfully. Joy is one of the key themes in the Gospel of Luke, and the word is found over twenty times in one form or another. The experience of salvation certainly ought to produce joy in the believer’s heart.
Zaccheus became the guest in his own house, for Jesus was now his Master. He was ready to obey the Lord and do whatever was necessary to establish a genuine testimony before the people. To be sure, the people criticized Jesus for visiting in a publican’s house (Luke 5:27-32), but the Lord paid no attention to their words. The critics also needed to be saved, but there is no evidence that they trusted Jesus.
When a day begins, you never know how it will end. For Zaccheus, that day ended in joyful fellowship with the Son of God, for he was now a changed man with a new life. Jesus is still seeking the lost and yearning to save them. Has He found you? If yes, praise God! If not, come to Him today as a child and receive Him into your heart.
Let us pray:
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.