Christmas is a reminder of the intensity and intentionality of God’s pursuit of us and the joy that comes from being found. Timothy Ateek begins a new series today called Born. Each week we are looking at an explicit statement in Scripture that unpacks why Jesus was born. Today we see that Jesus was born to seek and to save the lost.
Christmas Eve 2023 | Luke 2:10 - 11
Born to Destroy the Works of the Devil | 1 John 2:28-3:10
Born to Preach the Good News | Luke 4:42-44
Born to Seek and Save the Lost | Luke 19:1-10
Christmas is a reminder of the intensity and intentionality of God’s pursuit of us and the joy that comes from being found. Timothy Ateek begins a new series today called Born. Each week we are looking at an explicit statement in Scripture that unpacks why Jesus was born. Today we see that Jesus was born to seek and to save the lost.
Verses 1-5 show us how God seeks. And then verses 6-10 show us what it looks like when he saves.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? It's great to see you, great to gather with you today. If this is your first time ever with us, thank you for joining us. Thank you for trusting us with your Sunday morning. My name is Timothy Ateek, and I'm one of the teaching pastors here.
This weekend, as I was preparing for this message, I remembered a time in my life when I was about 5 years old and got lost at Prestonwood mall. There's a throwback right there. For those who grew up in Dallas and are not young, you might remember Prestonwood mall. I was 5 years old.
Yesterday, I called my brother and my mom. I called my brother first and said, "Hey, do you remember the time I got lost at Prestonwood mall?" He said, "Yeah." I was like, "What do you remember about it?" He was like, "I remember that you got lost at Prestonwood mall, and when you were lost I didn't care; I just wanted to go to Sound Warehouse." That's another blast from the past. Who thought you would hear Prestonwood mall and Sound Warehouse in the first minute of this message?
So, that's what he remembered. Then I called my mom. She had much more detail. She said, "Oh, yes. I definitely remember," and we just recounted what happened in the story. What happened was there was this play area, and my older brother and I wanted to play in the play area. My parents were going to go into the shoe store that was right by the play area. So, we started playing, and I was oblivious to what my parents were doing.
My mom went into the shoe store. My dad ended up seeing someone he knew, and my dad was going to be watching us while we played. Well, I lost track of where my parents were, and I just began playing. After a while, I looked up, and I had no clue where my parents were, so I decided to go looking for my parents. By leaving the playground in a massive mall, I became lost.
I remember I went into the nearest department store, and I remember walking up to the counter, and there was a woman behind the counter. I had tears in my eyes. I couldn't speak. She was like, "Are you having a good day?" and I went, "Nuh-uh." She just turned and walked away. I was like, "Okay. Well, you're supposed to find the nearest person who can help you. That didn't work." I just began to wander.
I was talking to my mom about this yesterday. Ultimately, it resolved. I got found. Some women picked me up. My mom remembers they were carrying me toward her, and she ran up and grabbed me. My mom included a detail in the story yesterday that I've never heard her share. You're going to hear it and be like, "Well, of course that's what she was doing," but when she said it, it awakened me to the intensity and the intentionality with which my parents began to seek after me.
My mom said yesterday that she frantically began to run in and out of every single store. I don't know why when she said that I was struck by it. I don't know if it was just feeling overwhelmed that someone who loves you so much would go to that great of lengths, that she would, with complete intensity and extreme intentionality, go in and out of the stores to seek after the son she had lost.
I tell you that because as we step into this new series we are calling Born, we are looking at the times where Scripture explicitly states why Jesus Christ was born, like, why we celebrate Christmas. As we are going to see in Luke, chapter 19, the Scripture is going to make it clear that Jesus Christ came, Jesus Christ was born, to seek and to save the lost.
See, my story at Prestonwood mall is just a small story in comparison to each of our stories. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, then your story is that you were lost and you have been found. Your story and my story is we have wandered away from our God. "All we like sheep have gone astray." We have wandered away from him.
If you're unfamiliar with Christianity and you hear me use the term lost, what I'm talking about is a spiritual reality where we have wandered away from God. We have lost our way. What I want to remind you of today is the intensity and intentionality with which Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save you. If you know Jesus Christ, it is because you have been chased down by him and rescued by him.
My hope is that the joy that was experienced when I was 5 years old and I was found… I hope you might tap back into the joy you might have first experienced when you were first saved. My mom texted me yesterday just to add a little bit more detail to the story, and the very last line of her text was, "It still gets me after 37 years." It still gets her. After 37 years, for her to think about her son being lost and seeking after her son, it still gets her.
My hope is that that might be true for us. I don't know how many years you've been a Christian. It might have been days. It might have been months. It could be years or decades. My hope is that it would still get you when we talk about the fact that the God of the universe would leave heaven in the person of Jesus to seek and to save you.
If you're here this morning and don't have a relationship with Jesus… Maybe you're like, "I don't even know what I'm doing here right now." A friend invited you, and you're like, "I said yes to coming to church?" If that's you this morning, welcome. I'm so glad you're here. There is a Savior who wants you.
If you have a Bible, I want you to turn with me to Luke, chapter 19. I am so thankful the Scriptures never leave us wondering. Christmas can be meaningful this year because Scripture tells us exactly what to celebrate. We celebrate that Jesus was born to seek and to save the lost. Let's read the whole story. It's a familiar story. If you've been around the church for a while, you might even know a song that goes along with it. It's the story of Zacchaeus who was a wee little man; a wee little man was he. It says in verse 1:
"He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 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.'
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, 'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.' 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.' 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.'"
That's it. Jesus was born to seek and to save the lost. These 10 verses unpack how Jesus seeks the lost. That's the first five verses. Verses 1-5 are going to show us how Jesus seeks the lost. Then the next five verses, verses 6-10, tell us what it looks like when he, in fact, saves. So, here's what I want you to see. There are six things we're going to see in this passage.
The first three things we're going to see are how Jesus seeks the lost. Here's what you're going to see in the passage. First, Jesus seeks out the least deserving. Secondly, Jesus overcomes man-made barriers. Thirdly, Jesus makes his calling unmistakable. That's what we're going to see in the first five verses. Then in the next five verses we're going to see what it looks like when he saves.
Here's what you're going to see. First, salvation accompanies a joyful welcoming. The second thing you're going to see is salvation dethrones counterfeit gods. Then, finally, you're going to see salvation changes people. So, here we go. How does Jesus seek? If Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost, what does it look like for Jesus to seek the lost?
1) Jesus seeks out the least deserving. Look back at the text. Verse 1 says Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through there. Jericho is about 17 miles outside of Jerusalem. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be arrested and crucified, but on the way amazing ministry happens. Verse 2: "And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus." We find out Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and was rich.
The name Zacchaeus ironically means clean or innocent. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, which means he was dirty and crooked. So, there's some incongruency between his name and his activity. What does it mean that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector? Well, what you need to know is the Romans basically auctioned off the opportunity to collect taxes for Rome. So, Zacchaeus would have bid for and won the opportunity. He would have actually paid money for the opportunity to collect taxes on behalf of Rome from his own people, the Jews.
As the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus would have had some minions who would have actually done the work of collecting the taxes. While collecting taxes, Zacchaeus and his minions would have accomplished two things. First, they would have gotten Rome's money, but the second thing they would have done is they would have charged a surcharge to cover their labor.
Here's the thing. That surcharge was completely up to Zacchaeus' discretion. It is assumed that Zacchaeus cheated his people. He inflated his costs, and he became rich off of stealing from his own people. So, what you need to understand is Zacchaeus was a man who was hated. People hated him. Why? Because he was working for Rome and, secondly, he was becoming rich by cheating his own people.
So, Jesus shows up, and Jesus is trying to make the point that he has come to seek and save that which is lost. Who does he choose to use as an example in order to make his point that he came to seek and save the lost? He used the person everyone hates. He used the person the religious leaders would have considered unworthy and unlovable to God. He chose the least deserving person.
Now, to be clear, when I say Jesus seeks after the least deserving person, I'm not speaking from God's perspective; I'm speaking from humanity's perspective. I'm speaking from the crowd's perspective. Remember in verse 7 how the crowd is going to react. Verse 7: "And when they saw it, they all grumbled, 'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.'"
They're like, "Jesus is going to hang out with someone who is unlovable to God. He is unworthy. He is the least deserving person in the crowd, and Jesus chose him. It doesn't make any sense." Yet Jesus is making the point heaven will be filled with the least deserving people. It will be filled with them. Here's why that's important. The reason it's important is because I want to speak to three different groups of people in the room right now.
The first group of people I want to speak to are the people who are here this morning who feel unforgivable or unlovable to God or by God. It took a lot of effort just for you to come into this place because you don't feel like this place is for you. You don't feel like you belong here, and you believe you are past the point of return, that because of where you've been and what you've done it's impossible for God to love you, for God to forgive you. You are the least deserving.
I just want to lovingly tell you heaven will be filled with people like you. Isn't that good news? The reason I know that is because God could forgive me. If he can forgive me, I assure you he can forgive you. So, I don't know what it is that might have you thinking God could never love you. You might look and say, "Well, it's the drugs. It's the alcohol. It's the abuse. It's the manipulation. It's the abortion. It's the divorce that was totally my fault. It's the affair."
I don't know what it is for you. I don't know what you can point to, but I just need you to know heaven will be filled with people like you who experienced the seeking and saving love of God and it has resulted in salvation for them. My hope is that some of you would be surprised by God's love this morning.
The second group of people I want to speak to in this room are the unsaved Christians in the room. You're like, "Well, that's a contradiction. That's not possible." What I'm talking about is I want to speak to the few people in the room who consider themselves a Christian because they're just a good person. You've always been good. And you're not just a good person; you're a better person. You look around and are like, "You know what? I just have done life better than other people." You've lived a better life. You've made better decisions. You have crushed life better than other people.
Something in you looks at them, and something in you looks at you, and you just feel more worthy, more lovable, and more deserving. Here's what I want to ask you to do. I want you to look up at the ceiling. Now I want you to look down at the floor. Now I want you to look at the ceiling and the floor at the same time. That's impossible, right? It is impossible to look up to God for help and look down at other people at the same time. It's impossible.
So, if you find yourself in that place where you're looking down at people, where you feel like you are more deserving of God's love, then the chances are you've never truly looked up for God's help in your own life. See, until you come to the place where you realize you don't deserve it, you'll never be able to receive God's gift of grace.
Then the third group of people I want to speak to are the genuine believers in the room. If that's you, let me just encourage you. Don't ever forget where you came from. Don't forget that you were Zacchaeus. Whether you grew up as a rule follower or a rule breaker, all of us were lost, and not one of us was deserving of being found, yet Christ in his love for you sought you and found you and rescued you.
Let me just encourage you this Christmas. Don't ever rule anyone out. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, let me encourage you. This is a great season to be on mission. You never know what God is doing in someone's life. Just think about it really quickly. Which neighbor, which coworker, which relative seems to be the most unlikely person to ever trust in Christ? Just think about who that is. Let a face flash through your mind.
You have no clue what God is doing in that person's life. You have no clue if they couldn't sleep last night because Jesus was knocking on the door of their heart. You just don't know. I remember my first experience ever with sharing my faith. I was in middle school. I was on a church trip, and we went and did beach evangelism. We were paired with some college students, and we were walking around a beach in Florida. We were just walking up to random people seeking to share our faith.
The college student was doing all the work. I was just the tagalong. Then this moment came where the college student looked at me and was like, "Hey, man. Why don't you give it a try?" I was like, "Oh, geez. Um, are you sure about that?" He was like, "Yeah, man. You take the lead on this." I kid you not. I started looking around the beach for a family that was splashing in the water and laughing and smiling or someone holding up a sign that said, "I need Jesus." I was looking for someone.
This college guy was like, "How about those guys?" You look, and it's like the music shifts. It's like dun-dun! These guys were surrounded by a moat of beer bottles. They had stacked their cans around them, and it was like they were looking at me like, "Excellent!" Like, "Come to me, young one." I realized in that moment I was looking for the people… My sight was off. I looked at these guys who outwardly, clearly, it seemed like they were declaring they did not want Jesus.
It turned out in that moment they did not want Jesus, but what I realized as I thought back on that story is sometimes we assume people's outward expression of sin is a declaration, a warning signal to us, "Do not approach me because I do not want Jesus." What if it's possible that their outward expression of sin isn't a warning signal to us but a distress signal to us? Not that they definitely don't want Jesus but that they desperately need Jesus.
So, my encouragement this Christmas… What would it look like for us to move toward those who seem far from God? It's possible that those who seem farthest are actually closest to encountering him. A mentor of mine says, "The bigger the tree the harder the fall." His point is those who seem the farthest often fall the hardest and they're the sweetest stories of God's grace.
2) Jesus overcomes man-made barriers. Look at verse 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." Do you see what's happening here? Zacchaeus' desire and his reality are in two different directions. His desire is to see Jesus, but he can't. There's a barrier between him and Jesus, and it's the crowd, which is interesting, because Zacchaeus is a guy who normally has power over the people.
Zacchaeus actually has some power whether or not these people are in right standing with Rome, but now it feels like the tables have turned and the people, in some way, have power over him. It in some way seems like they have power over whether Zacchaeus will be in right standing with Jesus or not, yet Jesus goes to great lengths to overcome that which was hindering Zacchaeus. What were the two things hindering him? The crowd and his height. Remember, he was a wee little man; a wee little man was he.
Jesus overcomes the man-made barrier to him. This is one of the reasons I can stand up here today and say this is why we can be confident that salvation is a miracle. This is why God gets all of the credit for our salvation: because he overcomes man-made barriers. I just want to invite you to think. What are the man-made barriers Jesus Christ overcame in your life to save you?
Some of you guys grew up in a church that did not preach the gospel. Others of you grew up in homes with parents who were either agnostic or atheist and discouraged faith, or maybe you grew up with parents who had a different belief system. Others of you had spiritual mentors or role models who have deconstructed. They've abandoned the faith or fallen into significant sin. Yet here you are, walking with Jesus. Why? Because Jesus overcome those man-made barriers.
Even think about God's work in the world. Do you know what countries are homes to the two fastest-growing churches in the world? Iran and Afghanistan. Those are the two countries in our world where Christianity is growing the fastest, Iran and Afghanistan. They are countries where there are men in power who are hostile to those who would proclaim the name of Jesus. Why? It's Jesus overcoming man-made barriers.
So, I just want to invite you really quickly. Think about the barriers Jesus overcame in your life and in the quietness of your own heart just say, "Thank you, Jesus, that you overcame them." Before we move on, it's worth acknowledging that if we aren't careful, we now, as Christians, can become barriers to others who don't know Jesus.
Here's what I want you to think about. I want you to think back to when you were in middle school. I want you to think about the cut-down you would use when someone was standing in your way or blocking you from seeing something. What would you say to them? Do you remember what it was? "You make a better door than you do a window." Do you remember that? I asked my wife that yesterday. She was like, "I never said that. You did, but I didn't. No." She was way too cool for that. I totally used that. "Hey, dude. You make a better door than you do a window."
Here's the reality. When it comes to Christianity, the goal is for unbelievers to be able to see Jesus through you and through me. You want to be a window for people. People should be able to look through you to Jesus. But I have to believe (I hope you don't miss this) there are a lot of unbelievers who go their entire lives knowing Christians but never seeing Jesus. Why? Because there are Christians who look nothing like Jesus.
If that's you, if you are a Christian who looks nothing like Jesus, it's a good question to ask yourself why that is. Why is it that you say you know Jesus but look nothing like Jesus? It's just worth evaluating if you know Jesus at all. I don't say that to scare you; I say that to prompt you to examine why it is that Jesus, who is Savior and King, currently has no influence on your life.
It's important to realize your life is powerful and people draw conclusions about Christ based on their interactions with Christians. So, your life is either compelling or repelling. It's either obstructing or displaying the goodness of God. So, I just want to encourage you to think. Right here at Christmastime, is there anything in your life that would confuse the gospel to the unbelievers in your life?
Whether it's the language you use or taking too much liberty with alcohol or valuing profit and productivity at the expense of people or caring more about people knowing your stances than knowing your Savior… I don't know what it is for you, but let me encourage you. The Christmas season is a special time of year, but special occasions never justify sin. The Christmas season is an opportunity for mission, and we don't want to put up barriers to people seeing Jesus.
The story goes on in verse 4. "So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way." It is a powerful thing to see people break through the barriers of what is socially acceptable to get a good look at Jesus. This is a guy, the richest guy in the crowd, probably wearing the nicest clothes, and what's he doing? He's acting like a kid, running and climbing, because he wants to see Jesus.
3) Jesus makes his calling unmistakable. Verse 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.'" This is amazing. Right here, we are finding out why Jesus is even coming through Jericho. The reason he's coming through Jericho is he has a divine appointment with Zacchaeus.
At the beginning of this passage it says Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus. What we find out is that in actuality Zacchaeus is seeking Jesus because Jesus is first seeking him. Jesus is the one coming to him. Jesus has a divine appointment with Zacchaeus. Do you see the wording? He says, "Hurry and come down, for I must stay…" "I must do it." The word in the Greek often implies divine necessity.
This is Jesus saying, "This is why I came. There is no option here. I'm here to accomplish the will of God, and God's will is, out of all of these people in the crowd, for me to come into this town for you. Zacchaeus, the one whose name means clean or innocent, I have come to make you clean and innocent before God." I love it, because Zacchaeus was just hoping for a glimpse, and now he has a house guest, which is amazing.
It just shows us that Jesus' calling in people's lives is unmistakable. Do you see what Jesus does? He goes to the tree where Zacchaeus is. The guy who can't get to him… Jesus goes to him, and when he sees Zacchaeus, he calls him by name. Why? Because he knows his name. He is God. And what does he do? He invites him to his own home. Jesus says, "I want to come, and I want to be with you."
It just shows that God calls people to himself at different times and in different ways. In this particular story, it wasn't about anyone else in the crowd. It was just Zacchaeus. But there are different times in the Scriptures where Jesus calls people at different times and in different ways. I mean, even in this room right now, what's amazing… My hope is there would be someone in the room even right now whose heart is exploding.
It feels like you have more clarity in your life than ever before. You are here by no accident. You are here because Jesus is calling you by name right now, and he is inviting you into relationship with him. You're going to leave saying, "I walked in dead, and now I'm alive." Yet there are other people in this room right now who are going to walk out and say, "I didn't get anything out of church this morning." Isn't it amazing that two people can have that different of experiences? Why? It's because God works in people's lives in different ways at different times.
So just think. When was it for you that Jesus made his call in your life unmistakable? For me, it was when I was a kid. I was going to a Christian camp. I heard the gospel clearly. I came home. I asked my mom about it. My mom unpacked the gospel for me clearly and led me in praying to receive Christ as my Savior. By show of hands, who trusted Christ when they were a kid? Okay. Awesome. Put your hands down.
Who didn't trust Christ until you were an adult? Isn't that amazing? God moves at different times and in different ways. God meets some people in the rock-bottom moment of their lives. Other people he meets in a time of deep pain and distress. For other people, he meets you in the midst of the height of your success when you feel like you have it all or when it seems like you have it all yet you still feel lacking.
Here's why this is important. If you're here today and the gospel is making sense to you for the first time…you sense a need inside of you for Jesus…then respond to God's call on your life. Put your trust in him as the one who came, who died for your sin and rose from the dead, conquering sin on your behalf. For those of you who know Jesus, let me encourage you. Christmas is a time for mission. I would encourage you to seek out unbelievers individually, just as Jesus did with Zacchaeus. It's a great model.
Let me just ask you… Who are you praying for by name this Christmas season? Here's the challenge for the people of Watermark. I want to encourage you to pray for three unbelievers by name every day from today until Christmas Day. As we celebrate Jesus' birth, the hope is we might be celebrating spiritual births of many people who put their trust in Jesus this Christmas season.
Pray for people individually. Seek out people individually. Pray for three people by name every day from today until Christmas Day, ask God to give you an opportunity to invite them to Christmas Eve at Watermark, and ask God to give you an opportunity to share the gospel with them at some point over the next few weeks.
Do you see it? That's how Jesus seeks. We're saying Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost. He seeks out the least deserving. He overcomes man-made barriers. He makes his calling unmistakable. He seeks, but he also saves. So, what does it look like when Jesus saves? Well, three things, and they go quickly.
4) Salvation accompanies a joyful welcoming. Remember, Jesus has just looked at Zacchaeus and said, "Hey, hurry and come down." Verse 6: "So he hurried and came down…" I love that obedience. What if we obeyed Jesus like that? It's like, we read it, he says it, so we do it. We don't rationalize it. We don't explain it away. Jesus is like, "Hurry and come down," and we're like, "Okay. I guess I should hurry and come down."
"So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully." What does Zacchaeus do? He welcomes Jesus into his home with joy. This is a beautiful picture of what saving faith looks like. Saving faith is a lot more than just agreeing to information about Jesus. It is welcoming Jesus into the home of your entire being. It is welcoming Jesus into the home of your heart and soul and mind. It is welcoming Jesus into your life to stay permanently.
I want you to think back to Thanksgiving just a week ago. Some of you guys hosted Thanksgiving at your house. You hosted family in town. There was a lot of joy when your family came, and there was a lot of joy when your family left. They came for those two days, and those two days felt like a week, and when they left you were so grateful to get your home back.
That's not how it works with Jesus. Saving faith isn't just a momentary thing where it's like, "You know what? I remember 30 years ago I walked down an aisle or I prayed a prayer, and nothing has really changed since then." No. What you're doing is you are welcoming the person of Jesus into your life to stay. He comes in as a guest, but then he stays as an owner.
Jesus comes in and makes himself at home. He begins to remodel, and he begins to make the place different, and it is all for your joy and for his glory. Salvation accompanies a joyful welcoming. Have you welcomed him into your life? Verse 7: "And when they saw it, they all grumbled, 'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.'" This is what Jesus does. He accepts those who seem unlovable and unforgivable. He's able to do that in your life. He has done that in my life.
5) Salvation dethrones counterfeit gods. Verse 8: "And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.'" This is amazing, because in Judaism it was considered generous to give away 20 percent of what you owned, but anything beyond that wasn't considered prudent. So, this is Zacchaeus being reckless. He says, "I'm going to give away half of it." Why? Because the god of wealth was no longer god in his life.
All of the decisions he had been making over the course of his life were for the sake of money. He had bid for the opportunity to tax his own people. He had inflated his charges to make himself wealthy. Wealth was the god of his life, and now that god is being dethroned because he has found something that is infinitely more valuable. This is what the gospel does. It dethrones counterfeit gods.
See, we have to be careful that we don't proclaim a gospel that allows people to have the world and to have Jesus at the same time. That's not the gospel. The gospel is that God in his love sent his Son who died, who was buried, who rose from the dead to make us right with God, but that Son who died and was buried and rose from the dead, as we talked about last week, is both Savior and King at the same time. Kings rule. It is incongruent to be able to have the world and to have Jesus at the same time. It dethrones counterfeit gods.
6) Salvation changes people. I really wrestled with how to make this last point or how to say it, and then I finally landed on… Let's just put it like it is. Salvation changes people. It transforms people. Look at what it says. Zacchaeus goes on and says, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
This is Zacchaeus saying, "Look. I embrace the greatest penalty according to the Mosaic law. I have cheated people, and I will repay it, because I am now surrendered to God. So whatever God says, that goes. He gets to rule and reign in my life." His life is changed from the inside out. There is a real change of heart. He went from cheating people to blessing people.
See, sometimes change in our lives is sudden, and sometimes it's slow and gradual. It's a really beautiful thing to see people change suddenly. I think about my friend Amber who came from a Muslim background. When she embraced the gospel, the Word of God became… She had an insatiable appetite for it. When she would go home to stay with her parents, she would wait until they went to sleep, and she would pull her Bible out from where she was hiding it and spend hours at night reading while her parents were asleep.
Then I sat and watched her tell her parents about her faith in Jesus. I watched her mom collapse on the ground hearing this, but Amber stood and declared, "This is who I am." Then I performed her marriage as she married a godly man, and now she's taking seminary classes and she is declaring her faith to the world. Why? Because Jesus Christ radically changed her life.
Yet I think about other people who I've watched gradually take steps where they trust in Christ, and then I see them a couple of weeks later and it's slowly beginning to metabolize what it looks like for Jesus to be in charge. Either way, salvation changes people. Verse 9: "And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.'" Today. That's how fast things can change. Today, salvation can be yours if you don't know Jesus.
What's awesome is when it says, "Salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham," what I think Jesus is saying is he's finally a true Jew. He's the truest sense of what it means to be a Jew because he is a Jew who has found the Messiah. He's a true son of Abraham. He has realized the Messiah, the one through whom all of the nations would be blessed, promised to Abraham all the way back at the beginning of the Bible. Salvation is available today. Today you can be forgiven.
We finish with the verse we started with. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." This is Christmas. This is why Jesus came. So, how do we respond to a message like this? Well, if you're a follower of Jesus, if you're a Christian, if you don't want to miss Jesus this Christmas season, then let me encourage you to spend time every day this week in your mind flipping through your spiritual photo album and remembering when Jesus met you and called you to himself.
Recall when you really sensed that he sought you and saved you and thank him. Thank him for seeking after you and for saving you. Just like my mom's text yesterday that said, "After 37 years, it still gets me," may that be true for you this Christmas season. No matter how long it has been, may it still get you.
To the followers of Jesus in the room, remember what I told you about that story of Prestonwood mall. I walked into that department store. I looked at a worker in the eyes. I told her I wasn't having a good day, and what did she do? She walked away. There was someone who was lost right in front of her and she didn't have eyes to see it. This Christmas season, may we have eyes to see those who are lost, and may we see the outward expression of their sin as a distress signal of how much they need Jesus.
Then, finally, if you aren't a Christian, maybe this morning feels like a call from heaven where Jesus is calling you by name, calling you to come and experience salvation in Jesus. If that's you, would you come to him? Would you put your faith in him, and would you know the joy that comes from being lost and being found? Let's pray together.
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you are the one who came to seek and save that which is lost. That's why you were born. That's why we celebrate Christmas, Lord. God, for the believers in the room, we thank you for our salvation that's found in no one besides you. I pray for those in the room who don't know you, who are just here exploring. They're here wondering. May they come to you, Lord.
If that's you, if you're here and you sense Jesus brought you here this morning…he's calling you by name, he's knocking on the door of your soul, and everything in you now just wants to welcome him in with joy to the house of your soul…then I encourage you right now to say, "Lord Jesus, would you come into my life today? I believe you came to seek and to save the lost. Thank you that you died for me. Thank you that you rose for me. Would you forgive me of my sin, and would you lead me in a new life?" We love you, God. In Jesus' name, amen.
Jesus was born to die so that we might live. Each week during Advent, we will look at what Scripture says about the significance of Jesus' birth and the purpose of his life, death, and resurrection.