Luke 19:1-10 Surprised by grace

Have you ever been in a situation where you got more than you bargained for?  Have you made a promise and found that keeping it involved far more than you expected?  Have you taken on a task only to find that the work required called for more time and effort than you ever imagined?  Usually the ‘more’ we get is an unpleasant surprise, but it is not always so.  In Luke 19 we read about a man who got far more than he bargained for, and it was the most important gift he could ever receive.  We consider Luke 19:1-10 Surprised by grace.

1. Zacchaeus’ quest

Zacchaeus was a ‘chief tax collector’ (v2) – he would be a wealthy man, but was hated by the community as a traitor working for the Roman authorities.  Dishonesty came with the job as he could keep whatever he raised above the assigned quota of tax.  His name meant ‘pure, righteous’, yet he was anything but pure.  He was no different from other men – ‘There is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Romans 3:10).  For some reason ‘He wanted to see Jesus’ and he went to great lengths to do so.  He must have heard about Jesus and was filled with curiosity.  There is no sign that at this stage he wanted Jesus to do anything for him.  Some people may come to hear about Jesus, never expecting a personal encounter.

2. Jesus’ command

Events suddenly get out of hand as Jesus addresses Zacchaeus directly (v5).  It is a blunt command – ‘come down immediately’.  There is no uncertainty or debate: ‘I must stay at your house today’.  These are words of divine authority – the Son of God speaks, requiring a meeting with this unrighteous man.  Right here we see the grace of God, his favour to those who deserve nothing good from him.  While Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus, in a deeper sense Jesus was looking for him.  The only thing that could change him and deal with his sin was God’s grace.  He had met the only one who could transform his life (1 Timothy 1:15).

3. Zachaeus’ transformation

We are not told what took place at the tax-collector’s home, but the results show that at some point he came to faith in the Lord Jesus.  Zacchaeus now understands who he is and what he came to do.  Note v9 ‘Today salvation has come to this house’.  Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus (Acts 16:31).  Zacchaeus’ sins are forgiven and his life is changed.  He is a new man and the evidence is a new attitude to his possessions.  If salvation has truly been received, saving faith will be seen in good works (James 2:18) which are the fruit of faith.

4. Jesus’ mission

The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world is stated in v10 – he ‘came to seek and to save what was lost’.  We are all lost – all sinners (Romans 3:23), spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), ‘without hope and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12).  But the good news is that a holy God loves sinners and in Christ has done all that is needed to save a vast number (Romans 5:8).  Like Zacchaeus, we must repent of sin and believe on the Lord Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:15 Christ’s saving mission

1 Timothy is part of a group of Paul’s letters known as the ‘Pastoral Epistles’.  It was written towards the end of Paul’s life to a young church leader and is full of practical theology.  Paul deals with the basic doctrines of the Christian faith that Timothy was to teach and the way in which he should conduct his ministry.  Several times in these letters Paul uses the expression ‘This is a trustworthy saying.’  We will consider one of them in 1 Timothy 1:15 Christ’s saving mission.

1. The reliability of the saying

This saying contains the heart of the gospel.  Why is it ‘trustworthy’?  Not because it is the product of human wisdom, but because it explains the saving plan of the God who is trustworthy.  The unchanging nature of God is spelled out in James 1:17 ‘with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow’. One implication is the unchanging nature of his grace to his people: ‘I the Lord do not change.  So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed’ (Malachi 3:6).  We also have an unchanging Saviour – ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8).  This statement about Christ and his saving work has survived the test of centuries of experience.  It deserves ‘full acceptance’ – it is to be received with faith, entrusting ourselves to the One spoken of here.

2. The content of the saying

            (a). ‘Christ Jesus’: ‘Christ’ is the Messiah on whom the hopes of the people of God centred (Isaiah 61:1).  The Scriptures show that the messiah will be God (Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 110:1).  ‘Jesus’ means ‘Saviour’ (Matthew 1:21), a Saviour who is fully human.

            (b). ‘came into the world’: the mystery and wonder of the incarnation.  ‘The Word became flesh’ (John1:14).  The eternal Son shared our nature (without sin).  He came into a world alienated from God (1 John 5:19) and that rejected him.  The supreme act of God’s grace was Christ’s death on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

           (c). ‘to save sinners’: he came ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).  The gravity of sin against a holy God required that the Messiah must suffer and die in the place of those he saves.  His blood has made atonement for all their sins.  He saves – rescues from guilt, from slavery to sin, from deserved punishment.  In place of alienation, wrath and eternal death we receive righteousness, freedom, blessedness, eternal life.

3. The application of the saying

This saying is not given for abstract consideration but requires personal application.  Note Paul’s recognition of his need of the Saviour – ‘of whom I am the worst’.  He spells it out in v13, and then speaks of God’s superabounding grace in v14.  It is essential that we all come to the point of recognising our plight: ‘all have sinned’ (Romans 3:23).  Do we recognise our true condition and the need Christ alone can meet?  This is not for the self-righteous.  If you admit you are a sinner, there is hope since Christ died for sinners.

Christ Exalted: 4. Return

There are some subjects Christians tend to skirt around, usually because views differ significantly, and discussion can easily become heated.  One of the most divisive issues is the return of Christ.  There are, however, certain fundamentals on which Christians should be able to agree.  We will consider Christ Exalted: 4. Return.

1. Full acquittal

Sometimes Christians are anxious about Christ’s return, recalling 2 Corinthians 5:10 ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ’.  Knowing our sins and failures, is this not a fearful prospect?  How do we reconcile this with the call to holiness in 2 Peter 3:12 ‘as you look forward to the day of God’?  We need to understand who the Judge is and what he has done for his people.  This is ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).  We need to grasp that the Judge is also our Saviour.  By his atoning death he has dealt with all our sin (1 Peter 2:24).  The price has been paid in full – all our sins are covered by his blood.  That is why we do not need to fear his return.  He will proclaim our full acquittal – there is ‘no condemnation’ (Romans 8:1).  Insofar as our sins are recalled, they will be seen as forgiven sins.

2. Public vindication

As Colossians 3:3 tells us, ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ – there is a hiddenness about our salvation and our identity, even in a sense from us (1 John 3:2).  Christians are a mystery to the world that does not know or love our Saviour (John 17:14).  Thus believers face hostility, opposition, even persecution as the Saviour often warned – ‘I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you’ (John 15:19).  Often it seems that we are on the losing side.  The return of Christ will reveal the true situation.  He will be seen by all to be ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16) and there will be a public vindication of his people.  All will see that what they said was true and that they are the children of God that they claimed to be.  Nobody will be able to harm or abuse them any more.  The Judge will condemn all his enemies – ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire’ (Matthew 25:41) and in total contrast, ‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:43).  That is a day to look forward to with joy and thanksgiving.

3. Eternal blessedness

We read of the consummation of salvation in Matthew 25:34 ‘Come, you who are blessed of my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world’.  This is the goal towards which the grace of God has been leading his people.  At the return of Christ believers will receive resurrection bodies (Philippians 3:21).  Salvation, body and soul, will be complete, the work of remaking us in the Lord’s likeness will be done (1 John 3:2).  The Lord is going to provide a suitable dwelling for his people – the renewed creation – ‘a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13).  The Lord’s people will delight in him and will serve him in love eternally.