Salvation comes to a rich man

Luke   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus calls a rich man down from the tree and gives him new life. Zacchaeus responds with joy and thanksgiving.



Merciful and holy father,
Like sheep we have all wandered astray. We have not loved you as we ought, we have not trusted you as we ought.
We are doubting, fearful, anxious.
Forgive us. Forgive us for the things left undone, and forgive us for the things we have done. Forgive our restlessness and our impatience, our sinful lusts that still plague us daily.
And fill us with your spirit.
Wash us clean by the blood of the lamb, for you have promised to take away our sins and prepare us for the marriage supper.
We confess our sins to you, trusting in your promise, that you are reconciling the world to yourself. forgive us, we pray.
In Jesus name


Romans 8:1–2 NKJV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Scripture reading

Exodus 33:12–23 NKJV
12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”


Our merciful God and heavenly Father,
With childlike reverence we call upon you, knowing that you are our father in heaven. You have promised us every good thing if we only ask.
And so we come to you with the desires of our hearts.
Make us more like Jesus each day. May we view this broken world and the fallen humans in it through eyes of compassion, not contempt. Give us patience and hope and grant that it might be seen in us wherever we are.
May we be known by our love, and not our dogma. May we be known for our compassion and not our condemnation, that we might be good citizens of a different kingdom.
Give us patience to wait for your salvation, as we travel through this valley of tears. And walk with us, we pray, through our triumphs and sorrows, through our fears and our joys, through our weeping and our laughing – may we do all for your glory.
May we learn how to sit with the wounded and give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty, remembering that saints of old entertained angels without knowing it.
May we hallow and magnify your name and look to you alone for every good thing. Our help will not come from armies or horses or the strength of men, but through your help alone.
Bless our governor and our president with wisdom. Give sobriety and justice to lawmakers and judges. We pray, father, for your mercy on all the families that lost their homes in our community last night. Raise up helpers and give relief.
And dear Father, protect us from evil. Tear down the foolish and the proud. Remove the wicked from pulpits, from offices, from leadership – and give us wise leaders. We don’t deserve them, but we come to you again knowing that you do not give to us what we deserve, but you give according to your bountiful goodness. Even just and sober leadership comes from your hand and so we plead to you according to your compassion.
Give us health for another day. Be merciful to our loved ones. Give healing to those who are sick; Provide for Roger and give him health. Give wisdom and compassion to Jessica’s doctors. Give healing to Bud and Hugo and Steve.
And father, there are many in our congregation that suffer from sorrows that only you know.
Bring joy to those who suffer from depression. Give courage to the anxious and fearful. Give justice to those who have suffered tremendous harm.
In our community, give freedom to those in bondage and deliver the oppressed. Bless the work of those who reach out to heal the suffering in the community – the Red Cross, TIP, Women’s Friend, Casa De Esperanza, LivOn – give them the resources that they need.
Give us a heart of mercy, that we might relieve suffering wherever we find it according to our abilities. Join our hearts together in love and grow our congregation. Provide for our needs and open our doors wide. Be merciful to the wandering and those who are in trouble. Give reconciliation to broken relationships.
As we wrestle with our doubts and anxieties, as we struggle through our longings and loneliness, and wondering what our purpose is – direct our eyes to where Christ is. You have created us, and have re-created us in his image, and you delight in us. Cause us to rest in that delight, and give us patience through another day.
Bless the preaching of your word today. Guide my lips and give us ears to hear
And together:
Psalm 19:14 NKJV
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.


Luke 19:1–10 NKJV
1 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”


Jericho was right on the river Jordan. Remember that when Israel entered the land under Joshua, the first city to be conquered was Jericho.
So also, any goods from the east coming into Israel, especially into Jerusalem, would pass through Jericho. Jericho was a merchant town, and Rome taxed all of the trade.
This means that Jericho was one of the important centers of the Roman taxation system. Everything coming or going from east to west would be counted and taxed in Jericho. And the guy in charge of the whole system was a disgraced Jew named Zacchaeus.
Jesus in the previous chapter exclaimed to his disciples
Luke 18:24–27 NKJV
24 And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
And now Jesus shows them. The irresistible call of the gospel on the heart of a rich man, and not just any rich man, but a tax collector.
This one was rich, but an outcast. A sinner.
Although he was Jewish, he would not be considered a “child of Abraham” by the crowds. He was a sinner, a traitor to Rome, and a symbol of their oppression.
But he wants to see Jesus, and will not let anything stop him.
climbing a tree. This was quite an undignified activity for an adult. And this tax collector was despised by the crowd anyway, so everything he did would be suspect. But the sycamore fig was a great place to climb, and hide in the foliage, and perhaps get a glimpse of Jesus.
Jesus blows his cover. He will have no secret disciples. He calls his people openly. When he comes to stay with you, it won’t be in secret.
To dine together is a theme throughout scripture. - If you don’t understand this, you won’t understand the Lord’s supper.
To dine together is to fellowship, to be at peace, to be united in friendship, social discourse, mutual honor.
As such, Jesus abiding with us, dining with us, is a metaphor for union with Christ.
Revelation 3:20 NKJV
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Jesus spoke of eating and drinking with him in the kingdom of God. Psalm 23 speaks of the table set in the midst of enemies.
And - of course - the perfect fellowship between man and God is described in terms of food. The trees in the garden, with all the food. The pomegranates and grapes, and milk and honey of the land of Canaan. - and the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The consummation of everything, where the tabernacle of God dwells with mankind, and he is our God and we are His people. The end goal is God dwelling and dining with his people in Christ.
And so Jesus tells Zacchaeus that he is not only coming to dine with him, but coming to STAY with him. I must stay at your house today!
And Zacchaeus receives him joyfully.

calling and regeneration

In this account, we see the curtain pulled back on a mysterious aspect of our salvation - calling and regeneration.
Calling is the work of the Holy Spirit, connected to the preaching of the good news. There is the external call of the gospel:
“Zacchaeus, come down! I must dine with you today!”
And with those words, the Holy Spirit awakens the heart and the sinner responds. He comes down joyfully.
It is all the work of God in the heart of mankind - the call of the gospel and the making alive of the heart to respond to that call. the work is mysterious, the spirit blows where it wishes and you can’t see it. All you can see is the results - Zacchaeus is made alive by the call of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that it is the call of good news. The gospel.
The word “gospel” in Greek is euangelion. A proclamation of good news. It was used to announce the conquest of the king.
The call of the gospel is that Jesus has conquered sin and death, misery and shame. And he, the conquering hero, has come to mankind to dine with them.
He came to seek and save that which was lost and outcast.
Men such as Zacchaeus.
In our culture, far too often we think that the gospel is telling people everything that is wrong with them. Zacchaeus already knew what was wrong with him. He was a greedy thief who colluded with the Romans to get rich of the oppression of his local citizens. He was very rich.
He already had the opinions of the religious and the opinions of the neighbors, and they were right. He was an outcast, and he responded by seeking more wealth, and the more wealth he sought the more of an outcast he was.
Guilt drives shame, which drives sinful choices, which drives guilt. It is a vicious cycle that we are incapable of pulling ourselves out of.
Because no matter how hard we try, the heart of the issue is that we are alienated from God and there is no way back into Eden.
Let’s put this into modern terms. One of the most pervasive, destructive sins in our day is pornography. Millions of men and women are sucked into the lies and unable to pull themselves out.
They know it is wrong, they know it is destroying them. They feel weak and ashamed. They try to overcome it and the harder they try the more weak and ashamed they feel. So they seek to run from the feelings of weakness and shame by turning to pornography…and the cycle continues over and over.
The church often responds with self-help programs, or by heaping shame and guilt - all of which is understandable. Sin is deeply shameful, destructive, and soul-destroying.
But law, shame and guilt never change a heart.
Zacchaeus had been outcast and told what was wrong with him over and over and over again.
But there was only one thing that could change his heart.
Calling and regeneration - Zacchaeus, I must dine with you today!
The calling of the conquering hero, the king of kings, coming in fellowship, friendship and love to dine with us.
How do you dine with someone as a friend if you believe that they are ashamed of you, or hate you, or angry with you?
How do you dine with someone in peace when you believe them to be an angry judge, holding you like a loathsome spider over the pit of hell until you change your ways?
But notice what Jesus says - he does not say, “Zacchaeus, change your ways and then I will come and stay with you.”
NO - he says, “I must stay with you today”.
Zacchaeus, then, has a complete turn-around. A change of heart immediately. he receives Jesus joyfully, and before they even have a chance to talk further, he changes his view of money!
The rich young ruler in the previous chapter would not exchange his money for eternal life, because he didn’t see the value in Jesus.
But the gospel call changed Zacchaeus’ whole value system. He realized that the presence of Jesus in his life was far, far more valuable than any of his riches - so from now on, he would use his wealth - NOT for his own entitled self-protection, but in service to his neighbor to the glory of God.
When we receive Jesus and hear the call of the gospel, we know that it isn’t because of any works that we do. Zacchaeus didn’t change his ways before Jesus invited himself over. But when Jesus came to dwell with Zacchaeus, it was because Jesus had purchased him, body and soul, to be his own. Zacchaeus now didn’t belong to himself, but to his faithful savior, Jesus.
And that means his body - no longer for fornication and self-indulgence, but for Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit.
His wealth - no longer his own, but given to him for a purpose, that he might be a blessing to others.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NKJV
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Ephesians 4:28 NKJV
28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

The great exchange

What happens when Jesus touches a heart is this.
First, there is a change in status.
When Jesus touches the leper, he takes the leprosy on himself and the leper becomes clean. Jesus’ cleanness is exchanged for the leper’s uncleanness.
When he dines with a sinner, he takes the sin upon himself and the sinner becomes righteous. The righteousness of Jesus is exchanged for the sinners sin.
Isaiah 53:4–5 NKJV
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
And this change of status - from a sinner to righteous, from unclean to clean - effects a change of heart. From death to live.
From a self-absorbed, pornography style of living, where money, people and your own body are used for self-gratification - to a full, human existence, in fellowship with God and with one another, in love, reaching out to our neighbor, worshiping God and loving each other, as we were created to.
But this can only be done if shame and fear are removed.
“Zacchaeus, I am staying with you today. There is now no place for shame or fear, for you now belong to me.
“I am going to Jerusalem to be outcast, so that you might truly be a child of Abraham, with a seat at his table.
“I am going to Jerusalem to be shamed, beaten and ridiculed, so that you might be welcomed by the angels of heaven.
“I am going to die, so that you might have eternal life.
“That is what I mean when I say I am coming to stay with you.”
Now, Zacchaeus no longer belongs to himself, but belongs to Jesus. He has passed from death to life, and has a new relationship with God, with his neighbor, and will all creation, including his gold and silver, flocks and herds, male and female servants. Everything changes....

Calling, regeneration, faith

But the call of the gospel comes before the change of behavior. Repentance is the response of the heart set free.
The problem with the religion of the day, just as in our day, is that most people believed that God would only accept you if you first cleaned yourself up.
So the “gospel” changed form. It turned into, “Be a better person, and God will accept you”.
Be sorry enough for your sins, so that Jesus can dine with you.
Flee from your addictions or God will drop you into the flames
But that never changes the heart, as I said. And when you believe that this is the way to salvation, nothing will arouse fury faster than the thought that God accepts sinners FIRST. That he loves the broken and the sinful and the outcast FIRST
And that it is HIS love that changes the heart. Our love for God doesn’t change his mind towards us. It is his love for us that changes OUR minds towards him.
So when the crowds see that Jesus is staying as a guest in the house of the notorious leader of the tax cartel, they were furious.
He didn’t even repent first. He didn’t even show any remorse for anything he did. He never even....
“First, he must become like us. THEN we will accept Jesus accepting him.”
First he must flee pornography. First he must change who he is attracted to. First he must quit sinning and start thinking the way that right thinking people think.
But Jesus just says, “Come down. I must stay at your house today!”
It is the love of Christ, the calling of the good news, the announcement of the conquering king, that changes the heart.
TODAY - salvation has come. And that is the announcement.
Judgment will come in its time. It will come first on the house of God, as the scripture says.
But today is not that day. Today, salvation has come. The angels announced good will towards men.
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. This is the love of God declared to all of you. Whatever your questions, whatever your doubts, whatever your addictions, your fears, your deeply held shame.
Jesus declares the love of God. Look to the cross and be saved.
I must come and stay with you today.
And if you receive him joyfully, everything about your life will change. And this is daily - we abide in him daily, fleeing to him again and again.
We saw it immediately in Zacchaeus. With others, it takes longer. But change will happen. You will be more and more conformed to the image of Christ and then the image of God is renewed in you, in righteousness and true holiness.
As long as we keep looking to him.
When our hearts condemn us, when we fail, when we stumble and fall, when the law comes thundering on our hearts, we receive him again, for his love never runs out. We lay down our pride, our confidence in our flesh, and receive him.
He is a friend of sinners. This was used as an insult, but it was his badge of honor. He came to seek and save that which was lost.
A friend of sinners. Zacchaeus was a sinner. he knew it. Everyone knew it. They despised Jesus for staying with him. But this is why Jesus came - to seek and save that which was lost.
he didn’t come for the righteous, but to call sinners down from hiding in the trees. Where are you? I am coming to stay with you.
And that changes everything.
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