Luke 19:1-10 – And Zachhaeus 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.”
Today’s sermon is the fifth in a series of five sermons, “Saying of Mature Disciples.” Marks of maturing disciples include
Speaking of determination, it’s hard not to think of Martin Luther, who became convinced by Holy Scripture that the sale of indulgences was leading Christians away from true repentance and genuine good works. And so not really knowing what he was getting into, he nailed 95 statements, we call them 95 theses on a Wittenberg, Germany chapel door. As time went on, and as the Holy Spirit had his way with this highly educated monk, Luther became determined to stand on the principles of (Scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone). Although Luther was very much open to debate and to discussion, although he was very much open to being corrected or rebuked or even proven wrong, he would not back down on fundamental teachings of God’s Word. He was determined to preach and teach that it was not Scripture plus church traditions that would be authoritative, but Scripture alone, he was determined to preach and teach that it wasn’t through a combination of believing and doing good works that one could be made right with God, it was by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
In today’s sermon, we focus on the story of Zachhaeus coming to faith and how as a result of coming to faith he determined to spend the rest of his days giving away his money to the poor and making restitution to those he had swindled. But the beginning of this story of Zacchaeus goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden where we have the first promise of our Savior.
Lesson #1 this morning is to be spending our days remembering and rejoicing in all that our God has done for us, remembering and rejoicing in the salvation that already has been provided for us, remembering and rejoicing in the full and complete payment of sins that has already been remitted to our account. In our text for today, Jesus wasn’t just passing through Jericho to see the sights, He was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. This story isn’t so much about what Zacchaeus was determined to do, it’s about what Jesus was determined to do. Jesus was determined to make things right between His Father and (sinners).
We have been studying our way through sections of Luke in recent weeks, and this particular section has been called the Gospel of the Outcast. Last week we heard the despised publican in the temple crying out for mercy, the week before the widow with no power or pull crying out for justice, the week before that the unclean and cast out lepers getting healed by Jesus, and the week before that a lowly servant just doing his duty. In today’s lesson, we have not just a run of the mill tax collector, we have an overseer of tax collectors, we have not just a successful cheater and a swindler, we have a filthy rich cheater and swindler, we have a man not just a bit curious about seeing Jesus, we have a man willing to abandon all dignity and to run ahead and climb up into a tree just to catch the eye of his Savior. Little did he know that not only was he looking for Jesus, Jesus was looking for him!
Both Zacchaeus and Jesus were looking (for each other). The Scriptures are full of exhortation and encouragement to draw near, to seek out, and to be looking for our God. Hebrews 4:16, Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 10:22, “since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith….the Psalmist writes, “Call upon me in thy day of trouble.” Jesus invites, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden….”and in His Sermon on the Mount, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness……and again “seek and ye shall find, knock, and the door will be opened, ask, and it shall be given to you.”
But the parallel truth to all of those invitations is the promise that God is looking for us. James writes, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Jesus in John 12, points forward to the cross and declares, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” As a child lost in a crowd and her mom are both looking for each other, as a soldier returning from deployment and getting off the airplane and his wife are both looking for each other, so were Zacchaeus and Jesus looking for each other in our text for today. At first glance it seems as though this chief of sinners found Jesus, the greater reality is that Jesus found him.
The good news today and in every one of your days is that Whether or not you are looking for Jesus, He is (looking for you.). Little Cora Lea Ruth Schaetzke isn’t really looking for her Savior this morning, but her Savior is looking for and finding her in the waters of Baptism, nevertheless. Even in those chapters of life where we are despising the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the preaching and the teaching of God’s Word goes forward, and as the Word of God goes forward, the Spirit of God is calling out and searching far and wide for any and for all.
It was true in the day of Zacchaeus, it is true on this Reformation Day, and it will be true until the end of time, the Son of Man came in order to seek and to save the lost. He has always been about the task of making sinners right with His Father. Lesson #1 – remember that Good News, rejoice in that Good News, rest in that Good News.
Lesson #2 is not just to be remembering and rejoicing and resting in the good news that our souls have been saved, but to take that which we have received and to give it away as fast as we can, as completely as we can, and as joyfully as we can. Once salvation came to His house, Zacchaeus was determined to make things right with his (neighbors).
Zacchaeus wasn’t just sorry for his sins, didn’t just believe in Jesus as Savior and want to leave it at that, he had a desire to make amends. He wasn’t just made right with God and content with that, he wanted make things right with his neighbors. The Bible says that faith without works is dead, it is no faith at all. The great Reformation truth is that we are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ, the corresponding truth is that Christian faith never comes alone, it always comes with good works. Good works are the fruits of repentance. They are evidence of the faith that is within. In the court of popular opinion, words of apology might be enough, but in the courtroom of God, words of apology need to be matched with the actions of apology.
The Five Languages of Apology (Chapman and Thomas) Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas are psychologists and authors who have noticed in their marriage counseling sessions that when it comes to apologizing, people speak different languages. They suggest “that is why sincere apologies may not always be received as sincere, and why forgiveness and reconciliation are not always forthcoming. From our observations as marital therapists, we notice a deafening lack of persuasive apologies. We believe that the shortage of apologies with impact may be a central factor in the epidemic of crumbling marriages that we see today.”
In closing today, I invite you to examine these five languages of apology,to hear five little stories that illustrate each language, and give some thought to which of the five you are most likely to use….and which of the five you are most anxious to hear from your loved ones. As you do so, keep in mind the great desire of your God to have mercy on sinners, keep in mind the lively celebrations that happen in heaven every time a single sinner apologizes, keep in mind how good confession is for the soul, how contagious repentance can be in the home, and how beautiful it is when salvation comes into our households.
Apology language #1 is Expressing (regret) – “I am sorry.” The kingdom of God is like a teenager who realizes that his attitude in recent weeks has been not at all what it should be. He looks his dad in the eyes tonight, and speaks quietly, “Dad, I’m sorry for being and not getting out of bed this morning, I’m sorry for tormenting my sister in recent days, I’m sorry for not being very grateful for all that you and Mom do for us kids. I’m sorry.”
Apology language #2 is Accepting (responsibility) – “I was wrong.”The kingdom of God is like a politician who looks the camera in the eyes and says, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career, I haven’t always kept my promises, I have a tendency to do more talking than listening, here and now I just want to be honest with you all and let the chips fall where they may.
Apology language #3 - Genuinely (repenting) – “I’ll try not to do that again.” The kingdom of God is like a husband who is sorry for his habit of drinking too much, he is recognizing the troubles he is causing in marriage, he eats and drinks one more time at his Lord’s Supper, that very day he asks God to give him the strength to change his ways, he asks his wife to hold him accountable, he asks his children to give him another chance.
Apology language #4 - Requesting (forgiveness) – “Will you please forgive me?”The kingdom of God is like parents who have gotten in the habit of not going to church, they are realizing how far short they are falling with their children, they go to their children, and they say that they are sorry, they say they have been caught up with wrong priorities, and they ask, “will you forgive us?”
Apology language #5 - Making (restitution) – “What can I do to make it right?”The kingdom of God is like Zacchaeus who hears the town folk grumbling about how Jesus welcomes and has table fellowship with no good men like himself, he is sincerely sorry for so much wrong he has done, he spends time with Jesus, he can hardly wait to go looking for folks who need his help, he can hardly wait to be generous with those he has defrauded, he can hardly wait to make things right. In the Name of and for the sake of Jesus. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther