“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” (Luke 19.5-6)
What would Jesus say to you if you had the opportunity to have dinner with him?
In Luke 19 Jesus has dinner with a tax collector named Zacchaeus, and the topic of that meal was spiritual lostness. “I have come to seek and save what was lost,” Jesus tells him. But how Jesus defined lost is different than how I think most of us do.
Jesus consistently taught that there was not one way to be lost, but two. You could be lost by breaking the rules, and you could be lost by keeping the rules. To be found – according to Jesus – is to put your faith in God through him for the purposes of being forgiven of sin and to surrender to the will of God. To be lost is to refuse or to be unwilling to do one of those.
Being lost by breaking the rules is much easier to spot. This is the person that wants to live according to their guidelines and values, and neither sees the need for salvation for sin nor desires to surrender their life to God. But being lost by keeping the rules seems to be much more difficult to detect, for their outward behaviors seem to match those of a ‘found’ person.
But Jesus time and again pointed to religious people and attempted to help them to see that they were just as lost as the ‘sinners’ that they were in turn pointing their fingers at. Like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus warned these religious types that keeping the rules can be as spiritually toxic as breaking them. If the motivation for keeping the rules is justifying yourself to God, then they too refused to acknowledge the centrality of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. And if the desired outcome of obedient living is to put God in our debt, then we too resist the call to truly surrender to God.
The great news is that Jesus is coming after all of us who are lost. He knocks at the door of our heart. He asks to be brought into the life and rhythms of who we are. Let us be like Zacchaeus and run to the one who comes after us.
(To listen to the sermon on this click here)