Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Jesus Came

Life of Christ 141

Jesus Summoning Zacchaeus
William Brassey Hole, 1890
          It is Thursday. Jesus will die in six days. He and His Apostles are traveling with the pilgrim caravans through Jericho up to Jerusalem. Already today, on His journey, He has taken the time to minister to blind Bar Timeaus. Now, we shall see Him minister to a different man and another need (Luke 19.1-10).
          Jericho is known to us as the city that Joshua conquered by marching around it. Sitting just west of the Jordan River, and north of the Dead Sea, it was the first city captured by Israel after their 40 years wandering in the wilderness. By Jesus' day, 1400 years later, it had been rebuilt a little distance away from its original location, and it had grown substantially. The Jews were resistant to the idea of traveling through Samaria. Consequently, most of the merchant traffic between Galilee and Judea went through Jericho. Further, it was also astride major trade routes between the Mediterranean Sea and destinations north of the Persian Gulf.
          This constant stream of business attracted tax collectors like a gooey banana attracts flies. You will remember that these tax collectors, the publicans, worked on a for profit basis, and that they were the single most despised class in the Jewish system (see Life of Christ 48).
          Jesus is the most famous man in Israel at this point. Hundreds of thousands are flocking to Jerusalem for Passover, and His name is on their lips. Will He go to Jerusalem? What will the Sanhedrin do if He does? Tens of thousands of them are camped for the night at Jericho, and suddenly, here is that very same Jesus they were just speaking of, strolling through the crowd. Recognizing Him, a crowd formed, and another crowd came to see what the crowd was about.
          In the crowd that day was a publican named Zacchaeus. Being a short fellow, and spotting the direction the crowd was flowing, he ran on ahead and climbed a tree so that he could see Jesus as He walked by. Guess who stopped right underneath Zacchaeus' tree? Guess who informed Zacchaeus that He and His Apostles were going to spend the night with him? What an honor! And to such a man! 'And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully' (Luke 19.6). Thus it was that Zacchaeus' entire life was turned upside down in the very best way. 'And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house' (Luke 19.9).
          We see in this familiar story several things that are so sweetly characteristic of Christ. We see His compassion for those rejected by the rest of society. We see His willingness to fearlessly contradict the stuck up religiousity of His day. But what makes this story unique is one explanatory phrase which issues from Jesus' mouth. It contains a truth which we might well have suspected, or even inferred, from how He spent His life but now there is no need to suspect or infer. Instead, we have a clear, plain, contextual, self-given reason for why Jesus came.
        Let us pay attention here, for all that He has done – laid aside the fullness of His deity; humbled himself to be born; in a manger; to common people; growing up in anonymity; traveling as an poverty stricken itinerant preacher; being insulted, ridiculed, and mocked by the political and intellectual elites of His day; subjecting Himself to the constant presence of the 12 Apostles with all of their questions, criticisms, complaints, ambitions, and doubts; facing, unflinchingly, a cruel death at the hands of His own people; facing the indescribable heartache of the Father's rejection; dipping His soul into the torments of hell – why has He done all of this? What is His driving motivation? What possible reason could be big enough to cause Almighty God to do all of this?
          You are.
          'For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost' (Luke 19.10). That is you. And that is me. In other words, what motivated Jesus, what drove Him to be Who He was and to undergo what He endured was people.
          What is your motivation? What do you want? What are you trying to get? What are you trying to do? What moves, drives, impels you forward in your life? For Jesus, that answer was the souls of men. He pursued them with a single minded ferocious love.
          Beloved, His motivation ought to be our motivation. His love ought to be our love. His aim ought to be our aim. Jesus loved His world, and making salvation available to them is what drove Him.
What do you love? Does there beat, inside your heart, tender thoughts for the hordes of humanity that fill the sidewalks and buses and trains and cars and bicycles of your city? Do you love the immigrant? Do you love the life-long American? Do you love the Hispanic, the Jew, the Eastern European, the Arab, the Asian, and the African that call your city home? Do you love those in the barrios, and in the hood, and in the high rise condo developments? Do you love the homeless who sleep under the bridge? Do you love the waitress, preoccupied with her son's troubles at school, who mangles your order? Do you love the nurse, weary from another double shift, who speaks to you with annoying arrogance? Do you love the petty bureaucrat who thinks the sun won't rise tomorrow if you don't have the proper stamp in the proper place on the proper paper? Do you love the gang member who terrorizes your neighborhood? Do you love the Jehovah's Witness who rings your doorbell? Do you love the politician who grows fat eating from the trough of corruption and vice? Do you love the neighbor across the hall who swears at his children? Do you love your world?
If His motivation becomes our motivation and His love becomes our love then His priority will become our priority. This is why soul winning is so important to me. This is why teaching my children to witness is to important to me. This is why training soul winners is so important to me. This is why the one battle I will win in my church at all costs is the battle to make it a soul winning church. This is why I have preached about it dozens of times in my years as a pastor. The souls of men are the very reason Jesus came.

Is that which is important to Him important to you? Is that which He loves what you love? Is that which drives Him the same as that which drives you? What are you seeking? Who are you seeking? What or who will you pursue with a single minded ferocious love this week?      

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