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Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? (1)

The Son of Man came to Seek and Save the Lost!

Luke 19:1-10

Jim Davis

The big question about all this hoopla concerning Christmas is, "How many truly understand the purpose of Christ's coming?" One can only wonder at how much money will be spent over the Christmas holidays. Holidays are great, but how many realize the reason for the holidays they celebrate? The holidays have become times to get away from work, but many have to stop and really think about the reason for the holiday.

Christmas is a time of the year that the world recognizes the coming of Christ. The spirit of giving flourishes. When I think about the innumerable gifts that will be opened this Christmas, it is shocking to think that most will fail to open the most valuable gift of all time--the gift of salvation. The reason this gift is not opened is because the vast majority fails to understand the purpose of Christ's coming.

Christmas presents us with a paradox. It seems as though we can unwrap the gifts that are stacked around the nativity scene under our Christmas trees, without every contemplating the necessity of coming to Jesus. We seem to have no difficulty accepting the Christ child in a manger, but find it very difficult to accept the fact that he came to seek and save the lost. Luke wants us to understand Christ's purpose for coming was to save sinners.

Luke 19:1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 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. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'" But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (NIV)

It is amazing how the stories about Rudolph and Frosty can hold our attention, while the real story of Christmas is the real compelling story. For some strange reason, as Jesus seeks to give each of us the gift of salvation, he finds it a difficult gift to impart. This is evident because the majority has not accepted the gift of salvation he offers.

Why is it so hard for us to allow Jesus Christ to find us when he is so fervently seeking us? What if someone had a million dollar check to give you, how hard would it be for the person to find you to give you that gift? How hard would it be for the state to impart lottery winnings to you? Yet, Christ has something far more valuable to impart to us, and somehow we make it difficult for him to find us. Jesus wants you to walk the streets of gold with him.

Meeting Jesus Where We Are

This is the sixth time that the word "publican" is found in the book of Luke. Each time the Publicans are mention favorably. Publicans were Jewish tax collectors who gathered the taxes for Rome. They were despised by fellow Jews because they resented paying taxes to Rome and also because most tax collectors resorted to extortion to fill their own pockets. Jesus was often condemned for eating with the tax collectors and sinners. The reason Luke mentions publicans coming to Jesus, is because he wants us to understand that we can meet Jesus where we are.

Matthew 9:10-13
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (NIV)

The cross demands that we as sinners must come to Christ from where we are. When Christ entered into Zacchaeus' life, Zacchaeus met Jesus where he stood. Jesus said, "'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, 'He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'" It is amazing that the religious world has trouble meeting Jesus where he is.

Sin tells us that we can’t come to God from where we are. Sin separates us from God. Sin makes us want to hide from God, as Adam and Eve did in Eden. We can't fathom the idea of pure holiness meeting a sinner where he/she stands! Such concepts result in many thinking that they have to go back and make themselves right before they can meet God, but God must meet you where you are. Sin seeks to drive you away from God; it seeks to make your world so dark that you can’t even see your way to God.

Luke wants us to know that Jesus is seeking those lost in darkness. For Jesus’ purpose to be accomplished we must admit our need for redemption. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word "redemption" as "To make up for or to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of a person. Jesus entered into Zacchaeus’ life for the purpose of restoring his honor and reputation. To do that he had to meet Zacchaeus where he was. "Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said tohim, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’"

The amazing thing is that saints usually think of themselves better than what they are and sinners usually think of themselves as worse than what they are. The saint may be convinced that he/she has no further need of Christ's sacrifice and the sinner may be convinced that Christ's sacrifice could never provide for his/her redemption. Jesus reveals this tendency in the following parable.

Luke 18:9-14
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (NIV)

A story is told about a Christian who was earnestly attempting to lead a man to Christ. The man thought himself unworthy to come to Christ. The Christian referred him to the prayer of the tax collector in Luke 18:13, "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Then the Christian said to the troubled seeker, "See how even a despised publican found peace and deliverance when in true repentance he humbly cried to the Lord for pardon." "But I have been a greater sinner than he was," said the needy soul. "I've been a Pharisee!" "Well," replied the Christian, "since the Lord was so glad to hear a publican cry out, `God be merciful to me,' just imagine how He would rejoice to hear a Pharisee repeat that same prayer!" His words dispelled the clouds of doubt and despondency that the devil had used to entrap this man. He realized that he could come to God from where he was.

Requirements of Coming to Christ

Coming to Christ from where we are requires us to accept Christ as King. The story about Zacchaeus does not stop in verse 10; it continues through verse 27. Jesus stated his purpose for coming was to seek and save the lost, but then he continues to reveal to them what they must do to allow him to save them.

Luke 19:11-27
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.' "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-- bring them here and kill them in front of me.'" (NIV)

This story that follows the story of Zacchaeus is not a story about investing your money; it is a story about investing your life in Christ. Immediately following Luke's account of Zacchaeus Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on his way to be crucified and crowned as King. He will shortly occupy the throne of David and he wants his listeners to understand what is expected when he returns. It is amazing that so many are willing to accept the noble birth of the Christ child, but are unwilling to accept the implications of that birth.

Too many of us are afraid to trust Christ with our lives and so we hold on to what we have for dear life--but in the process we lose our lives. We must realize that refusing to allow Christ to rule our hearts and lives will bring certain destruction. Jesus said, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-- bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Luke 19:27) Christ came to rule our world and he is ruling our world today, but Satan has blinded most to this fact.

Ephesians 1:18-23
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

The true church of Christ today is made up of those hearts in which Christ rules. Christ didn't come to just rule the world at large; he came to establish his rule in your heart. When Zacchaeus accepted Christ's rule of his life, Jesus proclaimed him as a child of Abraham. It is evident that those who accept the rule of Christ today are the true children of Abraham. Paul said, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29 NIV).

I believe Christ proclaimed Zacchaeus as a son of Abraham, not because of Zacchaeus' physical birth as a Jew, but because he accepted Christ rule in his heart (Romans 4:12). Christ came to make us children of Abraham. This takes place when in repentance we voluntarily turn to Christ and give up our right to rule our own lives. This is the significance of baptism. Baptism is the place where we make the commitment to allow Christ to rule our hearts. Baptism is the place where we come to life in Christ and heirs of the promises made to Abraham.

Romans 6:1-10
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (NIV)

Some believe that they can come to Christ while remaining master of their own lives. But how can we die to ourselves and remain alive to ourselves at the same time? Coming to Christ requires that we be freed from our sinful ways. It requires that we come alive to God through obeying Christ's will for our lives.

Galatians 2:20-21
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (NIV)

Allowing Christ to enter our hearts to rule is the most difficult part of coming to God. The devil has convinced many of us that we can do a much better job of ruling our own hearts and lives than God can. If God's righteousness could be gained through you ruling your own life, Christ died for nothing.

Luke 19:20-26
"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. (NIV)

This man thought he would be better off managing his life without Christ. In reality you can't rule your own life. If you don't allow Christ to rule your life, Satan will rule it. Satan will deceive you into believing that you are in control, but you aren't. If you refuse to be obedient to Christ you will be at the mercy of Satan, and Satan's concept of mercy is to return evil for evil; it is to return evil for good. It is no accident that lives under the control of Satan go from bad to worse. Only obedience to Christ makes it possible for you to live above Satan's rule. Remember that Christ rule is exalted far above all that Satan controls in this world. To refuse Christ's rule puts you under the rule of Satan. There is no alternative because Satan is more powerful than you.

Sometimes we get confused about how God deals with us.

Psalms 16:5-11
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)

When the psalmist speaks of his "portion" and his "cup", he is speaking of those factors in his life over which he has no choice. He is speaking of his lot and his experiences in life. He understands that the Lord sees and controls everything and he trust God's instruction to direct him to deal with the portion he has been assigned. He trusted God to lead him in the path of life.

In Jesus' parable the man with one mina looked upon his portion and cup with distain. He couldn't begin to imagine why he had been given such a small portion. He thought that it was a reflection on his own personal value as a human being. It wasn’t his lot in life that reflected his intrinsic value. The King seeking him reflected his intrinsic value. He failed to realize that he was made in the image of God. God’s estimate of his intrinsic value could not be determined from his assigned lot in life; it could only be seen in God’s willingness to give his only Son that he might have eternal life.

Feeling unworthy made him afraid to bring his life to God so he tried to manage it on his own. He became so wrapped up in holding on to what he had that he could never dream of the possibilities God afforded him.

A person that feels they have so little to give to Christ should realize that they don't have much to lose by investing it all. Maybe this is why God has assigned you so little, he knows you wouldn't be able to turn lose of more. He wants us to realize that our cups have no hope of getting fuller until we pour out what he has given us.

Matthew 19:16-22
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (NIV)

What a contrast we see in the poor widow.

Luke 21:1-4
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (NIV)

We must invest our lives in Christ. This woman poured her life into the temple's treasures. An ancient fable tells about three merchants crossing a desert. One moonless night as they came to a dried-up creek bed, they were startled by a voice speaking to them out of the darkness. It commanded them to pick up stones and then journey on as far as possible before stopping again. The travelers were also told that when daylight came and they saw what they had gathered, they would be both happy and sad. Without hesitation they obeyed the instructions. When the first gray streaks of dawn appeared in the eastern sky, the men eagerly looked into the bags where the rocks had been placed. Instead of stones, they discovered precious jewels. It was then they understood the meaning of the strange yet significant words, "You'll be both happy and sad." They were glad because of their enrichment through the possession of such valuables, but they were sorrowful to think they had not picked up more!

The world has a way of making most of us feel that life has cheated us. The man with one mina felt that he had been cheated. We think that we should have been more intelligent, prettier, richer, etc. So we end up holding on to what we have with such an awful grip that we lose any possibility of anything better.

Conclusion:

God has given each of us what we have for better not for worse. Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Gen 50:20 NIV). The question is: "What will you do with what God has given you?"

Christ came seeking the lost to give us direction for using the portion God has assigned. Steve Hulshizer tells this story: About some young men packing all their gear and rechecked the list in preparation for a hike in the mountains. Everything was ready, and they set out on the long hike. It was estimated that the trip would take two weeks over rugged terrain.

Soon after they got under way, a severe storm arose, and it rained very hard. The trail became very slippery, and before Bob realized it he lost his footing and went tumbling down the mountain. It did not take him long to determine that he had broken one or more of his ribs. After assuring all that he knew the way, Bob headed back home.

What he did not know was that the trail had been washed out by the storm. Before long he was lost. Confident that he was headed in the right direction, he pushed on in much pain.

Later, Bob's body was found well off the trail. He had exhausted himself wandering aimlessly through the woods. In his pack was a guidebook explaining how to survive when lost in the woods. Sadly, the book had never been opened!

Is it possible that you have been celebrating Christmas all your life and have never opened your Bible to find out what God has to say about how you can be saved from your sins?

Colossians 3:2-6
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (NIV)

Zacchaeus had more to give up than most men, for he was rich. If Zacchaeus got rich like most of his peers believed, that is by cheating everyone, he may have ended up in debt as he sought repay those he cheated fourfold.

Fortunately, most of us are like the man with a mina; we have nothing to lose, but we have everything to gain.

Remember Christ came to seek and save the lost. If you are at a loss about what to do with your life, give it to Christ. He came to save it.
 
 

 

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