“Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Few of us would deny the truth of this statement. But fewer still live as though it’s true. We believe that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16 ESV). Yet how many of us affirm the introductory statement, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” and act upon that conviction?
In Luke 19:1-10, we see Jesus bring a camel through the eye of a needle, so to speak, as Zacchaeus was very rich (Luke 18:25; 19:2). He was a “chief tax collector”. It’s not entirely clear what that means. But since Jericho was one of three major tax collection depots in the country, it probably means that he was in charge of taxes for the entire region. The amount of disposable capital needed to get such a post would be more than considerable. Zacchaeus wasn’t just rich. He was filthy rich.
We also see Jesus raise up a son of Abraham from a stone, so to speak (Luke 3:8; 19:9). Zacchaeus wanted to see “who Jesus was.” But Jesus called Zacchaeus by name. After all, Zacchaeus’ name had been written in the Lamb’s book of life since before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 17:5). The Good Shepherd simply went in search of his wandering sheep (Luke 15:4), called him by name, and his sheep recognized the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:3-4, 14-15).
Jesus expressed the necessity of his staying at Zacchaeus’ house. On the one hand, that was a practical necessity. This tax collector had, no doubt, become quite jaded over the years. We can see from the crowd’s response that he was not regularly accepted among the covenant people. Jesus was breaking down his preconceived notions every bit as much as he was breaking down the crowd’s. But on the other hand, there was a theological necessity driving our Lord. As Zacchaeus was among those sheep that the Father had given to Jesus, it was essential that Jesus not lose him (John 6:37–39).
We know that Zacchaeus was a genuine believer, not because he jumped down and received him joyfully. We saw that response in the parable of the soils. That was precisely the response of unrooted plants in stony ground (Luke 8:13). But we know that Zacchaeus’ faith was genuine because 1) he was bearing fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8), and 2) Jesus said so (Luke 19:10). It is only through union with Jesus Christ that we become children of Abraham. It’s not our bloodline, but our faith that brings us adoption (Gal 3.7-9, 26, 29).
… since Jesus is the real seeker
Zacchaeus would have been among the most unlikely in all of Israel to respond to Jesus. He was fabulously wealthy (Luke 19:2) and he was wicked (Luke 19:8). He wouldn’t be expected to respond. And he probably wouldn’t have been welcome to respond. But God often chooses the unlikeliest ones to draw to himself. He does that to remind us that salvation is, from beginning to end, the work of the Lord.
So, who in your life do you regard as beyond the reach of the gospel? They are most assuredly not unreachable. And that’s because it is not we who are reaching them, it is the real seeker. And the gospel with which He reaches them is the power of God for salvation. If we believe that, and if we recognize that we were given the Spirit not merely as a comfort, but as the One driving our witness, and going before us in that witness … if we recognize that the reason we are left here at all is to be used as instruments in the Master’s hand, we’ll share the gospel. We won’t be ashamed of it, or reticent to raise it in conversation. Because we will be truly seeker-sensitive. Not sensitive to seekers, but sensitive to the Seeker and Savior of the lost, always eager to do His will.