Jesus came to save the lost

zacchaeus-by-joel-whiteheadSermon for Proper 26 – RCL Year C Option 2

🔊 Listen to the audio from this sermon

Scripture Passages

  • Ps 32:1–7
  • Is 1:10–18
  • 2 Th 1:1–4, 11–12 
  • Lk 19:1–10


Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by. When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?” Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

(Luke 19:1–10, The Message)

You know, Zacchaeus really wanted to see Jesus, and he was willing to overcome some obstacles to do it.

I can relate Zacchaeus because like him, I am wee little man. I’m probably one of shortest people in this room, including the kids! Zacchaeus was definitely willing to put in a little extra effort to see this guy the town was buzzing about, but surprisingly, it seems like Jesus was looking for him. When he arrives at the tree, he calls Zacchaeus by name, and invites himself over to dinner! Why would Jesus be looking for this person? Well, because Zacchaeus was lost, and those are exactly the kind of people that Jesus came to find.

Most of the time, if you’re really lost, you’re in danger. When I was a kid I remember feeling pretty scared about the idea of being so lost that I wouldn’t be able to find my friends or my parents. If you are lost, you can’t find your way to things that you need for life: food, water, shelter, clothing, family, other people to help take care of you.

Even though Zacchaeus was rich, he was still lost because he didn’t have the thing that would give him eternal life: a relationship with God.

Zacchaeus wasn’t a person that had many friends, although he made a lot of money. Zacchaeus worked as a tax collector for the Romans who very often hurt Zacchaeus’ own Jewish people.  Besides that, got his money by taking more than he should have from others. Most of the religious people thought he was no good and not worth talking to because he had done some bad things.

What they didn’t know was that Zacchaeus at least had a small part of him that was looking for something other than money…why else would have been so interested in seeing Jesus? Jesus wasn’t going around making people rich. I think Zacchaeus knew that a part of him was lost, and part of him saw something greater than riches, namely, God, in Jesus. So when he experiences the grace of Jesus inviting himself to over for tea, he can’t help but change his life in response.

God cared so much for the lost, that he sent his only son to rescue us.

To live in a way that is impossible for us to do on our own, to give his own life so we could live, to conquer death by coming back from the dead. As we say in the liturgy, “when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home.” We didn’t deserve it. We might not be dishonest crook like Zacchaeus, but truly we far off.

When we look around our homes, our schools, our work places, our communities, we should never see bad people.

We should never see people as simply crooks even if they are a criminal, or only addicts, even if they abuse drugs or losers, because they don’t measure up in our eyes or beyond help, because we don’t know how to help them, or even merely misguided, just because we disagree on something important. We should see them as God saw us: lost people in need of rescue. If we could see the world this way, then we would be so much more bold and courageous in sharing the Gospel, and it would be obvious that we are sharing the Gospel not out of a desire to make other people exactly like us, but because we love them with the love Jesus, and we want them to be rescued from a life without him.

A friend of mine that I used to work with told me a story about getting lost while on a trip the backcountry; I think it was here in Arizona. He had been hiking out in the wilderness, and as it got dark he confused and couldn’t find his way back to camp.

There he was, all alone in the pitch dark of the outdoors, miles from civilization, he was beginning to get pretty scared.

So he found a hill, and made his way to the top. There, he could get out from under the trees and see if he could spot the light of his campfire. He knew that when he saw that light, he would know the right direction to go. He wouldn’t be lost anymore; he would be saved.

You know, Jesus is like that campfire to the world—a light guiding lost people to safety—and he wants to shine through you. Through how you speak to others, how you treat others, how you choose to spend your time and money and energy.

In Jesus, God came looking for us and saved us, and continues his saving work in us even though we sometimes still do things that are wrong. Now we can be the light of Christ to the world.

Remember to say thank you to God like Zacchaeus did for showing you how much he loves you.

This week be on the lookout for people that you might have overlooked before…Maybe it’s someone at school that isn’t always fun to be around, but you can tell they actually need a friend. Maybe it’s a frustrating coworker that you think has made life choices that make them beyond help. Maybe it’s your crazy uncle that has completely opposite political views than you and isn’t afraid to speak their mind.

It’s probably someone other people think you shouldn’t have mercy on.

Whoever it is and think of ways you can show them the love of God, like Jesus did to Zacchaeus. Think of ways that you can extend the same kind welcome to them that Zacchaeus did to Jesus. In that way, you will be inviting Jesus into your home and your heart, and nothing less than salvation will come to you. Amen.