"And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.’" (Luke 19:8-9)
Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, a rich man despised by others, welcomes Jesus with haste and with joy and is received by Him in the same manner: with haste and with joy, quickly and gladly.
But what is it that brought salvation to Zacchaeus? It almost seems as if he offers Jesus a self-righteous, self-justified list of reasons why Jesus should accept him. "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
But Jesus knows the heart.
Jesus reveals the true reason Zacchaeus was saved: "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham."
Zacchaeus was more than a son of Abraham by birth. A son of Abraham is not an Israelite, but any man, woman, or child in the whole world who puts their faith in Jesus Christ.
"Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:6-7)
But faith is not dead. Zacchaeus’ seemingly self-righteous list of good deeds was not self-righteous at all. Faith like Abraham’s does not lie dormant. Faith works.
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?" (James 2:21)
The little story of the little man Zacchaeus encourages us, encourages me, that Jesus will gladly receive even the chiefest tax collector, and even the chiefest tax collector can be made a new creation, and be lead by the Spirit to do good works in the name of Jesus Christ.
Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. (Luke 17:7-8)
The only specific thing I can think of that the bible says God is slow about is anger. When it comes to helping His children, He will move as fast as possible.
So when it takes a while for Him to act, know that it doesn’t mean He hasn’t heard you, or that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t know what to do. He is perfect in His timing, swift in His acting, never slack in His concern.
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures
Reading the bible can seem daunting, boring, pointless, difficult, incomprehensible. There are times when the words on the pages seem to mesh together into a big ball of mushy thees, thous, begats, and verilys.
That is, until the Lord opens our minds. Then we see Him who the entire bible speaks about. “You search the Scriptures…and it is they that bear witness about me,” Jesus said in John 5:39. And Romans 3 says that the righteousness of God which comes through faith in Jesus Christ is witnessed by all the law and prophets. The entire bible is about Christ: his life, death, resurrection, glory, His people, their salvation…. Christ is all in all.
But we will not benefit from the scriptures unless the eyes of our mind are opened and unless He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 2:11-14; “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
So let us pray to Him. He has opened our minds initially for salvation and our minds remain open. He will continue opening our minds as we grow in our relationship with Him. This is the best kind of open mindedness we can have: an open heart to know the Lord through His word.
- Psalms 119:18; “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
- Ephesians 1:16-23; “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
- Ephesians 3:14-21; “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
- Colossians 1:9-12; “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Satan demanded to have you
The devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We learn from Job’s story that he even asks permission from God to harass people. He is not a make-believe entity who merely represents evil, He is real, and He spends his time ravaging the earth.
- 1 Peter 5:8-9; “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
But I have prayed for you
The warning we have concerning the devil is not to make us afraid, but to make us aware and watchful. And we have the same encouragement Peter had: Jesus prays for us.
- Hebrews 7:23-25; “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
- Romans 8:34; “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Though the devil wants to destroy us, we have an advocate.
- Zechariah 3:1-5; “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.”
- 1 John 2:1-2; “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
- Hebrews 9:24; “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
He prayed more earnestly
The agony Jesus endured pushed Him deeper into prayer.
- 1 Peter 2:23b; “When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Jesus’ suffering, first and foremost, was to bring us to God. His suffering also gives us an example. When we go through trials on this earth, we, like Jesus are driven to pray all the more earnestly.
In the Psalms there’s a story of men at sea caught in a storm. It says, “They reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Often times it’s when we’re at our wits end that we cry out to the Lord. It’s then that it says, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Not always does He immediately change the situation, but He always hears; and, the affliction that we go through always causes us to grow in our trust in Him.
- Romans 5:3-5; “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:8-10; “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
Indeed, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
- Psalm 50:15; “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
“And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.'”
Ephesians 6:16 tells us that in the spiritual battle we wage, faith is a shield for us in very circumstance. No matter what fiery dart the devil shoots at us, faith will quench it. One of the ways faith manifests itself in our lives is through prayer. That is, if we truly believe God–if we truly rely on Him–we will be inclined to call out to Him in trouble.
The first line of defense we have against temptation is prayer. We can think of it simply as taking refuge in God, seeking His protection, taking shelter under His wings. Before temptation comes, we can run to the Lord, petition Him to strengthen us and lead us, not into temptation, but into righteousness.
Now, the Lord knows how weak we are without Him. He knows our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. He even knows we may not know how to pray, so He has given us some psalms for guidance.
- Psalm 19:13; “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
- Psalm 119:116-117; “Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!”
- Psalm 119:133; “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.”
If you are willing
We can look back at this moment of Christ’s anguish and rejoice, not in the physical pain of His suffering, but in that God was not willing for His work to go unfinished. If there could have been any other way to forgive our sin, perhaps God would have spared His Son. If there had been any other way to make us righteous, Jesus would not have had to die. But there was not.
God was willing, in this hour, to crush His Son so that He might secure for us an eternal redemption.
God’s desire, since time began, has been to bring man to Himself. He accomplished this through Jesus Christ. So when all the purpose of God for all eternity was focused on Christ on that night in the garden, God’s answer to Jesus’ prayer was already known.
- Isaiah 53:10; “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
- Hebrews 10:5-10; “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”‘ When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will [the will of God] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
God’s will has always been to sanctify us through the offering of Christ’s body. Jesus came to complete that will–to crushed for our iniquities and raised for our justification.
Not my will, but yours, be done
We might, at first glance, think that Jesus didn’t want what God wanted. Detach yourself from human logic for a minute to remember that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. It was the physical pain, the separation from the Father, the tormenting act of bearing an entire world’s sin that brought Jesus into agony that night. He did not resent the result–it was His will, just as it was God’s, to bring all men to Himself even if by means of His death. He knew what He had to go through to make us His, so He endured the cross, despising the shame in light of the joy that was set before Him.
- Luke 13:34; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
- John 17:24; “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
- John 12:32-33; “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
- John 3:14-18; And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.