Call to Worship October 7 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 19:1-10

“These verses describe the conversion of a soul. Like the stories of Nicodemus, and the Samaritan woman — the story of Zacchaeus should be frequently studied by Christians. The Lord Jesus never changes. What He did for the man before us — He is able and willing to do for any one of ourselves.

We learn, firstly, from these verses — that no one is too bad to be saved, or beyond the power of Christ’s grace. We are told of a wealthy tax-collector becoming a disciple of Christ. A more unlikely event, we cannot well imagine! We see the ‘camel passing through the eye of a needle,’ and the ‘rich man entering the kingdom of God.’ We behold a plain proof that ‘all things are possible with God.’ We see a covetous tax-collector, transformed into a charitable Christian!

The door of hope which the Gospel reveals to sinners, is very wide open! Let us leave it as open as we find it Let us not attempt in narrow-minded ignorance, to shut it. We should never be afraid to maintain that Christ is ‘able to save to the uttermost’ — and that the vilest of sinners may be freely forgiven, if they will only come to Him. We should offer the Gospel boldly to the worst and wickedest, and say, ‘There is hope. Only repent and believe. Though your sins are like scarlet — I will make them as white as snow! Though they are red like crimson — I will make them as white as wool! (Isaiah 1:18.)

Such doctrine may seem to be foolishness and a license to sin, to worldly people. But such doctrine is the Gospel of Him who saved Zacchaeus at Jericho! Hospitals discharge many severe cases as incurable. But there are no incurable cases under the Gospel! Any sinner may be healed — if he will only come to Christ.

We learn, secondly, from these verses — how little and insignificant are the things on which a soul’s salvation often turns. We are told that Zacchaeus ‘wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.’ Curiosity, and nothing but curiosity — appears to have been the motive of his mind. That curiosity once roused, Zacchaeus was determined to gratify it. Rather than not see Jesus — he ran on before along the road, and ‘climbed up into a sycamore tree.’ Upon that little action, so far as man’s eyes can see — there hinged the salvation of his soul. Our Lord stopped under the tree, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ From that very moment ,Zacchaeus was an altered man. That very night he lay down a Christian.

We must never ‘despise the day of small things.’ (Zechariah 4:10.) We must never reckon anything little, which concerns the soul. The ways by which the Holy Spirit leads men and women to Christ, are astonishing and mysterious. He is often beginning in a heart, a work which shall stand to eternity — when an onlooker observes nothing remarkable.

In every work there must be a beginning, and in spiritual work that beginning is often very small. Do we see a careless person beginning to use means of grace, which in time past he neglected? Do we see him coming to Church and listening to the Gospel, after a long course of Sabbath-breaking? When we see such things, then let us remember Zacchaeus and be hopeful. Let us not look coldly on him, simply because his motives at present are very poor and questionable. Let us believe that it is far better to hear the Gospel out of mere curiosity — than not to hear it at all. Our friend is with Zacchaeus in the tree! For anything we know — he may go further. Who can tell, but that he may one day receive Christ joyfully?

We learn, thirdly, from these verses — Christ’s free compassion towards sinners, and Christ’s power to change hearts. It is impossible to conceive a more striking instance than that before us. Unasked, our Lord stops and speaks to Zacchaeus. Unasked, He offers Himself to be a guest in the house of a sinner. Unasked, He sends into the heart of a tax-collector — the renewing grace of the Spirit, and puts him that very day among the children of God! (Jeremiah 3:19.)

It is impossible, with such a passage as this before us — to exalt the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ too highly. We cannot maintain too strongly, that there is in Him an infinite readiness to receive sinners — and an infinite ability to save sinners. Above all, we cannot hold too firmly — that salvation is not of works, but of grace. If ever there was a soul sought and saved, without having done anything to deserve it — that soul was the soul of Zacchaeus.

Let us grasp these doctrines firmly, and never let them go. Their price is above rubies. Grace, free sovereign grace — is the only thought which gives men peace in a dying hour. Let us proclaim these doctrines confidently to every one to whom we speak about spiritual things. Let us bid them come to Jesus Christ, just as they are — and not wait in the vain hope that they can make themselves fit and worthy to come. Not least, let us tell them that Jesus Christ would come and dwell in their poor sinful hearts — if they would only receive Him. ‘Behold,’ He says, ‘I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door — I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.’ (Revelation 3:20.)

We learn, lastly, from these verses — that converted sinners will always give evidence of their conversion. We are told that Zacchaeus replied, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor — and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore four times as much.’

There was reality in that speech. There was unmistakable proof that Zacchaeus was a new creature. When a wealthy Christian begins to distribute his riches, and an extortioner begins to make restitution — then we may well believe that old things have passed away, and all things become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

There was decision in that speech. ‘I will give,’ says Zacchaeus — ‘I will restore.’ He does not speak of future intentions. Freely pardoned, and raised from death to life — Zacchaeus felt that he could not begin too soon to show whose he was, and whom he served.

He who desires to give proof that he is a believer, should walk in the steps of Zacchaeus. Like Zacchaeus — let him thoroughly renounce the sins which have formerly most easily entangled him. Like Zacchaeus — let him follow the Christian graces which he has formerly most habitually neglected. In any case, a believer should so live — that all may know that he is a believer.

A faith that does not purify the heart and life — is not saving faith at all. Grace that cannot be seen — like light; and tasted — like salt — is not saving grace, but hypocrisy. The man who professes to know Christ and trust Him, while he cleaves to sin and the world — is going down to Hell with a lie in his right hand! The heart that has really tasted the grace of Christ — will instinctively hate sin.

Let us turn from the whole passage with the last verse ringing in our ears, ‘The Son of man came to seek and save those who are lost.’ It is as a Savior, more than as a Judge — that Christ desires to be known. Let us see that we know Him as such. Let us take heed that our souls are saved. Once saved and converted, we shall say, ‘What shall I render to the Lord, for all His benefits?’ (Psalm 116:12.) Once saved, we shall not complain that self-denial, like that of Zacchaeus, is a grievous requirement.”