Seeking Out the Lost

The gospels give us deep insight into the heart of God for us. If we rush through the old, familiar stories, we miss the revelation of who He is. 

What happens when we sit before God’s living word with a desire to know Him? What happens when we put to the side what we ‘think’ we know that Holy Spirit would come and reveal to us the mysteries hidden within the scriptures? I’m learning–over and over– God WILL in fact teach us. He will open up the treasures of His word, and most importantly, He will show us Himself. 

As a little girl, I remember singing the song of Zacchaeus climbing the sycamore tree. As an adult, the story is so familiar it’s easy to rush through it, or skip it altogether. Perhaps this story is new to you. It goes like this: 

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 because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. (Luke 19:1-9) 

Zacchaeus, a rich man, a tax-collector, a sinner, sought to see who Jesus was. This required action on his behalf. It required setting aside other “important” things. Jesus was in town. If Zacchaeus didn’t show up, he’d surely miss this Jesus everyone was talking about. 

However, he was immediately confronted with a problem when he got there. He was too short to see. When he saw his chance hindered, he didn’t give up and go home. He resolved to see Jesus and he found a way to do so. If Zaccchaeus was going to see Jesus he was going to have to put his ego and pride to the side. He was determined though. He ran ahead and found a tree to climb.

Who does that? 

What rich person, dressed in costly attire, would consider climbing a tree to see a man? 

He ran. He didn’t walk. In him was an excitement, an urgency, a sense of, “Now is the time. If I don’t run, I’ll miss my chance to see who this Jesus is!”  

He ran. He climbed. He positioned himself to see  Jesus. 

What happens next is my favorite part. God is not a God whose interest is simply that we’d see him. His desire for us is not simply that we’d be spectators of who He is. Rather, He desires fellowship with us. He desires that we’d know him.  

Oh, the humor of it all. Zacchaeus went in search of Jesus. He went out in expectancy and anticipation. He waited for Jesus to pass by, but he never imagined what would happen next. Walking through the town, Jesus stops at the very tree Zacchaeus is sitting on, looks up, and calls Zacchaeus by name. 

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. 

I imagine Zacchaeus filled with surprise and wonder.  This sinner came down from the tree with a sincere, welcoming, and joyful heart. Meanwhile the crowd had a different reaction. 

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 

How could Jesus want to sit with Zacchaeus, of all people?! Their hearts were filled with complaining and murmuring, a clear indication of their anger at Jesus request.  They were filled with annoyance and dissatisfaction, perhaps bitterness and jealousy, at the idea that Jesus would skip over them, and choose to eat with a sinner. 

While they complained and murmured, Jesus was dealing with Zacchaeus’ heart. 

They were condemning the sinner. Jesus was restoring him. 

Zacchaeus, in the presence of Jesus–all truth and love– understood the depths of his sin and how much ‘in debt’ he was because of this. He understood the great error of his ways, and he immediately sought to make restitution. 

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.” 

And Jesus, knowing the sincere and repentant disposition of Zacchaeus’ heart says, “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 the lost.” He was accepted into the family of God. 

But, wait a minute. Did you catch that? Earlier, by the sycamore tree, Jesus told Zacchaeus that He must stay at his house. And here, in this last verse, Jesus exposes his reason for coming–“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” 

Zacchaeus thought he went out in search of Jesus. However, Jesus came into town seeking the lost. He came into town with a mission. He had the rich sinner in his heart, long before Zacchaeus thought of going out in search of Jesus. 

Jesus could have come into the city and preached the message. Rather, he walks out the message right in front of the crowd. They experience the word come alive. He gave everyone present a deeper understanding of the message as they come face-to-face with the condition of their hearts. They experienced, in real time, the heart of the Father. Mercy. Kindness. Compassion. Love. 

The Son of man isn’t just waiting for us to come. He is actively engaged, seeking in order to find, to save, the keep safe, rescue, and to deliver us from danger and destruction. What a beautiful picture of God’s pursuit and love for humanity! 

The story of Zacchaues stirs inside of us hope. God knows exactly where we are, and He seeks us that every one of us might experience salvation. He did it for me at 21. I had my own climbing-up-a-sycamore-Zacchaeus-experience.  And He’s doing it for you. He is at work now, seeking out the hearts of the lost, seeking out the hearts of our children, drawing many to Him, saving for His kingdom glory and purpose. 

Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. 

Jesus knew who Zacchaeus was. 

Zacchaues went out in search of Jesus. 

Jesus came into the city seeking Zacchaeus. 

Zacchaeus wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus to see what all the fuss about this man was. 

Jesus wanted to fellowship with Zacchaues that he might know him at a much deeper and intimate level. 

Zacchaeus had nothing to offer Jesus. 

Jesus came bearing the gift of salvation. 

And you know, my friend? He’s come seeking and pursuing you, too! 

{Thoughts to Ponder} 

Have you stopped to think on the amazing reality that God, the Creator of this universe, is seeking and pursuing you? How would that change how you live your life? 

Catching a glimpse of God’s heart (in this story) reveals his heart for the lost. How does that speak to you and your heart for the lost? 


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We look forward to hearing from you!