The Son of Man Came to Seek and to Save the Lost

by Mike Ratliff

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10 (NASB) 

If you listen to the vast majority of “gospel” preaching these days, the statement by our Saviour in the passage I place at the top of this post will appear to be somewhat backward. The reality that is preached from those pulpits is that salvation is a product of Human reason after hearing a sermon that shows the wonderful benefits of allowing Jesus to come into the hearer’s life. It is all Man’s choice or decision based solely upon a person’s own ability to reason.

The result of this form of preaching the gospel is that people do respond to the call to become a Christian based upon Jesus coming into their lives just to make them better. It is like those Long Distance Phone wars several years ago. At that time I had switched our long distance service to one that advertised that they were Christian based. One Sunday afternoon I received a call from a tele-marketer who offered to switch me back to A.T.&T. at a much reduced rate. I told him no. He then asked me, “Don’t you want to save money?” I told him that money was not the issue. The issue was that his company actively promoted certain things that I was against. His response was a total disbelief that anyone could make a decision like. All of the bullets in his gun were based on saving money. He was used to everyone jumping ship from whatever long distance company they had a contract with just to save a few bucks. “Don’t you want to save money?”, he asked. The 21st Century preacher asks, “Don’t you want to go to Heaven when you die and for Jesus to make your life better?”

Genuine salvation is not a transaction to trade in one set of values to acquire new ones that guarantee a better life. We don’t add Jesus to our lives thereby becoming Christians. We don’t take Jesus out for a test drive to see if we really want to be a Christian or not. Let’s look at a Biblical example of salvation coming to one who was lost and bound for Hell until He met Jesus.

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Luke 19:1-2 (NASB) 

The “He” in v1 is Jesus Christ. He was traveling to Jerusalem for the last time. The Last Supper, His arrest, trial, and crucifixion awaited Him just a few days hence. His journey took him through Jericho. The New King James renders the words from v2, “And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus” as “Now behold there was a man named Zacchaeus.” The words “there was” are in italics. That means there are no corresponding Greek words in the manuscripts for them. The correct reading, therefore, for v2 would be, “Now behold, a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.” I like that rendering because it shows the dramatic coming together of Jesus and this man named Zacchaeus as something that took place in a way that was no accident or coincidence. It was a divine appointment. Tax collectors mentioned in the New Testament were considered by the Jews to be traitors and the worst type of sinner. They were assigned a certain amount to collect by the Romans who allowed them to collect as much as they could above that amount to keep for themselves. This assured the Romans that their tax collectors would be motivated to keep the coin flowing into the government coffers. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. That means that the normal tax collectors reported to him. Because of the practice of cheating the people and skimming off personal profits, Zacchaeus became very rich.

Something out of the ordinary happens though. He heard a commotion. He saw a great crowd. He knew that there must be someone very important traveling through his city so he desired to see who it was.

3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. Luke 19:3-4 (NASB) 

The more he tried to see who this Jesus was the more frustrated he became. He was short and could not see. He was rich and important, but the drive to see Jesus was so strong that he cast his self-importance aside and climbed a tree so he could possibly get a look at this important person. Never forget, he was an rich, important man who had servants and, more than likely, a personal bodyguard.

5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. Luke 19:5-6 (NASB) 

Zacchaeus didn’t know who or what he was seeking. He simply went to catch a glimpse of the focus of the great crowd. All he wanted was to see Jesus. However, Jesus looked upon him, called him by name, and mandated that He would stay in his house that day. This was not a request. It was a command. Jesus invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ hospitality. What was the reaction of this very wealthy man? He hurried and came down from the tree and received Jesus joyfully. Was Zacchaeus looking for a Saviour? Was he looking for Jesus to make his life better? He was simply trying to see who Jesus was. Jesus had other plans.

7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Luke 19:7-8 (NASB) 

The people knew who Zacchaeus was. He also heard their grumbling, but Jesus was with Him. We see something remarkable from this man. He was wealthy and in a position to become one of the wealthiest men in Israel. However, he forsakes that and declares that he will make restitution fourfold to all whom he has cheated. Also, he vows to give half of his wealth to the poor. I have heard some say that he is trying to earn his salvation with these good works. Nonsense! This is what happens when God regenerates a heart. Christians are new creations. All things are new. The old has passed away. Zacchaeus is a believer now. His old heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh. He is a partaker of the divine nature. His joy is overflowing because it is the joy of the Lord. How do we know this?

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10 (NASB) 

Zacchaeus was saved because Jesus Christ sought him out. When he believed and repented our Lord declared Him saved. Why did he believe? Was it by Human reason? Was it to have a better life? He was already rich. He believed when our Lord called Him. He received Jesus. That was followed immediately by repentance. He didn’t run into the street and climb a tree looking for any of this. He was simply trying to see Jesus. He didn’t even know who He was. However, Jesus knew him, called him and saved him. Why would we think that our salvation would be any different? Genuine salvation is always accompanied by repentance. They are locked together. Without repentance there is no salvation. It isn’t the repentance that causes salvation. Instead, it is our response to God regenerating our hearts. We are saved by grace through faith. It is a gift from God that always results in a new life that is marked by repentance.

One thought on “The Son of Man Came to Seek and to Save the Lost

  1. It’s fascinating – everyone and everything that is described as lost in the NT is found (except for Judas, to whom “lost” is attached as an adverb (I think), is found. When “lost” is an adjective, that thing or person it found. He seeks and finds all the lost sheep.


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