There was a belief amongst the religious people, and perhaps all the people, at the time when Jesus appeared that he was coming to be king over the earth. They had an expectation that he would reign as supreme and all powerful and that the religious leaders would perhaps take positions of authority in His government. How wrong they were. But if Jesus did not come to rule and take over, why did he come that first time?
Tax Collectors and Sinners
The start of this chapter in Luke provides us with an example and an answer to these questions. Zacchaeus was a rich man and he was the chief tax collector. He was a short man and could not see well in a crowd so in order to see who Jesus was he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree. When Jesus came to him he called him down saying, “Zacchae’us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Verse 5)
This gave the crowd pause and they murmured amongst themselves saying, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” (Verse 7) We must realise that tax collectors of that day were despised and it probably isn’t that much different today. Some then were crooked and exacted more than they were supposed to take, and thus the people had a very low opinion of tax collectors. They called them sinners and presumably they would have thought that Zacchaeus would have been the worst of the bunch as he was the chief tax collector.
But when Jesus came into his house we see a remarkable change in Zacchaeus. He stood before the Lord and said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Verse 8) Zacchaeus repented of his past ways and made amends for his sins and errors.
Salvation of the Lost
Jesus then says to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Verses 9-10)
Here is the key to why Jesus came. He came to save the lost. He came to seek out the sinners and to restore them to a place of righteousness so that we might be able to inherit the kingdom of God. He came so that man would have the opportunity to know and be known by God by repenting and turning away from sin. Jesus came to save the lost.
That is part of the reason why the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day were incensed. They could not understand why someone would want to spend time with sinners and yet it had always been the plan of God for man not to be a sinner. Even under the law its purpose was to show men right from wrong so that they would do what is right.
The New Covenant
Jesus came to establish the New Covenant so that man could be freed from sin. In his quest to save the lost he brought about a better way for man to approach God. He came to take away the sin of the world as John the Baptist testified of Him. (John 1:29) And here with Zacchaeus we see him working towards that end as the man became repentant.
The New Covenant allowed man to approach God through Jesus Christ. He died as the perfect sacrifice so that we could receive the gifts and grace of God and be set free from our sins. This was the purpose of Jesus’ visitation, to establish this New Covenant so that we could have the hope of salvation.
And that was no different for Zacchaeus in his day. He too had the hope of salvation when Jesus came to him, just as we have the hope of salvation when the Lord comes and calls us.
(Picture sourced from Christians Unite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com)