Pursuing the Clarity of the Gospel: Part ThreeFriday, July 13, 2012
When Jesus Calls a Person, They Must Come His Way...and Quickly!
If parenting has taught me anything it's that kids (including me, when I was that age) want too much information before doing what their parents ask...or tell. This can be particularly frustrating when I have a bright idea I want to surprise my kids with.
I often get these ideas. They come to me like a flash of genius. I have a spontaneous thought of excitement about something we can do as a family like going to ride our bikes together, or going to see a movie, or swimming, or something like that. Usually the flash of genius happens to me when there's little time to plan. I work in the service industry so I've pretty much got to seize the time when it becomes available.
With the idea in mind I'll gather all the kids into the living room, sit them on the couch, and tell them that they have so many minutes to get such-and-such together because we're going somewhere and it's a surprise. Problem is, my wife and I have birthed too many "Type A's!" They want information...details! But there's no time! So I just tell them to go. But they are so bothered by the lack of details they feel they need that they will hang around and ask question after question until I finally have to get firm and tell them that if they ask another question they're not going! That makes them mad, and then they end up going to the surprise with little happiness. Parenting is so fun.
Now this scenario applies to all my kids except for one. He's my youngest. And I think there are two elements that converge in that moment where I explain my flash of genius. First, he's learned that I'm spontaneously fun, and when I plan a surprise we have fun, for sure. Second, he's as spontaneous as I am, and hence cares little for details in the moment when there's much fun to be had. So my youngest will usually leap from the couch, do exactly what I said, and moments later be waiting at the front door to leave, the first in line.
When I come to Luke 19 and read the story of Zaccheus, I think he was like my youngest son. Zaccheus was told to come down from the tree, and he did so quickly. Given that it was Jesus Christ who was telling him to come down, there's a lot going on there that would make Zaccheus comply so hurriedly. And as I continue this series of posts, I want to unfold two things Jesus wants from people when He calls them, and then unfold an explanation of what that looks like.
First, Jesus wants sinners to respond quickly to His invitation!
"...hurry and come down…” (v. 5)
Literally, the Greek here reads, “come down in a hurry!” I don’t think I can describe this phrase any better than Matthew Henry and John Gill. Listen to their descriptions here.
“The dangerous estate and condition of a sinner requires haste; it is like that of Lot in Sodom, when it was just going to be destroyed; and like that of the manslayer, when pursued by the avenger of blood; both whom it became to escape for their lives, and flee for refuge as fast as they could: and so it became Zacchaeus to come down with all speed to Christ, who was come hither to call and save him; and the enjoyment of Christ, and his grace, calls for haste…” (John Gill).
“He bade him make haste, and come down. Those that Christ calls must come down, must humble themselves, and not think to climb to heaven by any righteousness of their own; and they must make haste and come down, for delays are dangerous. Zaccheus must not hesitate, but hasten; he knows it is not a matter that needs consideration whether he should welcome such a guest to his house” (Henry).
Second, Jesus wants them to respond quickly because He wants to fellowship.
“…for I must stay at your house today " (v. 5).
More than likely Jesus spent the night at Zaccheus’ house. This seems to be the intended meaning behind the phrase. And even if not, the invitation here is one of the most powerful, incredible, magnificent displays of grace I’ve ever seen in the Bible. Jesus, the King of universe, issues a “royal” invitation here, which in this day and time, was one a king would give to one of his subjects.
Basically, this invitation was a king using his presence to gain some favor or help from the subject for free. It would be much akin to our president coming up to you and saying he’d like to come hang out at your house for the afternoon. You’d think nothing of it whatsoever. You’d think nothing about how much it all would cost to host him, how much work would go into it all. You’d just do it.
Now if this were to happen to you, you would be the one serving him. It would be a great honor, no doubt. But you would be doing the serving. And so it would be with a king in Jesus’ day. It would be considered a great honor to host a king at your house. And you would think nothing of your service or its cost.
Yet when King Jesus comes and invites Himself to your house, HE does the serving…not you. There’s the magnificence of this passage, friends! The King of Zaccheus' life and wealth shows up and wants to come to his house in order to serve his soul!
Friends, when you get an invitation like this from a King like this,
you should handle it with two extremes:
with extreme care and extreme haste.
It is the hesitation to respond to this sort of invitation that often delays salvation and makes things worse. Oh, if I could encourage you toward one thing today it is this: don’t miss the clarity of the gospel by missing clarity of the call Jesus is making to you today.
Third, what it means to come to Jesus in HIS way.
In the text I see four reflections of what it looks like to come to Jesus in His way, and not ours.
1. It means to be looking for Jesus.
"And he was seeking to see who Jesus was
but on account of the crowd he could not,
because he was small of stature" (v. 3).
God is the one stirring up that seeking after Him in their heart, and that work of stirring it up in them is a reflection of His work of seeking and saving them. This is how God works in His elect. In 2 Peter 1:10 we are commanded, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…” The way Zaccheus evidenced his calling and election was that he set out to look for Jesus. So then, do you seek Jesus? Listen to these words from Albert Barnes.
“… it is not improper to learn from this example that solicitude to behold the Saviour will not pass unnoticed by him, but will meet with his warm approbation, and be connected with his blessing. Jesus was willing to encourage efforts to come to him, and his benevolence prompted him to gratify the desires of the man who was solicitous to see him.”2. It means to let nothing get in the way of coming to Jesus.
"So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him,
for he was about to pass that way" (v.4).
"And when they saw it, they all grumbled,
'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner" (v. 7).
Notice in both verse 4 and 7 that there were hindrances or obstacles to Zaccheus responding to Jesus. One was a natural hindrance, and the other was a supernatural hindrance.
The natural hindrance was obvious. He was a short fellow and he would never be able to see above the heads of the crowd around him. But he didn’t let that stop him. He found a tree to climb so he could be taller than everyone else around him.
In similar fashion, to come to Jesus in His way means you will let nothing in your life, even if it is a natural hindrance, stop you from finding Jesus. Too many people let this happen, and this one thing seems to separate those who are lost from those who are saved. Do you remember the many stories of those throughout the gospels who had huge natural hindrances to coming to Jesus, yet didn't let that stop them? The lame man positioned himself to be on the roadside where Jesus was walking so that he could cry out to Jesus when He walked by and get healed. Even the man who was sick in the bed had friends who didn't let his natural hindrance get in the way of going to Jesus.
Are you blind? Then learn Braille in order to be able to read God’s Word and hear Jesus speaking to you. Are you deaf? Then learn sign language so you can “hear” the preaching of the Lord. What physical problem or natural problem do you have? Is it related to food, or sleep, or sex, or some addiction? What handicap do you have? We learn from Zaccheus here that NO handicap can stop those who are seeking after Jesus. And we learn from Jesus’ response to Zaccheus that He Himself will take notice of you and your efforts to find Him.
But there were also supernatural hindrances to Zaccheus coming to Jesus. There were those blasted Pharisees and self-righteous people who, under the influence of Satan, were criticizing, negating, judging and destroying the work of God. Or at least they were trying to. Jesus told us in the parable of the seed and the sower in Matthew 13 that one of the kinds of seed falls on the road, and the birds of the air fly over and pick it up and eat it. Jesus taught us that this represents Satan who is always flying over head to pluck away whatever we hear from God’s Word so that we won’t follow Jesus.
Satan is always trying to put hindrances and obstacles in our way to prevent us from coming to Jesus. But in those who are seeking after Jesus, truly seeking, Satan will not be able to stop him. One of the surest ways you know that you are responding to the invitation of Jesus to come to your house is that you do not even let supernatural hindrances prevent you from finding Him and coming to Him. Does this describe you?
3. It means to respond as fast as you can to the invitation of Jesus.
"So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully" (v. 6).
And when you do find Jesus, how fast do you come? Do you take great delight and joy in finding Him, and then grow lazy too quickly about it all? Or do you find Him and run after Him with all your might? THAT is what it means to come to Jesus in HIS way. After all, He is the King of the Universe and He has invited Himself into your home, into your life. You would run and even drive speeding back to your house to prepare your home if the president were to invite himself over. Why wouldn’t you do that for King Jesus, who made our president and rules over him?
To come to Jesus in HIS way means to respond to His invitation as fast as you possibly can,as thoroughly as you possibly can, and as happily as you possibly can. You see, when you
realize WHO it is Who is inviting Himself over, you will do just that. And there will be no
drumming up of some fake happiness over His invitation. When you hear His voice calling
you, you will very naturally want to rush down and receive King Jesus with more joy and happiness than you ever thought possible…more joy and happiness than you’ve ever experienced before.
That was the response of the man, you’ll recall, back in Matthew 13 who found the treasure in the field and the most luxurious, expensive pearl he’d ever found. Both men in both stories sold
everything they had to purchase those items. And Jesus is careful to point out in both stories that each man sold everything they had out of joy. Each one was so overjoyed at what they had found that they immediately went to the bank, liquidated all their assets to get cash in order to purchase the field and the pearl. Is this how you came to King Jesus? This is the ONLY way of coming to Him that is appropriate.
4. It means being willing to repent of your sin no matter what the cost.
"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' " ( v. 8).
One of the surest signs that you have received Jesus joyfully is that there will not be a begrudging repentance. You won’t hear what you have to do, then drag your feet with a begrudging attitude to do it.
NO, Zaccheus JOY over Jesus produced repentance. This man was excited about repenting and doing what was right. Coming to Jesus HIS way means joyfully repenting and doing whatever must be done to set things right in your life. It will be your natural reaction. Your NEW natural reaction, because there is a new nature inside of you that is happy to do whatever you must in order to follow King Jesus. You’re so excited and joyful to have been called by Him, that you’ll do whatever you must, sell whatever you have to sell, give away whatever you have to give away in order to get HIM!!!
In the next post, we'll conclude this series on Pursuing the Clarity of the Gospel.
About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.