Xmas: Keeping Christ in ChristmasPastor Jonathan Drake - December 20, 2015
Love goes to the people and places that no one else is willing to go to.
Community Group Study Notes
- What challenges are there in us going to those who need the Gospel? What should we do about them?
- Why shouldn't we just wait for someone else to go to those who need the Gospel? Why is this our responsibility as disciples of Jesus?
- What is one thing that God taught you through this series that you plan to implement in your life? How are you going to do that?
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10
Well, to all of our Chapel family and guests at all of our campuses, watching online - I say good morning to you. Good morning. If you have a Bible or you grab your phone, get to Luke chapter nineteen. Luke nineteen is where we will be today in just a few moments.
As you're turning there, maybe you're like me, and sometimes you pick up the Scripture because you have a question about something, and that's actually what drives you to pick up the Bible for yourself. You're like, hey, I wonder about this and maybe the Bible has something to say to that. And some of those questions are good, some of those questions are noble things. You know, how can I, God, how can I live a life that's glorifying to you? Maybe you're a new believer and you're saying Lord, how do I say no to the things in my past, so I can say yes to you. Those are good things. Those are noble questions.
Other times we come to the Bible and we pick it up, and it's because we have questions that, well let's be honest - they might not necessarily be bad but they certainly wouldn't fall into the category of noble. Like, is it a sin if I - you know, fill in the blank. Right? Generally speaking, you probably know it's a sin, but you're just thinking maybe if I don't find anything I've got a license to do it. Right? Or maybe it's a - you know, can I do blank and still go to heaven when I die? That kind of thing. Those are questions, but the truth is we're not the only ones that are asking questions.
And in fact, when we open the Scripture, we find that sometimes God himself is actually asking questions. But when God asks a question, he's not asking because he doesn't know the answer. He's asking because he's preparing to reveal his heart to us.
One of those questions that I want to point you to before we get to our story in Luke nineteen today - one of those questions that I want you to see comes out of the book of Isaiah. You don't need to turn there. Just listen and look at the screen. It says this in Isaiah chapter six. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?'" Whom shall I send and who will go for us. Well, without getting into the whole story right now, that question was answered by a prophet in that generation. But it wasn't ultimately or finally answered there. In fact, Jesus himself would be the one to give the final ultimate and total answer to that question. And I hope to show you that today.
Now typically at Christmastime we reference some passages of Scripture that surround maybe like the first week of Jesus' life. But what I'm going to show you today, the story in Luke nineteen, actually looks at pretty much right before the last week of his life, if I could say that, as he was preparing to go to the cross. And this story in Luke nineteen is going to be the answer to that question that God asks in Isaiah in the Old Testament - whom shall I send? And who will go?
So if you have Luke nineteen in front of you, follow along with me beginning in verse one. "Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he 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. 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."
Maybe if you're here, and this is like your first time in church in a very, very long time, or maybe you grew up in church but whatever, as I'm reading that story you have a little song maybe playing in your head right now? "Zacchaeus was a wee little man" - a couple people are initiated. Great! Awesome! Super! "And a wee little man was he." If you're a guest, you're thinking what did I just walk into?! They have like secret songs that they know. What is this about? Don't worry. We'll bring you up to speed. It's nothing to be weird about.
This is actually the first and only time that we encounter Zacchaeus in the Scripture, which is interesting to me. And although we are only given a few statements about Zacchaeus - that he was a tax collector, that he was wealthy, that he wanted to see who Jesus was and that he was short - although we're only given those few things that's actually telling us quite a bit.
Let me show you what I mean. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus was considered a traitor to his native people. He was a tax collector after all for Rome, the oppressive empire in place at that time, and so he was considered a traitor. But Zacchaeus wasn't just a tax collector. It says he was the chief tax collector, which means he's at the top of the pyramid. So as all the other tax collectors are fleecing the people of Israel with taxes and exorbitant taxes that weren't even really what was required but above and beyond, as everyone else is fleecing those people, Zacchaeus is fleecing the tax collectors. He's the chief tax collector. Everything bubbles up to him. So even people with the same profession as him don't even like him. He doesn't even have camaraderie in that regard.
But also as a wealthy man, in a very economically polarized time - the rich were very, very rich, the poor were very, very poor - at that time he was obviously hated, resented, and maybe even rightly so.
But it also tells us that he was a short man. That he was some translations say a man of small stature. Either way, not a ideal label for a guy. So he has this condition as it were, that he is short. And as you can imagine, he's rejected and ridiculed because of his height. Not just by friends, other guys, but certainly probably by women.
And so he's alone. We see that he's - from these short few verses - an outcast of all outcasts. Ever since he collected his first shekel of tax for the Roman empire he was immediately ostracized. Of course he was forbidden from being in the Temple, because he was perpetually unclean, or at least that's what he was considered. And so, not only did that have religious implications - it did - but it also had social implications. It had been years, maybe decades since anyone had said, hey, Zacchaeus, come over to our house for dinner. And certainly just as long since anyone would dare darken the doors of his home.
So he was isolated beyond our imagination. Removed from the Temple, but also with that an understand and a belief, based on what he was told and how he was treated, that he was cut off from the promises of God. That he was cut off from forgiveness. That he would not inherit eternal life. And it's not that he didn't necessarily do things that were wrong - he did. But when we find Zacchaeus, here is his plight. He's alone. We might think that the only people who ever struggle with this are the poor, the homeless, the drug addicted. But the wealthy and the successful are not exempt either. But in Zacchaeus' case, the veneer of success had masked really what was the great equalizer for humanity. He was lonely.
But he had heard about this Jesus. He heard about Jesus perhaps even from fellow tax collectors who had encounters with this Jesus. And what he had heard, although he was eavesdropping - no one would probably have talked to him, but he heard other tax collectors communicating as they were handing in their taxes to him - and he heard them talk about a Jesus, a rabbi in fact, from north country who would actually spend time with them when everyone else would keep their distance and only encounter them when they had to - this Jesus, this teacher, this rabbi was a different sort altogether. In fact, he would not only hang out with them, he would eat with them. He would spend time with them.
And maybe Zacchaeus had heard this about this Jesus, and heard that he was coming to Jerusalem, and he was coming to Jerusalem right before he would die, but he was coming through Jericho. His last stop before Jerusalem is Jericho. And so Zacchaeus hears this, and he maybe thinks, I wonder if he would forgive me.
So he determines that he's got to see this Jesus and we know that - this is significant in the story, by the way. This is significant because in Luke's gospel this is the sixth mention of a tax collector just in that gospel alone. And contrary to what was conventional wisdom of the day, every mention of the tax collector in Luke's gospel is a positive one. Every single one.
And so, now Zacchaeus determines he wants to see Jesus and by the way he doesn't just want to get a glance at Jesus. It's not just that he wants to be a part of the parade and get a glance at some celebrity. That's not it at all because the text does not say he wanted to see Jesus. It says he wanted to see who Jesus was. There is a distinction. He wanted to see who Jesus was as in, is it possible that everything I've heard about this Jesus is true? Is it possible that everything I've heard to this point is for me?
And so, as Jesus is navigating through the huge crowd that had gathered in Jericho that day - a huge swell of people and excitement all at the same time in Jericho - as Jesus walks through, he makes eye contact with several people, everyone thinking I wonder if he'll look at me. I wonder if he'll touch my shoulder. I wonder if he'll put his hand on my head. I wonder if he'll pick up my kid. I wonder if he'll call my name. I wonder if he'll heal my disease. Everyone's anticipating this and expecting it, and they're thinking maybe it's their day.
And so, they see Jesus navigating through the crowd. Yet when Jesus speaks, the first thing he says is what would be like a cultural cuss word in Jericho. Zacchaeus. The name that no one would have to utter if they didn't have to. The name that was not on the popular baby names of Jericho in 30 AD. You wouldn't name your kid Zacchaeus. And this is the word that they finally hear above the roar of the crowd that was all shouting out to him, Jesus, Jesus! And the first thing Jesus says is, Zacchaeus! Talk about popping a balloon of expectation. It was not what they anticipated.
But maybe that's not even the most incredible part of the story. I mean to me what's most amazing is not that Jesus calls Zacchaeus, the man who was most hated in that city - but what he says next. He says, I must stay at your house today. I must stay at your house today. I'd like to stay. Would you mind if I stay? I hope I can stay. None of those things. I must stay. This isn't a reflection that Jesus wasn't understanding of modern hospitality at the time. That's not what he's making a statement about. It's not a statement about hospitality. He's making a statement about relationship. He's making a statement about a personal contact with the person who was most unloved and unlovely. And he says, Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house today.
We started this series with love. That's where we began. That the Incarnation, that is to say that God putting skin on in the person of Jesus Christ - that the Incarnation shows us what God's love is really like. And that love, we see that love, real love, not in just what a person gives, but in what they withhold, and that love is the reason, gives us a purpose to serve selflessly - you over me - rather than to live selfishly - me over you.
And that leads us to where we are today and here's kind of the main idea. You might want to jot this down - it will be on the screen. Love goes to the people and the places no one else is willing to go to. Love goes to the people and places that no one else is willing to go to. That's exactly what Jesus did for Zacchaeus. Because there would have been nothing exceptional, nothing surprising, nothing out of the ordinary about this story - we might not even know this story if Jesus had just entered Jericho and called the name of someone who was well liked. If he had called the name of a religious leader, of someone who was faithful to observe the law of Moses, or maybe even a respected elder. Nothing exceptional would have been about that story. Wouldn't have been anything weird about that. But this? Zacchaeus? That's a mistake. It must be a mistake because if Jesus knew who he was talking to he would have called someone else. But love goes to the people and the places that no one else is willing to go to.
How do we know that no one else was willing to go to Zacchaeus? Based on their reaction. Look at their reaction. Verse eight, verse seven, excuse me. All the people saw this and what? Began to mutter. Maybe your Bible says they grumbled. "He has gone to be the the guest of a sinner." He's gone to be the guest of a sinner. Does Jesus know who Zacchaeus is, they were wondering? Does he know that he's a tax collector? That he's a sinner? Why were they upset? Why were they muttering, grumbling? Because he didn't deserve it. Because Zacchaeus didn't deserve that attention. He didn't deserve to be called out from the crowd.
But the truth is, and what they missed that day, and what we miss sometimes today is that Zacchaeus actually represents all of us as humanity. He didn't deserve it. You see, there was no one in the crowd that day that this description would not have been fitting of. He has gone to be the guest of a sinner. In other words, every person there was a sinner. So it would have been right had Jesus called anyone out of that crowd for everyone else to say he's gone to be the guest of a sinner. That would have been a perfectly fitting description, because every person there was a sinner.
But the crowd didn't see it that way. They wouldn't have denied that they had sinned. I mean their presence at the Temple and offering sacrifices kind of made that a sticky thing to deny. They wouldn't have denied that they had sinned. But they never would have identified, self identified as a sinner. That actually was another class of people altogether, and in fact a lesser class of people. They would have said, yeah, we've sinned, but they are sinners.
It reminds me of another encounter with a tax collector in the gospel of Luke, where we are. Where Jesus encounters a tax collector by the name of Levi, who also went by the name Matthew. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve closest disciples. And upon calling Matthew, calling Levi to be his disciple, Levi throws him a party. Look at the story in Luke chapter five, beginning in verse twenty-nine. "Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' (Why do you do this?) Jesus answered them (which by the way is amazing - they asked the disciples, Jesus answers the question - just as an aside) 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"
Jesus' use of irony in Luke five, and again in Luke nineteen where we are - the irony there is that everyone was sick. But only some of the people knew they were. Everyone there was sick. Everyone in Jericho that day in Luke chapter nineteen was a sinner. But it was the tax collectors and others - the tax collectors and sinners - who had been told that they were sinners, that they recognized how much they needed a savior. They had no problem admitting their need of Jesus, because they understood who they were. They understood their sickness. They understood their need. But it was those who thought they had everything together that, man, they missed it. They missed out.
He's gone to be the guest of a sinner. And that guest was Zacchaeus. Imagine this - the first person who wasn't paid to be in Zacchaeus' house is Jesus. His whole life, the only people that would associate with him were paid servants, people that worked for him. But the first person to walk into his house that chose to be there was the Savior of the world. Zacchaeus understood the significance. He understood what had happened. He was transformed instantly because of Jesus.
We know that based on his response. Look at verse eight in our text. "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," (understatement of the century) "if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Verse nine: Jesus said to him, "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."
There is so much significance packed into this response. I see a few things happening. First we see just how wealthy Zacchaeus was which was likely an indicator of just how wicked he had been. Not all of his earnings had come deceptively, but I'm sure a lot of them did. Some of it was just the tax and that's true, but a lot of it was through deception and greed - maybe even violence and coercion or blackmail. And so, we see just how wealthy he is when he's able to say, you can take half today and give it to the poor, but I'm also keeping back half so that if I've cheated anyone, I can pay them back. If I stole a hundred, I'm going to give four hundred. I mean just amazing. It's not a matter of if you cheated anybody, Zacchaeus, it's a matter of how many people are still alive that you cheated that you're going to have to make good on that promise. Right? That's the truth.
But what does that demonstrate? What an amazing transformation. A person's whole life has been defined by greed and in an instant, one encounter with Jesus transforms everything. Amazing! And we know that this is a genuine transformation because of what Jesus says about it. It's kind of the, that's the next thing that I see out of this is just how Jesus confirms that transformation. That this is genuine repentance. This isn't just an outward act of righteousness to impress a visiting rabbi. This is, in fact, a genuine authentic turning from sin.
We know that because of what Jesus says. "Today, salvation has come to this house." Can you imagine that? Today, salvation has come to this house? The only people that would have come to Zacchaeus' house as I said were those who had to. And maybe a few kids who would throw eggs at his house at midnight. That was the only thing that was coming at Zacchaeus. Eggs and hatred. That was it. But Jesus says salvation has come to this house today. And salvation had come to this house, why? Because Jesus himself had come to his house.
But he goes on. He says, for this man, too. This man also is a son of Abraham. That statement? Let me just explain to you the significance of that statement. This man, too is a son of Abraham. No one would have ever called Zacchaeus anything, a son of anything but Rome. That was the only thing he would have said about Zacchaeus. Yeah, he's the son of Rome because he works for the empire. But Jesus says he's a son of Abraham. What did that mean? That means that Jesus is speaking into Zacchaeus' life this truth: you have the same right to the inheritance as this people of God. You have the same right to the promises as the people of God. You have the same right to the Messiah as the people of God. You are a son of Abraham. You are a son of promise, Zacchaeus.
No one had ever said anything like that to him before. No one had ever said anything like that to Zacchaeus before. And you can just picture tears, perhaps streaming down his face as Zacchaeus realizes a new identity. He's a son of Abraham. And as tears are rolling down his face, I can just imagine that happening, and Jesus declaring his purpose for coming. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. In other words, it's almost like he turned to those that were with him, maybe just his disciples and said, this is why I'm here. Pointing to Zacchaeus, he is saying this is why I'm here. For this. I've come to seek and to save the lost. This is what Jesus did for Zacchaeus. He sought him and he saved him.
But it's not just a story about then. It's a story about now. Because it's not just what Jesus did to Zacchaeus. It's what he has done for you as a disciple of Christ. Because exactly the same scenario, we could picture it this way: when we see that the Christ of Christmas, he came at Christmas to reach the lost - that was why he came. And his birth at Christmas is just the opening line in the story of our redemption. It's not an end to itself. We don't stop at the manger, but we see what started there.
Because one day when Jesus was walking along through the crowd, he called your name out of the crowd. You had no hope. You were an outcast. You had been cut off from the promises. You had been called a sinner and a bunch of other things. And Jesus says your name out of the crowd. And what did you do? You came down and you received him gladly. You responded to his love. You responded to his action. You responded to his initiation, because he said, I must stay at your house today and every day. I must dwell, I must abide, I must remain with you and your life was never the same. You experienced transformation. People didn't even know what had happened to you because you were so different.
But it's not just what Jesus did for Zacchaeus. It's not just what he's done in your life. This is what Jesus does. He is still seeking and saving. But now, he wants to do it a little differently. He's not walking around on this earth anymore. But instead, he intends to use those that have been found to reach those that are still lost and he wants to use you to seek so that he can save.
Listen, the tragedy of our lives begins in our hearts when we come down from that tree like Zacchaeus - we hear our name called. But rather than join Jesus in the house, we drift back into the crowd, and we forget exactly where we started from. And so we find it easier to say things like, does Jesus know that he's gone to be the guest of a sinner? We become deceived that it was really our doing and not his saving and so we become content to drift back into the crowd and say does Jesus know what they've done? He certainly wouldn't approve of that. Does he know their laundry list of sins?
And although those things may be true, we miss out on what Jesus wants us to do. You see, for us to keep Christ at the center - not just of Christmas, but of our everyday lives - we have to understand and participate in verse ten. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. See, what he did was he brought us into his family, but he brought us into his family so that we could help to expand that family. He had planned a purpose for our lives when he brought us to himself.
In John chapter twenty verse twenty-one, Jesus said this: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Just as I was sent, now I'm sending you. And then in Matthew chapter twenty-eight, verse nineteen and twenty it says: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
These are commands, that's true. They need to be obeyed. But it's not just a command. You may hear this phrase from time to time: the great commission. Well, let's look at that word. In the truest sense of the word, you and I have been given a co-mission. Co - together with Christ - this is our mission: to go and make disciples.
And he seals that commission with a promise: I am with you always. And as comforting as that is when we feel alone, as much of a blessing that is when we feel like we're by ourselves, and that's true - that promise is not exclusively for our personal comfort but so that we will personalize the mission and take confidence in the fact that he is with us, that we're not on our own, that we don't have to do it ourselves. In fact, we were never supposed to. It's a co-mission. We have been co-missioned with Christ.
But why don't we go? Why do we feel it easier to drift back into the crowd? Why do we feel it easier to lob grenades of condemnation rather than to go with the gospel? I could think of a few reasons that we typically come up with. These were easy for me, because I've had these things in my own heart and life, too. So I'm sharing what we have to face.
The first thing I could come up with, why we don't go. "I don't know what to say." Jonathan, yeah maybe I would go with the gospel but I don't know what I would say. I don't know the Bible like everybody else. I don't have like this great presentation. My story isn't even that great. I don't know what I would say. I'm afraid I would get into like a theological debate, and then I would strike out and all of those things. I don't know what to say.
Can I just encourage you with something? Jesus actually spoke words of promise to the this very thing in John chapter fourteen verse twenty-six he said this: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." He will remind you. He will teach you and he'll remind you. But you can't, as we say often around here, you probably won't be reminded of very much if you've never heard the teacher speak. If you never get in front of the teacher, what does he have to remind you of? You need to prioritize that so that you will be reminded when you speak and open your mouth for the gospel. I don't know what to say. Maybe that's the first thing.
The second thing that I could think of is, well, they are a lost cause. Man, Jonathan, if you knew my family, if you knew the guys and girls I work with, if you knew my in-laws, you'd know. Man, they are just a lost cause. They wouldn't know salvation if it hit them in the face. Right? They're a lost cause. And while it's true that some people certainly have a hardness of heart and maybe some more than others, it's not up to us to break up the ground, the soil of their hearts. That's not up to us. And besides that, there is no such thing as an un-savable person in God's economy.
Isaiah fifty-nine, verse one says this: "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." There is no one who's outside of the grasp of God's arms that we could say, that God might say, well, you know what? I'd love to save you but you're just too far away. That doesn't exist. That doesn't exist in God's economy so why does it exist in our vocabulary? There is no such thing as a lost cause. The only time it's o.k. to talk about lost is that they are lost waiting to be found, not that they are a lost cause never to be found. There is a huge distinction there.
Maybe a third thing: I'm afraid. Hey, I get that. I'm afraid. I'm afraid. Afraid of what? Maybe rejection, maybe ridicule, maybe being excluded. Well, let's be honest about something. Although that is uncomfortable and not fun and I don't go looking for that, there's nothing fatal about rudeness. So we're not talking about being afraid in the face of death. That if you are before someone who says renounce Jesus or you will die - can we just put our fear in the proper perspective? Because there's nothing fatal about someone being rude to you or me. It's happened. We're still here.
And I would encourage you with this, honestly, because I'm trying to encourage you and encourage us. Ephesians six nineteen and twenty, it says this. Paul: "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly," (he says that again), "as I should." We don't need to be afraid. Remember he has sealed that commission with these words: I am with you. Don't be afraid. I'm with you. That doesn't mean it's not scary. But it does mean that he's never leaving us.
Maybe another thing: I never have any opportunities. Jonathan I would talk about my faith. I would share the gospel with people, but I never have any opportunities to do it. Well, have you ever considered praying this from Colossians chapter four? Pray for us, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Pray that God may open a door, but only pray if you intend to walk through that door once it's opened. And he will open one. I dare you to ask that. I dare you to pray that.
Then maybe the last thing. I don't want to go to them, whoever them is. With the number of people under the sound of my voice, there's probably a limitless list to all of the "thems" that we could come up with. I don't want to go to them. I'll go here. I don't want to go there. I don't know what it is for you. Maybe it's Democrats or Republicans. Maybe it's the poor. Maybe it's the wealthy. Maybe it's the dirty. Maybe it's the arrogant. Maybe it's gay people. Maybe it's homophobic people. Maybe it's Muslims. Maybe it's Jews. Maybe it's black, or it's white. I'll go here. I won't go there. I don't want to go to them, and underneath that is this sentiment: I don't think the gospel is for them. It's not what we say but it's where that statement comes from that scares me - it scares me about myself. I don't want to go to them, whoever them is.
But the truth is, that for us to understand who and what we are to be, we cannot show that kind of favoritism or partiality. Look at James, chapter two verse one. It says this: "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism." Romans two, eleven: "For God does not show favoritism." It's pretty clear, isn't it? How could we say I won't go to them. I don't want to go to them. Because there are only two categories that Jesus has for people, and he doesn't use these in like a manipulative way or to talk down to people, to be condescending, or to pigeonhole them, but only to demonstrate his love.
The only two categories that Jesus uses are lost and found. He loves the lost. He seeks the lost. He saves the lost. And he loves the found. He fills the found and he wants to use the found to reach the lost. That is it. That is how Jesus sees us. Not through the external things that we so flippantly throw around at people. But purely for who we are that we are people who are sick with this terminal sin that will kill us and is already doing so. But Jesus wants to be our healer.
And so there's only two categories that he uses. Who are we to use different categories? Because we are not called to be the filters of grace. We are called to be the dispensers of grace. And that changes how we live. Because love goes to the people in the places that no one else is willing to go to.
It's a hard thing for us to apply, but not because we don't know how. It's because it feels very strange. It's because it's contrary to everything we do. But I go because my savior who loves me did that for me. My savior left heaven and said I'll go to the unlovely and the unloved and I will declare with my life and my death and my resurrection that they are loved.
I know that because of Romans five eight: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners," - while we were weak - while we did not give any concern to God, while we couldn't have cared any less about God, while we were off doing our own thing and actually adamantly rejecting God, while we were still infected with this terminal disease called sin - that is the moment that Jesus said I'll go. It was not because we were lovely, but precisely because we were unlovely that he said I'll go.
The answer to the question whom shall I send? Who will go for us? Jesus stood up in heaven and said, "I'll go". Do we grasp that? Or do we really think God is lucky to have us? Do we really grasp how gracious he has been towards us, and if so, why aren't we trying to extend that grace to others?
You see, if God did not go, no one else would. If God did not go, no one else would. We would still be dead in our sin. It's amazing. We were so infected by sin that we would not have pursued him. We would not have gone to him. We couldn't, and we wouldn't have even if we could. But Jesus said I'll go.
And God is still asking that question, by the way. Whom shall I send? He's still asking that question. Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? But it's not because he doesn't know the answer. He's not asking it because he doesn't know the answer. He's asking it because he's revealing his heart to us. Whom shall I send? Who will go?
So my second question for you is, if you don't go, who else will? If you don't go, who else will? Your neighbor, your co-worker, your professor, your in-laws? The reason you're in their lives is because he is in your life. He wants to reach them and to go you don't have to go very far.
You know, the saddest part of the Zacchaeus story to me is where he lived. He lived in Jericho, and all of the priests lived in Jericho and when they weren't performing their two week per year obligation at the Temple, the other fifty weeks they lived in Jericho. Zacchaeus was surrounded by the priesthood and they acted like he didn't exist.
There are six thousand or so people that are affiliated with The Chapel, many thousands more in this region who claim allegiance to Jesus. Our region is surrounded by the priesthood of the believer. Will we go? Will we go to them? Will we join him, God, in what he's doing? Or will we stay in the crowd?
You see, Jesus came for the sick. He also came for those who thought they were healthy. He came for everyone. He came to seek and to save and he still is.
Let's bow together for a word of prayer. We'll be gone in a minute, and I'd ask that if you don't have to move right now that you don't, not only so that you're not a distraction to others but so that you're not distracted yourself, because I want you to hear from God. If you're a disciple of Jesus today, like me, you have a pretty important question that we need to ask ourselves. And so just in the quietness of this moment as your heads are bowed and your eyes are closed is ask God, in your heart, ask him, God, who are you asking me to go to?
And then only pray this next part if you mean it. God, this week, will you open a door for me to go to them and show them your love? As your heads remain bowed and the eyes closed, let me just encourage you with this: It was nothing incredibly out of the ordinary for what Jesus did with Zacchaeus. It started by him talking to Zacchaeus. So don't be afraid. Don't be afraid this week. Don't be afraid at work. Don't be afraid at your Christmas gathering. But open a door for your conversation and go in to those who maybe are unloved and unlovely and be willing to open your mouth and let God speak through you.
But maybe you're here today and you walked in and you'd say, you know what, Jonathan? When I walked in I wouldn't self-identify as a Christian or a disciple of Jesus or anything like that, but maybe today it seemed like a light bulb went on for you, like something clicked and that's not me. That's not - I can't take credit for that. That's God. He wants to get your attention. Even if you came today because someone asked you to come or they promised you lunch after if you came, the truth is God wanted you here and he wanted you here for a reason. That's because he wants to know you. He wants to give you a new identity. Tell you that you're forgiven and tell you that you're a son or a daughter and that he loves you and that he loves you so much that he gave his life for you, paying a price, a penalty for sin that you yourselves and myself, we couldn't pay. And he rose from the dead declaring that sin would not write the last chapter of your story but that he would give you a new ending and he wants to do that for you today.
So when we dismiss in just a moment and everyone's filing out the back doors into the Atrium, my encouragement to you would be that you don't rush out of here but instead you look for a room called the Fireside Room. It's in our Atrium clearly labeled above the doors. And I would just encourage you to walk in there. All you have to say is this: I need Jesus. That's it: three words. I need Jesus. There'd be some people that would love to pray with you and give you a Bible if you don't have one and give you something you could take home and read that will be helpful to you because we just want to help you follow Christ. That's what we're about.
So Father, we thank you for your Word, that it is exactly what we need and it is right when we need it. We'd pray, Lord, that through your indwelling Spirit, you would mobilize this priesthood - every person under the sound of my voice - that you would mobilize this priesthood, even this week to be willing to say, God, I'll go. Wherever you ask me, I'll go. Whomever you ask me to talk to, I'll go. I'm willing to do whatever you ask. God help us to do that. Give us strength to do that but also give us courage to overcome any obstacles or excuses that may stand in our way of obedience to you. We thank you, God, for inviting us to participate on something that is for an eternal impact. Thank you for being our joy. And it's in Christ's name that we pray. Amen.
Thanks, everyone. We love you. You're dismissed. Merry Christmas.