Key Verse: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
—Luke 19:10, New King James Version
OUR KEY VERSE SUMMARIZES why Jesus came to earth. His self-described mission statement is “to seek and to save that which was lost.” That remains his mission today, and we are vitally interested in its accomplishment.
The occasion in our Selected Scripture was that of Jesus visiting Jericho. Zacchaeus, a tax collector for the Romans, struggled to see the Master. His short stature frustrated his efforts, so he quickly climbed up a sycamore tree to get a better view, and there he waited. His efforts were greatly rewarded. “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house. So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” (Luke 19:5,6, NKJV) The fellowship in the home of Zacchaeus that evening must have been marvelous! He became a follower of Jesus, and the memories of their evening together undoubtedly glowed in his heart for the remainder of his life.
In sharp contrast to Jesus’ welcoming attitude toward Zacchaeus, the religious leaders of the Jews scorned him. In their estimation he was a lost sinner, worthy of contempt, because he served as a tax collector for the Roman occupiers. Their negative reaction to Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ home may have been due to the subtle rebuke implied in his choice. He preferred to lodge with an earnest-hearted sinner than a stony-hearted self-righteous host. We learn a valuable lesson from our Lord’s example. It is a flaw, endemic to our fallen race, to look down on others not esteemed to be as sanctified as we think we are. Jesus, however, was following his Father’s example, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”—I Sam. 16:7, NKJV
Let us remember that we have nothing of which to boast. All that we have we have received from God, and we are wholly reliant on his grace toward us in Christ Jesus. (I Cor. 4:7; II Tim. 2:1) Thus we should never show disdain toward our fellow man. Rather, we are to manifest the same love, mercy and sympathy that Jesus exemplified in his treatment of Zacchaeus.
An impressive lesson of harsh judgment, in contrast with Jesus’ love, is found in Luke’s Gospel. As Jesus journeyed toward Jerusalem, he sent messengers ahead of him. “As they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:51-56, NKJV) Let us likewise be ever mindful of our “manner of spirit”—that we are not here to “destroy men’s lives,” but to work with Jesus in saving them.
As Christ’s representatives in the world today, we do well to refresh our minds with his mission statement daily upon awakening. We are to save men’s lives, not destroy them, for the Son of Man came to “seek and to save that which was lost.”