5When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:5-7, NIV)
If you’re familiar with Zacchaeus, you’ll remember that he lived in Jericho, where he collected taxes. The fact that he was wealthy meant he had charged ample handling fees in addition to the basic taxes. This meant Zacchaeus was despised by his neighbors as a sell-out to the Roman government and someone who had taken advantage of them.
But, for some reason, Jesus was interested in Jesus. Because Zacchaeus was short and the crowd was in his way, he climbed a tree to catch a peek of Jesus. When Jesus walked by, he spied Zacchaeus in the tree and called to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (v. 5). Zacchaeus was thrilled to welcome Jesus. But his neighbors did not share Zacchaeus’s enthusiasm. They started to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (v. 7).
We don’t know exactly the nature of Zacchaeus’s sins, though it’s likely that they included “defrauding” people from whom he was collecting taxes (see v. 8). But the Jewish label “sinner” wasn’t used simply to identify people who did things contrary to the law. It was also a cultural slur, a way of saying that somebody was an outsider, someone who didn’t belong to the community of God’s holy people. Even though Zacchaeus was Jewish, his status as a sinner meant he was effectively cut off from his neighbors. Sinners like Zacchaeus didn’t belong. They weren’t welcome.
Today I want to reflect on what it means to be a sinner. This reflection is particularly relevant for the Lenten Season. During this season, we focus in a special way on our sinfulness. We remember that, because of sin, human beings, having been created out of dust, will return to dust. On Ash Wednesday millions of Christians receive the imposition of ashes on their forehead, a stark visual reminder of their sinfulness and mortality . . . and therefore also their need for a Savior. Ashes are imposed in the form of a cross to signify that the curses of sin and death will be rectified through the crucifixion of Jesus. Thus, though we begin Lent with the bad news of our fallen human condition, even that news points ahead to the good news that is to come on Good Friday and Easter.
One of the things I love about Ash Wednesday services is joining with other Christians to acknowledge publicly that we are sinful people worthy of death. After the ashes have been imposed, churches are full of people bearing visual witness to the fact that they are sinners. In this context, nobody accuses anyone else of being a sinner, as they once did to Zacchaeus. Why? Because we are all sinners.
Moreover, being a sinner doesn’t mean exclusion from the community of Christ. Rather, it’s a prerequisite to membership. As Jesus said after His encounter with Zacchaeus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (v. 10). You can replace “lost” with “sinners,” if you wish. Jesus came for sinners. Jesus came to save folks like Zacchaeus, and me, and you.
We begin Lent with a recognition of our sinfulness and therefore our need of a Savior. And, with cross-shaped ashes to remind us, Jesus has come to save us from our sin, to bear our sin on the cross. Thus, as we take seriously the bad news of our sin and mortality, we also anticipate the good news that is to come.
Lord, I want to know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly. I’d love for you to “stay at my house” today.
10After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. (Luke 10:1, NIV)
What do you envision when you picture Jesus doing His God-given work? You might see Jesus announcing the kingdom of God, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Or perhaps Jesus calming a storm and feeding a large crowd from a box lunch. All of the above shows up in Luke’s Gospel as essential elements of Jesus’s kingdom-focused work.
But every now and then we see another side of Jesus’s work, one that is more familiar and common, and also surprising. Seeing Jesus working in an ordinary way rounds out our understanding of Him, but it also encourages those of us whose work is rather less dramatic than storm-stilling and crowd-feeding.
Luke10 begins with this description of Jesus’s work: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” (v. 1). Surprisingly, v. 1 reveals that the group following Jesus was quite a bit larger than those in the inner circle: the 12 plus the women who traveled with them (Luke 8:1-3). In fact, Jesus had been building this larger team for quite some time (see Luke 9:57-62), something that would have required quite a bit of intentionality and coordination.
Jesus appointed seventy-two (some versions say seventy) of those in the group beyond His inner circle “and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go.” Here are several things about Jesus that might be unexpected. One is that He had crafted a plan for His future travels. Jesus was quite clear about His final destination: Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). But here we learn that Jesus had worked out in detail “where He was about to go.” This enabled Him to send seventy-two of His followers to those specific locations.
How did Jesus come up with this plan? Perhaps He worked it out with His Heavenly Father when He spent all night in prayer (see 6:12). Perhaps Jesus also got input from His inner circle, drawing from their knowledge of the surrounding areas.. Perhaps others advised Jesus as well. The point is not to take away from the supernatural ways in which Jesus was guided in His ministry. Rather, it is to emphasize that He took this guidance and formed a plan of action.
Sometimes we think of spiritual people as being otherworldly, living in the clouds, far above real human life. But that view does not fit with Jesus, who was the most Spirit-guided person who ever lived. One can be deeply in touch with God and guided supernaturally while making down-to-earth plans. In fact, without translating divine guidance into plans, often what God intends doesn’t get done because of poor execution.
We should seek God’s guidance for our daily work, our careers, our families, and every other part of life. Jesus did this, sometimes spending all night in prayer. Yet the example of Jesus, the planner, also encourages us to translate God’s guidance into specific, executable plans. We know that Jesus did many amazing, miraculous things. But Luke 10 shows us another side of Jesus. He was not just a preacher and healer. He was also an organizer, one who developed a solid plan for His messianic work and organized the work of others who would implement His plan. Thus, when we do mundane work, such as organizing stuff, we can do this both in imitation of Jesus and for His glory.
Ask the Lord to help you move from inspiration to planning.
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Valentine’s Day is celebrated this month; it’s only fitting that we emphasize the subject of marriage. With the ongoing advances of the same sex radical movement, it is crucial that churches continue to fervently defend biblical marriage.
Marriage is a God-ordained institution; God intended for it to be a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman. The permanence of marriage is repeatedly affirmed in the Scriptures. For those of you who are married, you have experienced a level of oneness in your relationship. Genesis 2:24 says… “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Problems and conflicts are inevitable in marriage. Yes, marriage is high-maintenance. But, a marriage built upon Christ has the tools necessary to weather any storms that come your way. The Holy Spirit is the “third strand” of the cord that gives marriage the strength and the super-glue to hold it together. Marriage ought to mirror the passionate love Christ has for the church. Couples need to intentionally invest in the relationship. A big part of marriage is giving, sacrificing, and being unselfish. Communication, collaboration, and commitment are the cornerstones of marriage. God also wants husbands and wives to experience the deep joy, satisfaction, and power that come from praying together. Spouses that pray together find that their relationship is enriched, even transformed.
Seek then to strengthen your marriage and reconnect with your spouse every opportunity you get. Strive to stay in love through all stages of life. I encourage you to proclaim God’s intention for marriage as a lifelong covenant that glorifies His name, edifies His church, and testifies to the nation. Beloved married couples, as you walk in covenant together, endeavor to show the next generation God’s design for marriage. The way the Bible portrays marriage is His best plan for the world. As parents, your committed love for each other is the best gift you can give your children. So, take time out for your spouse; enhance your relationships and deepen your bonds of love for one another. And for those anticipating marriage, keep yourself pure and healthy until that day when you can offer yourself as the best gift to your spouse. May God bless all marriages!