The Seeking Savior

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Luke 19:1-10

INTRODUCTION: Someone’s after you. No, I’m not trying to feed your paranoia. This is not some government plot or conspiracy. It’s not the New World Order. But someone’s following close behind you. He’s shadowing your every move, dogging your every step. You can try your best to shake him, but you never will. Until your dying day he will be right there – unswerving, unstopping, inescapable.

Some of you are saying, “Wait, I thought tax season was over! You’ve got to be talking about the IRS. You make me sound like some kind of fugitive.” No, I’m not talking about the IRS, and yes, you are some kind of fugitive. But the one following you is not a deputy, or a private detective, or even an enemy. He is the Lord Jesus Christ – the one whom the Scriptures say came to seek and to save.

Our Scripture passage this morning tells the story of Zacchaeus, but we will only refer to Zacchaeus throughout the message. Our focus this morning will be on Jesus Christ and especially verse 10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Jesus is the real focus of this story. Apart from Jesus, we would never even have heard of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was just a two-bit fraud, a schemer and a traitor, a small-time con artist who would never even have made the front page.

Except that someone was after him – Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Seeker, the Savior. For although Jesus is a Savior, he is first and foremost a seeking Savior. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

I. The Son of Man came to seek

First of all, the Son of Man came to seek. “To seek” implies intention and purpose. It speaks of a diligent searching after, leaving no stone unturned. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Fugitive,” it’s the picture of Deputy Marshall Gerard hot on the trail of fugitive Dr. Kimball. Why did Jesus come? He came first of all to seek.

   A. We do not naturally seek God
      – Psalm 14:2; Isaiah 55:6; Acts 17:24-27; Romans 3:10-11

We often think in terms of people seeking after God. There is an emptiness within us that each person seeks to fill. The various religions of the world show that there is a certain seeking in the hearts of man. The apostle Paul talks about this in Acts 17. He says: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth . . . he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else . . . he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” Paul continues, “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-27) Isaiah 55:6 says: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

But there’s just one problem with us seeking after God. We don’t actually do it! Psalm 14:2 says: “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” (Psalm 14:2) Well, are there any? Paul gives the answer in Romans 3: “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:10-11)

You see, we don’t naturally seek God. We seek to avoid him, or to escape him. We feel the void within, and we seek to fill it, but not with God. Sometimes we try to fill it with material things, such as wealth, position or status. Sometimes we try to fill it with destructive things, such as drugs, alcohol or promiscuity. Sometimes we even try to fill it with religious things, such as idols, ritual, good works, charity or even church.

But the truth is, we don’t actually seek God on our own. We seek to fill the void. But only God can fill it. As the French philosopher, Pascal, said, within each person there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.

   B. Rather, God seeks us
      – Adam and Eve; Abraham; Jacob; Moses; Psalm 63:1-4; Jeremiah 31:8,13

God looked down from heaven to see if there was anyone who would seek him. When he saw that there was none, he took it upon himself to come seek us. It has always been that way, ever since sin entered the human race. After Adam and Eve sinned, did they seek God? No, they hid from him in the garden. God came seeking them.

How do you try to hide from God? What walls or defenses have you thrown up? It doesn’t matter. God still seeks you out. He came seeking Adam and Eve in the garden, and he seeks after you.

The whole history of salvation shows God seeking. God sought Abraham and called him out from his people. Jacob wasn’t looking for God. He was on the run. God came seeking and met him at Bethel in a dream. We know Jacob wasn’t seeking God there because he tells us so. He awoke from his dream and said: “Surely the Lord was in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Genesis 28:16) Moses wasn’t seeking God in the wilderness. He was tending sheep. God came seeking Moses and called to him from the burning bush. And then through Moses God called an entire nation to himself. And so, the pattern continues throughout history. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. But God seeks us. The Son of Man came to seek.

Do you know what it means to seek God? It means to love him with all your heart. To desire his presence. To walk in all his ways. To hunger and thirst after the God who made you. To let everything else go in wild abandon in order that you might know the Lord your God.

I once heard a story about a man who wanted to know what it meant to seek God. His teacher led him into the river and held him under the water until his lungs were bursting. When he finally let him up, he told the man, “When you desire God like you just desired air, then you are seeking God.”

What does it mean to seek God? Listen to the words of David in Psalm 63: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:1-4)

You see, until God works a change in our hearts, none of us seeks God like that. Why could David seek God? Because he had already tasted. He had seen God in the sanctuary and beheld his power and his glory. He could seek God because God had already found him. That’s why he begins the psalm: “O God, you are my God.”

God says in Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) But first God says in verse 8: “I will come to you.” (Jeremiah 29:8) God seeks us first, so that we may then seek him.

Zacchaeus was not seeking God. He had heard about Jesus. He was curious about him. He wanted to see him, but he was not looking for direct confrontation. He got the surprise of his life when Jesus stopped directly beneath his hiding place and called out to him, “Zacchaeus come down!”

But it wasn’t a surprise to God. God had been seeking Zacchaeus all his life. He had shown Zacchaeus his goodness in the sun and the rain, with good food and provision. He had convicted Zacchaeus’ conscience of wrongdoing and his need for forgiveness. Day after day, God was seeking just the right time and place to overwhelm Zacchaeus’ heart with his grace and forgiveness.

Even the sycamore tree was part of God’s plan. God was there when the seed first germinated and the sprout first sprang up. And God knew even then that the tree would become the meeting place for Zacchaeus and Jesus. This was no accidental meeting here. The Son of Man came to seek, and he found Zacchaeus on that day.

II. The Son of Man came to save

1) The Son of Man came to seek, and 2) the Son of Man came to save. We have no need to fear him who seeks us, for he is a seeking Savior. Luke 19:10 says: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save.” (Luke 19:10)

   A. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save
      – John 3:17

Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. We read in John 3:17: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17) Yes, we are all fugitives because of sin, but Jesus seeks us not as the deputy, not as the condemning judge, but as the Savior. He seeks us as the one willing and able to pay the price for our sin. He seeks us as the one who stands in our place and receives the sentence for us. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save.” (Luke 19:10)

Jesus didn’t come just to offer sympathy or encouragement or a helping hand. He didn’t come to tell us we’re not so bad after all. He didn’t come to leave us in our sin and despair. He didn’t come simply to reform us. He came to save us. He came to redeem us. He came to pull us out of the pit of sin. He came to give us forgiveness, hope, meaning and purpose. He came to bring us back from the dead and give us new life. We were fugitives, but Jesus came seeking us, praise God, not to condemn but to save. He is not the seeking Judge. He is the seeking Savior.

   B. Poem – “The Hound of Heaven” (Francis Thompson)

Francis Thompson wrote a remarkable poem back in the 1800’s called “The Hound of Heaven.” In the poem Thompson writes how he fled God “down the nights and down the days … and down the arches of the years.” He writes about “those strong Feet that followed, followed after / With unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace / Deliberate speed, majestic instancy / They beat – and a Voice beat / More instant than the Feet – / ‘All things betray thee who betrayest me.’”

As the Hound continues to pursue him through his life, Thompson writes: “Although I knew His love Who followed / Yet I was sore adread / Lest, having Him, I must have nothing else beside.”

Finally, after years of running, Thompson surrenders to his Master. It is only then he finds that the One from whom he has been running all these years is everything he has been seeking. God speaks to him: “All which I took from Thee I did but take, / Not for Thy harms, / But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms. / All which thy child’s mistake / Fancies as lost, I have stored for Thee at home: / Rise, clasp My hand, and come! / … Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, / I am He Whom thou seekest.”

   C. Once Jesus finds you, then you seek him
      – Psalm 27:4, 105:3; Matthew 7:7; Luke 19:8-9

Remember we said that no one seeks God, and that’s why God comes seeking us? When Jesus seeks you and finds you and saves you, guess what? Now you seek him. You were looking for him all your life, but your sin made you hide from him, made you run from him, made you escape at all costs. You were looking for God in all the wrong places, but now that he has saved you, you seek him.

Psalm 27:4 says “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) Psalm 105:3 says, “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” (Psalm 105:3) Jesus said in Matthew 7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Once Jesus finds you, then you seek him.

Jesus came seeking Zacchaeus and found him in the sycamore tree. He didn’t rebuke him. He didn’t condemn him. Rather, he extended friendship to Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus welcomed him gladly into his home.

Jesus didn’t condemn Zacchaeus, but he didn’t leave him in his sin either. Remember Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He had become wealthy at the expense of others. He had overcharged the people and cheated them out of their money. He had betrayed his own people to collect taxes for the Roman Empire.

Notice Zacchaeus’ joyful repentance. He was glad to leave his sin all behind. Look at verse 8: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8) Jesus looked at Zacchaeus’ changed heart and said, “Today salvation has come to this house!” (Luke 19:9)

Why? Why did salvation come to Zacchaeus that day? Because the Seeking Savior, the Hound of Heaven, finally caught up with Zacchaeus. He arrested him in his tracks and saved him from a life of sin and selfishness and misery. Zacchaeus would never be the same.

III. The Son of Man came for the lost

   A. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous, but for the lost
      – Romans 3:23

One final point. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus didn’t come seeking the righteous, the religious, the good or the proud to save. He came for the lost. “The lost” means that which has perished, that which has no hope left, no sign of life.

In other words, the lost means us. It’s the picture of the Good Shepherd searching diligently for the lost sheep until he finds it. We are the lost sheep. We are the lost sheep fallen on the ledge of the cliff, legs broken, hungry, scared, dying, crying for mercy. We have nothing to offer God for our salvation, no merit of our own. The Bible tells us: “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) We are lost. And unless God saves us, we perish.

   B. Therefore, we need to admit our lostness, believe and repent
      – Luke 5:31-32; 1 Timothy 1:15

And so, we need to repent. Jesus told the Pharisees, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Your sin is never an obstacle to God’s salvation. Only your pride and your lack of faith and repentance stand in the way.

Zacchaeus was lost. His name means “the righteous one,” but he was far from righteous. The people hated him, and he knew it. He was greedy, miserable, a traitor to his own people. When Jesus went to his house all the people muttered: “He has gone to the house of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) As if they weren’t sinners!

Salvation didn’t come to the self-righteous mutterers that day. It came to the lost sinner who knew he was lost and who gladly welcomed the Seeking Savior. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

CONCLUSION: I would like to close this morning with three challenges by way of application.

First of all, to those of you who do not yet know Christ personally. If you do not know Jesus as Savior, then you are lost. It’s been said, “There is one thing worse than being lost; it’s being lost, and no one is looking for you.” The good news this morning is that someone is looking for you. Jesus is looking for you. He has been seeking you for a long time now. Perhaps you have felt the footsteps of the Hound of Heaven close behind you for some time. Have you been running from him? Hiding from him? Why? Jesus seeks you, not to condemn or destroy, but to save. Climb down from your sycamore, whatever it may be that is keeping you from Jesus. May this place be your meeting place with Jesus. May today be your day of salvation.

Secondly, some of you know Christ, but you have lost your fire as a believer. You have been pulled and distracted by the world so much that you no longer seek one thing. You are saved, but you have lost your first love. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost, and that includes your first love. God has not given up on you. He will pursue you with his love and discipline until you seek him and him alone. God is not far from you. He seeks to restore your relationship with him. Return to him and he will return to you.

Lastly, as believers we have been given a commission. Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) As Savior, Jesus still seeks the lost, but he has entrusted the task to us. How are we doing? Do we seek out the lost for salvation with the same diligence as Christ? We need to. Jesus Christ came for a purpose, and we are to continue his work.

Someone’s after you. Praise God! “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

© Ray Fowler

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