Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 15 August 19:
Luke 19:7 — “And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’”
The account of Zacchaeus (along with other accounts such as the one about woman accused of adultery and those of the tax collectors described in Matthew and Mark) is often wrongly applied by those who would partner with the world to suggest Jesus didn’t make a big deal out of sin and holiness and that those who do are “judgmental.” What they fail to notice in this story is that Zacchaeus is not just a sinner, he is a repentant sinner seeking Jesus, a sinner who desiring reconciliation and seeking to make restitution – “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.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.’” (Luke 19:8, 9)
Jesus isn’t making light of sin or partying with sinners – “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33; see also Ephesians 5) Jesus is engaging Zacchaeus who is “seeking to see who Jesus [is].” (Luke 19:3) Concerning the tax collectors described in Matthew and Mark, the Bible says that they weren’t just Jesus’ sinful drinking buddies, they were followers of Jesus – “And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” (Mark 2:15) Perhaps these were the same tax collectors described in Luke 3:12 – “Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’” In fact Matthew was a tax collector who had relationship with Jesus because he responded to Jesus’ call to “follow me.” The relationship they had with Jesus was one of repentance and reconciliation which never involved Jesus compromising His holiness or His message.
What was Jesus’ message to the woman accused of adultery? “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) Concerning the unrepentant tax collectors, Jesus continued to speak negatively of them and didn’t make light of their sin or hang out with them. (Matthew 5:46, Matthew 18:17)
Zacchaeus is repentant, unlike the self-righteous who criticizes Zacchaeus for being a “sinner.” To the self-righteous, Jesus warns, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) Jesus is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners,” repentant ones. (Luke 7:34) These are they who Jesus describes in Luke 18 – “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
In our associations with the world, as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission, we must be careful not to partner with or conform to the world. We mustn’t water down the Good News message that calls sin, sin; describes the need for salvation from the wrath of God (not just from the consequences of sin); proclaims God’s grace and free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone; and proclaims the new life in Christ. If we make light of sin, we dishonor (even mock) the LORD, minimalize the demand for salvation, and cheapen God’s grace through the blood of Jesus. If we make light of sin, we are being very unloving.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) –15 August 19: Today, engage the world with the Gospel as an ambassador of Christ, but don’t partner with the world. (1 John 2:15)