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Are You Driven to Know Christ? | Part 1

April 18, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Luke Verse: Luke 19:1–19:10

Theme: Our interest in Jesus is caused by Jesus’ interest in us. 


I. The Sinner Sought by the Savior – 19:1-4

A. The Defilement of Sin – vv. 1-2 

  • Again, Jesus is addressing the confusion that His disciples possessed in light of His teachings.
  • He had shocked them by informing them that the people that organized legalism of Judaism had asserted were “shoe-ins” to the Kingdom of Heaven were excluded unless they were willing to put away their idols and follow Jesus – cp. Luke 18:24-27.
  • The account in our text provides the demonstration of the impossible – a wealthy man being saved; and not just a wealthy man, but a wealthy tax collector – “He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.”
  • “Jericho” was a strategic location for “a chief tax collector” to reside:
  1. It was a lush, fruitful city located about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea and 6 miles west of the Jordan River and about 20 miles east of & 3,400 feet below Jerusalem – called in ancient days “the city of palms.”
  2. The name “Jericho” means “city of fragrance” and was an oasis located on the caravan route between Damascus and Arabia; the southernmost of three taxation centers – the others are Caesarea on the West and Capernaum to the north.
  • As a result, it was the perfect place for “a chief tax collector” to live.
  • You would expect such a man to also be “rich” – given the level of dishonesty and extortion that would have characterized his business.
  • They would have a minimum requirement that they had to collect for Rome and then would be able to personally keep whatever else they could enforce – cp. Luke 3:12-13.
  1. They would tax on everything imaginable – poll tax (personal tax), property tax, sales tax, road tolls, shipping tax, tax on letters, and whatever else they could think of.
  2. There was no end to the extortion, exploitation, and theft that was legalized through the Roman taxation enforcement.
  3. They would even practice “loan sharking” where they would lend money at exorbitant interest and then collect through violence, liens, and defaults.
  • “Zaccheus” was “a chief tax collector” [ἀρχιτελώνης] - a man who was at the top of a hierarchy of tax collectors – receiving a cut from the lower levels of the pyramid and was being constantly enriched.
  • Interestingly, the name “Zaccheus” meant pure, clean, or innocent – a major disappointment to the parents who named him.
  • Such men were ostracized from the community as traitors – men who had sold out their fellow countrymen for their own enrichment.
  • Their character was so indicted that they were unable to enter the synagogue, testify in court, and were culturally forced to associate only with those of their same “class” – other tax collectors, prostitutes and “Gentiles.”

B. The Discontentment in Sin – vv. 3-4

  • Yet this man, despite his wealth and career success, he was not “okay” but was disturbed in soul.
  • We see that “Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.”
  • The sense of urgency shown by “Zaccheus” in several ways:
  1. Abandonment of Defense - he was willing to come near “the crowd” that blocked his view – a crowd that would have disdained him and even among whom he would not have been safe for him.
  2. Abandonment of Decency – “he ran on ahead” – as in the parable of the prodigal son, when the father ran it displayed an indecency of seeing a man’s upper leg as the garment would have been hoisted to clear the way for running.
  3. Abandonment of Dignity – “climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him,” – this called attention to the fact that he was “small in stature” – admitting he fell short of what he needed to be (pun intended). Such an action would never have been done by a man of his stature, wealth, and sense of pride.
  • His soul was clearly tormented by his sinfulness and he was desperate to see the one who was reputed to be the Messiah – the distress that motivated these extraordinary behaviors of this chief tax collector are not explained by a crass curiosity of celebrity but was an indication of the work of God drawing him to the Son – cp. Jeremiah 31:3; John 6:44-45.


  1. What are the ways that you see sin being most exceedingly sinful in your life? 
  2. How have you chosen to deal with your sin on the heart level? (excuse, rationalize, suppress, confess, repent, or etc…)

II. The Savior Who Sought the Sinner – 19:5-7

A. The Effectual Call by the Savior – v. 5

  • As Zaccheus was being drawn and demonstrated this by his initiative in seeking to see Christ, Jesus approaches him with a divine appointment.
  • “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’” - 
  • This was a divine appointment as seen in the phrase “I must stay at your house” – acknowledging that God had set not only who was to be saved, but where and when.
  • Jesus already knew “Zaccheus’” name – demonstrating again that this was something that God had purposefully ordained – cp. John 1:45-49.
  • Jesus gave a command – “hurry and come down [σπεύσας κατάβηθι] – indicating a matching sense of urgency to what Zaccheus had felt in trying to see the Lord.
  • “today” is again an indication that the day of salvation had visited Zaccheus and Jesus was commanding him to respond in faith – cp. Hebrews 4:7.

B. The Evidence of Grace in the Sinner – v. 6

  • The response of Zaccheus demonstrates the grace of God in operation – “And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.”
  • This is the clear indication that without God’s grace activating a man’s faith, it is impossible to receive Christ Jesus – cp. Ephesians 2:5.
  • Zaccheus, like all of us who have been saved, was overjoyed that Christ Jesus would do such a marvelous work of grace in his life – this would be the very first time he would be shown consideration, love, kindness, and respect.

C. The Estimations of Grace by the Smug – v. 7

  • The crowd that had prevented Zaccheus from seeing Jesus now noticed Zaccheus and the exchange between him and Jesus.
  • The intensity of their hostility toward Zaccheus is turned toward Jesus for the grace that He shows to Zaccheus – “When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’”
  • Instead of saying – “Wow what grace is this? That the Christ would extend grace to such sinners – what a wonderful Savior,” they indicted Jesus for daring to show grace to a sinner.
  • Legalists view grace with disdain and dismissal as unjust, too easy, or presumptuous because a person who receives grace has not merited forgiveness – not knowing that “the just shall life by faith” – cp. Romans 9:30-32; Galatians 3:11.


  1. Why is grace so difficult to appreciate by sinners unaffected by it?
  2. Have you ever questioned God’s wisdom in giving grace to someone … what does this teach you about your concept of grace vs merit?

III. The Salvation Wrought by the Savior – 19:8-10

A. The Confirmation of Salvation – vv. 8-9

  • “Luke does not describe the Lord’s presentation of the gospel to Zaccheus, or his response. But the salvation of the man is evident from the transformation of his life, which revealed itself in that part of his life where his sin was most openly manifested.” 
  • We are told “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’”
  • Several factors demonstrate the regenerated life that Zaccheus had gained through faith in Jesus:
  1. He testified: “stopped” [σταθεὶς] – literally means to stand or to take a stand; it can mean “to validate something that is in force or in practice.”
  2. He confessed Jesus as Lord: “… and said to the Lord, ‘Behold Lord …’” - cp. Romans 10:9-10.
  3. He repented: “… half of my possessions I will give to the poor …,” – cp. 1 John 3:17.
  4. He provided restitution: “… and if [since] I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” – cp. Exodus 22:1.
  • It is important that we recognize that he is not saved through these things, but his faith is demonstrated as real through these things and one is always saved through faith alone in Christ alone.
  • Because of his faith, “Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house …’”
  • “salvation has come” [ἐγένετο] (Aor. Mid. Ind.) – salvation has fully and finally done its own work in this house and the matter of Zaccheus’ salvation is settled. 
  • The salvation that resulted from faith occurred demonstrating that Zaccheus was “he, too, is a son of Abraham” – a true Jew – cp. Romans 2:28-29.

B. The Credit for Salvation – v. 10

  • Lest we become confused re: who is to be credited with salvation – the Lord clarifies it for us: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
  • Jesus here declares that He alone is the Savior and is the One who is to be credited with the salvation that men know – the reason He came.
  1. He came “to seek” [ζητέω] – look for or to find something – cp. Luke 15 – the shepherd seeking lost sheep; woman seeking lost coin; father seeking lost son.
  2. He came “to save” [σῴζω] – to rescue from harm – in this case, from the harm of God’s wrath – God the Son saves us from the wrath of God.
  • There is no one who seeks after God without the work of grace being present to quicken them to faith – Romans 3:11; Genesis 3:8-9.
  • It is only when a “lost” person for whom God is seeking is stirred by God – drawn by the Father to the Son – will they have interest in Jesus Christ – 1 John 4:19; Jeremiah 29:13; Amos 5:4; Matthew 6:33.


  1. Think through the responses caused by Zaccheus’ faith … have all of these been seen in your life? 
  2. What does realizing that you didn’t choose God, but that He chose you have on your worship? 

So What?

The severity of your sin is irrelevant to God’s willingness to save you.

Grace causes a sinner’s craving to know Jesus.

When you are drawn to Christ through grace, you abandon self-interest and seek the interests of Jesus.

The impact of saving grace is instantaneous and immediate; conversion is radical.

If you are lost today, know that Jesus is seeking you in order to save you.


More in

September 19, 2021

The Times of the Gentiles

September 12, 2021

The Travail of the End Times

August 29, 2021

Clarifying God’s Judgment of Israel