So what exactly is this mission that Jesus was sent on by the Father? What exactly was Jesus suppose to do? In the story of Zacchaeus we get the clearest and most concise job description of Jesus' mission straight from Jesus himself. It has two parts. First is to "SEEK" and second is to "SAVE" that which was lost. Seeking and saving the lost. That was it in a nut shell. It's not a long and complicated mission statement and it's pretty easy to understand and follow.
Let's take a look at the first part of seeking the lost. As a person begins to strategically contemplate this action the first question one might ask is: Who are the lost? The answer: The lost is everyone! Everyone who has ever been born, lived and died other than Jesus have been spiritually lost. All that Jesus had to do was close his eyes and then open them quickly and the first person he saw would be a lost person. The second person he would see would also be a lost person including the third, fourth and on down to everyone else he saw. There's not much seeking involved when everyone is lost. So was Jesus' mission intended to seek and to save every lost person or only specific lost people? To answer that question one must understand the purpose of the seeking. What is purpose behind the seeking? It is found in the second part of the Christ's mission statement and that was to save the lost. Now, is Jesus going to save every single lost person who has ever lived or are there going to be some who are saved and some who will remain in their sinful plight? Well scripture is real clear on this subject. God has made it abundantly clear that a few lost people will be saved while the majority are going to receive eternal damnation. Jesus uses such visual word pictures as, "Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many go that way, while narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it." So Jesus is not going to save everyone but only a few. So this is not a seeking of all lost people and saving them but a seeking of those particular lost people who have been prepared (by the Holy Spirit) and are ready for salvation.
Now this is going to require some effort, some understanding and some observation in order to do this task. In order to seek after particular lost people who are prepared to be saved one must know what he is looking for. One must be able to understand and recognize the signs that indicate if a person is prepared and ready for salvation or not. So are there signs that one can observe that would indicate if a lost person is prepared and ready for salvation? If so what would Jesus look for in a person who is ready? With the story of Zacchaeus we can see three particular signs that indicated to Jesus that he was ready and prepared.
First, Zacchaus showed an extraordinary amount of desire in Godly things. When the word got out that Jesus was going to pass through Jericho the crowd quickly responded and came out to see him. This was not unusual. Jesus seemed to attract a crowd in many of the places where he went. Zacchaeus also wanted to see Jesus but his desire far outweighed those that were part of the crowd. Zacchaeus was a short man and because the large crowd he was unable to see Jesus. Now Zacchaeus demonstrated his greater desire to see Jesus from the rest of the crowd when he decided that he was not going to remain as part of the crowd and only get a glimpse of Jesus but instead he took the initiative and ran on ahead of the crowd and climb up into a tree in order to get a much better view of Jesus as he passed by. Nobody else is recorded to have taken that initiative. The rest of the people were content to stay in the crowd. Others may have gotten discouraged by the large crowds and gone home. But not Zacchaeus! He had an uncontrollable compulsion to see Jesus and he demonstrated a level of faith that others did not have by running ahead of the crowd and climbing up into that tree.
I think that this caught Jesus' attention. Here Jesus is walking down the street and seeing a grown man, the Chief Tax Collector, up in a tree waiting to see him. Now we need to remind ourselves why Jesus is here? Jesus has come to seek the lost who are prepared to be saved! As Jesus sees this grown man up in the tree he may have thought to himself, "Look at what this man is willing to do in order to see me. Maybe, he is one of the lost who is prepared to be saved. Let me find out by asking him to take me to his house." I think that when Jesus asked Zacchaeus to come down and take him to his house he was testing Zacchaeus to see if he possibly was one of the lost people whom the Spirit had prepare.
This leads to the next sign that Zacchaeus demonstrated. Zacchaeus was willing to accept Jesus' invitation to come to his house. He could have declined the invitation. He could have made excuses why he would be unable to accommodate him. He could have climbed down out of that tree and ran off and hide from Jesus. But he didn't. Instead, he hurried down that tree and welcomed Jesus gladly. Zacchaeus was more than willing to have Jesus come over to his house. He was thrilled that Jesus would want to spend time with him. There was no hesitation on Zacchaeus' part whatsoever. He jumped at the opportunity. What Jesus was doing was offering Zacchaeus an opportunity to explore his spiritual life more closely and watch and see how he would respond. When Zacchaeus responded with great enthusiasm Jesus had another piece of evidence that he needed that showed Zacchaeus might be one of those lost people whom the Holy Spirit had prepared.
Then finally we see the crowd beginning to criticize Jesus for going over to his Zacchaeus house. They said, "He gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." What the crowd failed to understand was that from God's perspective they all were sinners. But how would Zacchaeus react to all these negative comments? Would he get angry? Would he retaliate? But what we see is that how Zacchaeus responded gave the finally proof, to Jesus, that he truly was one of those prepared lost sinners that he came to save. Even as all the negative and critical statements came from the crowd Zacchaeus didn't try to justify his past behavior nor did he try to condone it. He just started confessing and repenting. He admitted that he had stolen and was willing to pay back everything plus four times more. In addition he said that he was willing to give half of his possessions to the poor. Jesus never asked him to do any of those things. Those were Zacchaeus' ideas! Why? Because he was experiencing a changed heart. He was repenting from his lifestyle of sin. As Jesus saw this happening he became convinced that Zacchaeus was indeed one of those whom Jesus came to save. Listen to what Jesus says, "For salvation has come to this house ..."
So what does this mean to us who are Ordinary Christians of Christ pursuing the same mission that
Christ initiated? What can we learn from this example that will help us to fulfill the mission that Jesus handed over to us? First, our job, like that of Jesus, is to sort through people. As Ordinary Christians we are looking not just for lost people. They are everywhere. We are looking specifically for those lost people that God has prepared and are ready to be saved. We accomplish this by looking for signs that will indicate a person is ready. Like Jesus, we are looking for individuals who are demonstrating a higher than normal amount of interest in spiritual things. Who are the ones we see climbing the trees to see Jesus? Then we are to offer them an opportunity to learn more about God and Christ just like Jesus offered Zacchaeus an opportunity for him to come to his house. How do they respond? Do they show genuine excitement about this opportunity or do they find excuses why they can't participate. And finally, we talk about their sinful condition and their willingness to allow Christ to forgive them of their sin and watch to see how they respond. Do they repent from their sinful condition or do they try to rationalize them? When we find those with a truly repentant heart then we have found those whom God has prepared. So offer them salvation and lead them to Jesus.
Like Jesus we are here to seek and to save those that are lost. We are here to find those lost people who are prepared, by God and introduce them to Christ.
Are you an Ordinary Christian needing some encouragement, some empowerment or equipping to better pursue the mission that God has given to us? Are you wanting to live a missional life but just not sure how to go about it? Then I want to invite you to join me at THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN! The Ordinary Christian exists to empower, encourage and equip ordinary christians to live a missional life that shine the Light of Christ back into this dark world. You can join us at: