Jesus Came to Seek and Save the Lost

God’s pursuit of sinful humanity is the storyline of the entire Bible.

It begins in Genesis 3:8-9 as we see God pursuing Adam and Eve after they disobey his command to not eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

And it continues to be the narrative throughout the Old Testament as we look at passages like Ezekiel 34:16, 

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

And Isaiah 49:6,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 

Then as Jesus hits the scene, some of the very first words out of his mouth in Matthew 3:2,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Are you convinced yet? If not, maybe one more verse that completes the bookends. Revelations 22:17, 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

From start to finish, we see this storyline. God created the galaxies, universes, and the earth to create a people he would call back to himself for his glory! 

The Mission of God in the Life of Zacchaeus

Jesus embraced this mission of God during his 3-year ministry on earth. One example comes in Luke 19:1-10, the final words are “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

As he was on this journey, he calls many to repentance, but rarely do we have a story like this one where Jesus calls a person by name. But here, we meet a character who has a name, Zacchaeus. There was the “woman at the well” and the “demon-possessed man.” There was the “rich young ruler” and “the centurion.”

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 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. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Who was Zacchaeus?

From Jericho

Zacchaeus lived in a town known as Jericho. Maybe you are familiar with this city from the Old Testament story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. In that story, the city was destroyed, but thousands of years later, it has been rebuilt and is thriving.

Since highways and waterways surrounded it, Jericho was a very bustling place with a healthy economy. An excellent place for one to thrive financially, which meant a great place to collect taxes.

Jericho was one of the three regional tax centers in the land of Israel. And it is in this city that we mean the chief of tax collectors, Zacchaeus.

Chief Tax Collector and Rich

Taxes were an everyday part of life just as a they are today. Whenever there is transactions of goods, there are taxes.

Jesus was not opposed to taxes. If you remember, it was Jesus who said, “give to Ceasar what is Ceasars…” and it was Jesus who established all of the governmental authorities.

But because of some unethical practices, tax collectors were despised by their communities. Here are few of those practices:

  • To have a tax franchise you had to buy it from Rome which made you a trader to your own people.
  • Rome required a certain percentage of tax and then gave freedom to tax collectors to tax on other goods if they wanted. This was abused.
  • Tax collectors would create taxes to profit making them some of the wealthiest men in the cities.

And Zaccheus was a Chief tax collector which mean he was at the top of the pyramid scheme and most likely hated all the more.

In verse 7 we get more insight into the feelings others had for him.

This reputation left Zacchaeus and all other tax collectors ostricized from their communities. They were unable to go to the synagogues and worship. They were labeled “unclean” so no jews would associate with them. They were left to socialize with other tax collectors and sinners.

Zacchaeus seizes his opportunity

Jesus is passing through Jericho and clearly the word has spread because a crowd has gathered.

This would be normal for any foreigner passing through, but even more so for Jesus. His reputation was proceeding him. Those in the crowd would have heard of his miracles and rumors that he was the messiah.

Zacchaeus is attempting to navigate through this crowd, but the story informs us that he is having trouble on account of his size and the size of the crowd. But Zacchaeus wouldn’t be denied.

Knowing the city, he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. These trees are known for being low to the ground and having long think branches that extend out. The perfect tree for Zacchaeus to get a good view of Jesus as he came along the road.

Jesus knows his name

As Jesus approached the tree, he looks up and says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

Can you imagine the jolt that must have gone through his body at that time? It would be similar to someone of great renown approaching you, and as your nerves spike, they acknowledge you by name.

Now for us, we shouldn’t be shocked. In John 10:3, Jesus says,

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

God knows the name of every sheep that is in his fold. And it is more than this. God knows the year, month, week, day, hour, minute, and second of every person who comes to know the Lord.

This is no accident. Jesus says, “I MUST stay at your house today.” This is a divine appointment.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but more importantly, Jesus wanted to see Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is comforted by this, and we should be too. It is the comfort experienced by David when he says in Psalm 139:16,

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.

Our God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is not losing any of his sheep. The intentionality that Jesus shows to Zacchaeus is the same intentionality given to you and me. It is the same intentionality that he will give to everyone he calls to follow him.

The evidences of true conversion

Zacchaeus “hurried and came down and received him joyfully.” Jesus’ call to him was irresistible. This was a divine appointment, and there was nothing anyone was going to do to stop it.

Notice the contrast of the hearts of the people in the next verse. Does it say, “and they were all excited that a sinner had been freed from his sins to walk faithfully with Jesus?”


It says they grumbled. The Greek word is diagongudso, which is an onomatopoeia. You can hear the sound of grumbling when you say it over and over again (go ahead and try…I know you are already).

These were religious Jews. They classified Zacchaeus as a sinner, but the truth was that their hearts were the ones that were still filled with sin.
They say, “he has gone in to be the guys of a man who is a sinner.” They should have said correctly, “he has gone in to be the guest of a man who WAS a sinner.”

They don’t get it. To the end, they hold on to this false religion while Jesus is saving sinners.

Further evidences…

We see the attitude change of Zacchaeus, but we also see a simultaneous change in his actions. In verse 8, it says, 

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.”

Something has happed that has turned this thief into a philanthropist; this man who spent his life taking now wants to give a lot. 

We know it is the result of salvation because the next verse tells us. There are other pieces of evidence, though.

First, he calls Jesus, Lord. He uses the same word that bondservants use to their masters, Kurios. 

Second, he gives up half of his goods to the poor. Because the story points out that he is rich, we know that half of everything he has would be a lot. The tithing expectation for a Jew would be 10%, so he has already exceeded that by 40%. 

Third, anyone that he has defrauded, he will restore fourfold. Why fourfold? Well, he was probably thinking of Numbers 5:6-7.

When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.

The law states he should give back a fifth, 20%. On top of giving away half everything he has, Zacchaeus wants to give back what he took plus 25% to every person he has wronged. 


Ephesians 2:10 says, 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And James 2:14 says,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?

Why does he do this? The truly converted sinner can’t help but do this. He is, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it, “a new creation.” He wants to be obedient to the maximum level. 

This is a fantastic story of conversion! But let us not forget that we all were at some point as Zacchaues; lost, hopeless, broken sinners in need of a savior to come to us.  

Praise God that Jesus sought you out, called you by name, and declared that salvation would be given to you!  






Accessing the Grace of God

If you were to ask me what was under the hood of my car, my response would be, “the engine.” We could lift the hood of my car and factually agree that there is indeed an engine. But if you were to ask follow-up questions such as, “how does an engine work?” I would have trouble giving you an answer because the truth is I understand that my car is powered by an engine while simultaneously not understanding much about how it works.

Something similar happens in the minds of most Christians when you say the word grace.

I mean that we all feel comfortable using this word in the same way we feel comfortable claiming that there is an engine under the hood of our car. But when you begin to ask questions like, “how do you access grace?” or “in what ways does grace impact your day-to-day walk with Jesus?” We all of a sudden find ourselves realizing we know less about this word than we initially thought.

What is Grace?

Grace is unmerited favor from God upon sinners. It is the compassionate response of the superior, God, to the inferior, us. Without grace, there are no Christians because it is only by grace that we are saved. Grace is also the only way we continue to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus.

It is impossible to overstate the necessity of grace in the Christian life. It is, hands down, 100%, no questions asked, the single most important word for anyone who follows Jesus. Romans 5:2 puts it this way,

Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

To “stand” in grace means that we are surrounded. We can take no pathways as a follower of Jesus that isn’t initiated, carried along, and finished by grace.

Is Grace only significant for Salvation?

This is a common misunderstanding of grace for young followers of Jesus. For them, grace becomes limited to the moment they believe in Jesus for the first time. They realize their need for grace to save them from the punishment of their sin but fail to realize that grace is the only hope for living a life of following Jesus. Look at how the Apostle Paul speaks of grace.

1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

You see a life consumed by grace in this passage; grace is what makes Paul who he is. He says, “But by the grace of God I AM WHAT I AM…”

How did you get to where you are right now? I bet you can come up with a lot of different answers to this question. That answer would be filled with stories of human effort and self-determination for most of us, but not for Paul. Paul is who he is because of one thing, grace.

How did Grace impact the life of Paul?

What was different about Paul because of grace? It is evident from his NT letters that grace saturated every area of his life. Here are some examples.

  • Grace fueled Pauls Obedience to Jesus (Romans 1:5)
  • Grace Justified Paul before God (Romans 3:24)
  • Grace freed Paul from the burden of the law (Romans 6:14-15)
  • Grace was the means by which Paul was chosen (Romans 11:5)
  • Grace gave Paul the confidence to speak boldy to other Christians (Romans 12:3; 15:15)
  • Grace is means by which Paul recieved his spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6)
  • Grace gave Paul the ability to do ministry (1 Cor 3:10)
  • Grace gave Paul identity and allowed him to work hard (1 Cor 15:10)
  • Grace simplified Pauls ministry approach (2 Cor 1:12)*
  • Grace increased Pauls thankfulness (2 Cor 4:15)
  • Grace made Paul spiritually rich (2 Cor 8:9)
  • Grace is what Paul ministered to others (2 Cor 8:19)
  • Grace was how Paul abounded in every good work (2 Cor 9:8)
  • Grace gave Paul power in his weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Paul was called to Jesus by grace (Gal 1:15)
  • Grace qualified Paul to do ministry with the other apostles (Gal 2:9)
  • The absence of Grace was enough for Paul to claim some had been severed from Christ (Gal 5:4)
  • Paul looked ahead to the fullness of God’s grace in Heaven (Ephesians 2:7)
  • Grace was the thing Paul stewarded to others (Eph 3:2)
  • Paul was made a minister of the gospel through God’s grace (Eph 3:7)
  • The power to preach the gospel came from Grace (Eph 3:8)
  • Grace is what Paul wanted to insert in others lives with his words (Eph 4:29)
  • Grace connected Paul to other believers while he was in prison (Philippians 1:7)
  • Grace is from the Lord overflowed to Paul with faith and love from Jesus (1 Tim 1:14)


Grace was everything to Paul! It consumed his whole life, but it was also what he hoped would consume others. Every single letter Paul wrote has the phrase “Grace to you…” in the introductory sentences.

“Grace to you…” Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon.

It was of first importance to every letter Paul wrote to those in his ministry. He wanted grace to go to them! Why? Because as we read in all of the examples, grace was the twin-turbo engine that powered every spiritual thing in Paul’s life.

Listen closely. You can not follow Jesus outside of the grace he supplies to follow him. You can try, but you will only experience burn out and frustration.

If Grace is this important, how do we access it?

How do you get this grace? Where do you find it? Is it something that happens or something we seek out? Do we have to work for it, pray for it, or wait for it to “fall on us?”

The long answer.

We access this Grace of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as we employ the spiritual disciplines modeled and commanded by the pages of Scripture.

That shorter answer.

We can access the power of Grace through the spiritual disciplines! Things such as prayer, Bible reading, fasting, scripture memory, generosity, service, solitude, silence, celebration, and more.

How does Grace connect to the spiritual disciplines?

What purpose do things like reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, scripture memorization, and fasting have in your life? I assume you have tried some or all of these disciplines at some point.

For some, these activities are just what Christians are supposed to do. Maybe someone told you this is how you become a “good Christian.”

Others see these things as healthy habits that will make them better people.

Still, others are searching for some mystical experience that might take place as they seek God through the spiritual disciplines.

Let’s not forget those who pursue knowledge in an academic sense; those who feel insecure that they know so little of God that they open their Bible in the same ways they open their school books.

Do you relate to any of these? There is danger in the subtlety of these pursuits. They are noble and typically praised by many. But sadly, they miss the spirit of the disciplines and keep you from accessing the power of grace that you so desperately need to follow and imitate Jesus.

Here is how the disciplines are supposed to work

The purpose of the spiritual disciplines.

Each of the spiritual disciplines opens the opportunity for the grace of God to work in your life. Here are a few examples. 

  • Reading/Studying/Meditating/Memorizing the Bible is an apparent discipline that God commands us to pursue. As we open our Bible and engage in any of these disciplines, God’s grace becomes available to us. It may be that He convicts us of sin or encourages us to be obedient in an area we have never considered, but without opening the Bible, we will not have that opportunity. We must open the scriptures for this to be possible. 
  • Prayer is a spiritual discipline. As we communicate with God, we experience grace. This grace brings us peace from the worries of the world, it brings comfort and healing as we confess sin, and it brings hope as we trust God will do more than we can imagine (Eph 3:20). These are all a product of God’s grace in your life. You only experience them as you pray. 
  • Fasting is purposely removing food from your life for a spiritual purpose. As we fast, we become desperate for God in a new way. We come face to face with our dependency on food and replace that with dependence on God. We feel the constant hunger pains and tell God this pain is nothing compared to the pain of not experiencing whatever we need God to do. We tap into the grace of God in a new way when we participate in this discipline. 

And we could go on and on with the different disciplines. We could discuss disciples such as study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. I do not share these to overwhelm you but to open your eyes to the potential of God’s grace that could be working your life. You must learn more about these disciplines and practice them to experience the abundant life God has for you as you follow Jesus. 


  • How have you viewed the spiritual disciplines wrongly in the past?
  • Have you ever consider grace as a power that can work through you? How does thinking of it this way impact your relationship with God?
  • Which of the spiritual disciplines are you most familiar with? Which are you not?
  • What is one new spiritual discipline you want to learn about and apply to your life?