Has Christmas ever made you wonder who Jesus really is and why he came?
We chose the Bible verse above for our text of 2022 because it helps answer that question for us just after Christmas. We’re looking at Luke’s account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus at the moment and this is a really good summary verse for who Jesus is and why he came, so maybe it’s a good place to start.
1. Jesus – the Son of Man
Jesus calls himself the Son of Man. That seems a bit of a strange way to refer to yourself, but Jesus is referring to a prophecy from a few hundred years before that we find in the book of Daniel in the Bible. There we read:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.(Dan. 7:13-14 ESV)
The “Ancient of Days” is God who is giving the “son of man” an everlasting worldwide kingdom. Saying he is the “Son of Man” is a way of Jesus saying he is God’s king or Christ. He is the one who had been promised by God for centuries and who the Jewish people were longing for.
2. Us – The Lost
How does Jesus describe us? Well it’s maybe not particularly flattering, but he describes us as “the lost.” The idea of being lost comes in a sequence of stories Jesus told just a few chapters earlier in Luke where we have the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15). The picture is of people who have become separated (lost) from God because of their sin.
Jesus then grounds that for us in a real person and a real situation. He says the words of our text after a man called Zacchaeus has become his follower. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, which, in the time of Jesus, meant he was thought of as the worst kind of sinner. He had committed treason by being a Jew who worked for the hated Romans to collect taxes from Jews. He was also a fraudster, who while collecting taxes had collected a whole load more for himself. So in terms of his relationship with God, he was lost.
Now some of us will readily recognise ourselves in Zacchaeus. We don’t need anyone to tell us that we’re a million miles from God and that we have rebelled against him and his ways. We know we’ve done a million things that we’re ashamed of, without even getting into what God would think of them. The “tax collectors and sinners” in Jesus’ day often seemed to just get Jesus, because they knew they were lost. If that’s you, be encouraged – Jesus came for you, however bad you might think you are.
Some of us struggle with that though. “I’m not a Zacchaeus. There’s nothing particularly bad about me. There are much worse people.” In Jesus’ day there were lots of people who were the same. Some of those people “grumbled” when Jesus went to see Zacchaeus (Luke 19:7) and some grumbled in general that he spent time with people like Zacchaeus (15:2). It seems they didn’t think they were lost.
The kicker is that in one of Jesus stories about the lost he includes another character – the older brother of the lost son (Luke 15:25-32). He’s never “sinned” in all the obvious ways like his brother. He never thought he was lost. And yet he ended up angry at his father for forgiving his brother and the father represents God in the story, so he’s angry at God.
The point is: beware thinking you’re too good to be lost. It shows that you are lost! We may have lived what look like “good” lives, but we all know there are plenty of things in our lives that we’d be ashamed if people knew. Well God does know. In particular, he knows that we have by and large lived lives that ignore him and his standards. That means we’re sinners and we’re lost!
3. To Seek and Save
The good news is that God doesn’t leave us lost. The angels told the shepherds about Jesus when he was born:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.(Luke 2:11 ESV)
Jesus is the one who came with the purpose of seeking lost people like you and me and saving us – bringing us back to God. That’s the reason Christians get excited about Jesus and want you to know him. Because Jesus can restore your relationship with the God of the universe and bring you into his forever kingdom – what will ultimately be heaven.
If sin is what took us away from God, then Jesus must deal with sin to bring us back to God. That’s what it means to save us. He did that on the cross where he died in our place for our sins, so we could be forgiven.
All that’s left for us is to turn from that sin and trust Jesus are our king and saviour – we accept the free gift of his salvation. That’s what Zacchaeus did, proving it by his actions:
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.”(Luke 19:8 ESV)
So it’s a good text for us this year at Rochdale Evangelical Church. It reminds us of how wonderful God has been to us in sending Jesus to seek and save us. It reminds us that we’re not special – we were just as lost as the next person until Jesus came and found us. And it reminds us of what we want other people to know about Jesus – that he came to seek and save lost people like them.
If you’d like to know more you could join us on a Sunday (2:30pm at the Watkin Street Scout Hut), listen to some of the messages on Luke as we dig into more about Jesus or maybe read Luke’s book about Jesus for yourself.