Lost and Found - Luke 19:1-10
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
I wonder if anyone can tell me what all these things have in common? A map, a compass (Acetate 1- Compass), and a signpost (Acetate 2- Signpost). Well they are all things to stop us getting lost and to help us find our way. But sometimes you get so lost that you need someone to come and find you. And in fact that happened to me just recently. I was in a maze made of green bushes, and I got so lost that I needed someone to come and find me otherwise I would have been there all night!
Now this morning we're going to hear about another man who was lost and who was then found. And his name was Zacchaeus, who we'll call Zac for short. And we may think that this is just a funny story about a man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. But actually the writer of the story, a man called Luke, tells us the story because we can learn some very important things for ourselves. So let's look at this story together, and you'll find it in Luke 19 vv 1-10, so you can follow the story along! And we'll learn two things for ourselves this morning which everyone in this building needs to hear:
1) We are all lost
2) We can all be found
1) We are all lost
(Acetate 3- Titles, Part 1) And the first thing we discover from this story is that we are all lost. And that was Zac's problem too. So let me introduce you to Zac. (Acetate 4- Wealthy Man) I guess if he was around today, that's what he'd look like! Now Zac was a very rich man. He fact he was so rich he didn't know what to do with all his money. I expect he had all the latest gadgets a first century man could dream of. Holiday home by the Sea of Galilee, posh new kitchen and swimming pool, (Acetate 5- Camel) and the dream of every rich man at that time, a special edition, fuel injected camel, the fastest on the road. Yes Zac had everything! So what did he do for a job? Well he was a tax collector. (Acetate 6- Tax collector) And not only was he a tax collector, but he was the chief tax collector, the man who looked after all the tax collectors. And it was Zac's job to go round all the people collecting their money and giving it to the rulers of the land. And in those days the taxes were very high because the Romans were the rulers of the land. But not only did Zac collect all the taxes, but he also would add on a bit extra for himself. So he became very rich indeed. (Acetate 7- No mates Zac) And not surprisingly, the people hated Zac. He had very few friends, and everyone thought he was horrible!
But then one day something very special happened. (Acetate 8- Jesus and the crowd) Jesus was passing through Zac's home town of Jericho, and Zac had heard about Jesus. I expect Zac had heard about all the amazing things Jesus had done, things like calming a storm, raising the dead, healing serious diseases. I expect he'd heard about all the amazing teaching Jesus had given about how he was the Way to God, about how he was the one who could give everyone new life and forgiveness. No wonder Zac wanted to meet Jesus. But there was a problem. (Acetate 9- Zac behind a crowd). Zac was a little bit small. And he couldn't see Jesus because the crowds were so big. How on earth was Zac going to get to see Jesus? And then he had a brilliant idea! He saw a large sycamore tree on the road up ahead where Jesus was walking to. So Zac ran on ahead, climbed the tree and had a perfect view. (Acetate 10- Zac up the tree) Now Zac must have been really keen to see Jesus. Because it can't have been easy to climb the tree. Zac was a well respected official in the town. Fancy climbing a tree! It would be like the mayor of Hull climbing a tree on Beverley Road so he could get a better look at the bus carrying the Hull City players at the end of last season! It must have looked very strange!
But do you know something? The plan worked. Jesus walked up to tree, saw Zac sitting half way up, and said in verse 5: "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." And Zac was absolutely thrilled! "My house? Now? Wow! That's amazing! Jesus is coming to my house for tea!" And he rushed off to put the kettle on. (Acetate 11- Zac with Jesus) And the fact that Jesus came to Zac's house is all the more amazing because Zac was what the crowd called a "sinner" in verse 7. The crowd knew that Zac had broken all the rules. He'd hurt others and he'd hurt himself, and he'd not done what God had asked. So he wasn't friends with any of the people and far more seriously he wasn't friends with God. So Zac actually was in a desperate position before Jesus called him down from that tree. He was, in fact, lost. It wasn't that he was lost and couldn't find the way home. He wasn't that kind of lost. But he was lost in his life, a life without God. His life was a mess and he needed help!
And the Bible tells us that actually each one of us are in that situation. Now we might not have done as many bad things as Zac. We may not have hurt people as much as Zac did. In fact, our lives may on the outside be very happy and good. But actually God still says we are lost without him. So what does it mean to be lost? (Acetate 12- "Lost"- reveal each point as it comes up) Well the Bible uses a number of illustrations to show us what it means for us to be lost.
Let me show you what I mean by referring to what has happened in the last few weeks in Portugal with Euro 2004. I guess quite a few of us will have watched the football, and actually we can understand what the Bible says by seeing it in terms of a game of football. Because first the Bible tells us that we have broken the law. And sometimes players have done things which are wrong. They've fouled other players, or had an argument with the ref. They've broken the laws and they get a yellow card. The players need to be punished. And each of us have broken God's laws, and like footballers, God has to punish us because we've broken his laws. We've not done what he has told us to do, such as to love him with all our hearts and to love others as ourselves. Secondly, the Bible says we missed the target. Now, I don't need to tell you who famously failed to hit the target on Thursday night. If you don't know, his name's David and he's got a nice wife called Victoria. But if you don't hit the target, you fail. And we too have failed to hit God's target. He wants us to follow him and be his people, but we don't want to. We want to do what pleases us, not him. We've missed the target. And then thirdly we have fallen short. And that's been true in the football. In Group B, England's group, Switzerland only got 1 point. They fell short of the standard. And so they went home early. And with God we too have fallen short. God's standard is 100%, and none of us have met the grade. And so we deserve to be booted out of the tournament, so to speak. We don't deserve to be with God in heaven and to be friends with him.
Now we might say: "Yes, I agree that there are some people like that. Like murderers and thieves and Swiss referees and the like. But not me, surely! I'm a good person. I help others!" But the Bible makes it clear, that although we may have hurt others perhaps as badly as some people have done, yet we all have the same problem. We're all lost. We've broken God's laws, we've missed his target and we've fallen short of his perfect standards. And it's a very dangerous place to be in! Because like a good referee, God will penalise us for our wrong doings. And we're going to have to face the consequences. So whether we like it or not, we are all lost!
2) We can all be found
(Acetate 1 again- Titles) But there's a second thing we can learn from this amazing story about Zac and that is that although like Zac we're all lost, yet like Zac we can all be found. Because that is exactly what happened to Zac. Let's go back to the story and find out what happened. (Acetate 13- Zac with Jesus) So do you remember where we left Zac? He was with Jesus having tea in his house. And do you remember what he was like? (Acetate 14- Nasty rich man) He loved money, and he didn't care how he got it! But then something amazing happens in verse 8: "But Zacchaeus stood up and said to Jesus, 'Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.'" (Acetate 15- Zac giving) He stands up and says to Jesus that he's going to pay back everyone he has stolen money from and he's going to give much of his money to the poor. Isn't that amazing? The man who loved money is suddenly giving it all away and saying sorry to those he's hurt. So how has that change come about?
Well Jesus gives us the answer in verse 9: "Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man [that's Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.'" Jesus says that salvation has come to Zac's house. In other words Jesus has come had has forgiven Zac for all his wrong doing. And Zac's response was to get rid of all the money he'd stolen from others and follow Jesus. It's not as if Zac has bought his way into heaven. No, you cannot do that! Rather he's found in Jesus forgiveness and a fresh start and he has shown that by the way he uses his money! It's an amazing change in someone isn't it? And what does Jesus say? (Acetate 16- Text) "For the Son of Man [that's Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost." That's the whole point of Jesus' mission. It's to save lost people like Zac.
And do you know the even more amazing thing? Jesus came for lost people like you and me as well! We can be forgiven for the way we've mucked up and offended God and hurt others. And we can be friends with God again! So how can that be? Well the answer is not in what we do, but in what Jesus does for us. (Acetate 17- "Lost-ness") Do you remember how we are lost. Do you remember that we have broken God's law, missed the target, and fallen short of God's standards. And we said that God as the referee must penalise us for our wrong doing. But what if someone else could come in as a substitute for us? What if someone could step into our shoes and take the punishment we deserve for hurting God and others. Wouldn't that be amazing!
To help explain this, I need one brave volunteer who thinks they are good at football! Now I want you (volunteer) to see if you can keep this ball up for 30 seconds. Now bear in mind that there is a prize for doing it! But there is also a punishment for failure! (Volunteer fails!) Oh dear! I'm sorry to say that you have failed. And you will have to receive the penalty for failure which is a pie in the face. But there is good news. Because my friend Dave here has said that he is willing to take the punishment you deserve on your behalf. (Pie in Dave's face!)
You see it would be amazing if someone could just step into our shoes like that and take the punishment we deserve for offending God and breaking his rules. But amazingly that is exactly what has happened. (Acetate 18- Cross) Because when Jesus died on the cross, Jesus was taking the punishment we deserve. He died in our place, as our substitute so that we could be forgiven and given a fresh start, friendship with God and a place in his kingdom for ever. Can you imagine anything better than that? It's far better than England even winning the World Cup in 2006. Being friends with God again is the best news in the world. And actually it is what life was made for. And it's available today for us to accept through what Jesus has done for us.
And that is what Jesus meant when he said that he came to seek and to save what was lost. It's what this story about Zac is here in the Bible for. (Acetate 19- Text again) Jesus came to save and find people like you and me who are lost without God. And that leaves each one of us with a challenge to think about this morning. We need to admit we are lost without God. We've broken God's laws, we've fallen short of God's ways, we've missed the goal of the creator's standards. We deserve his punishment. And we need to receive Jesus' rescue, to allow him to be our substitute so he takes the rap for us. Because if we don't we'll have to take it ourselves, because we're just not good enough for heaven. And that's a terrible thing to have to take. But if like Zac we take Jesus up on his offer, then a new life begins with God today and lasts for eternity. And we can go home rejoicing that Jesus came and found us. So would you like that? Well if so why not pray with me now as we finish.
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