Noting the sense of renewal, excitement, and invigoration brought to the campus community through the beginning of a new semester, President Jason Allen opened Midwestern Seminary’s spring term with an Academic Convocation message in the Daniel Lee Chapel on Jan. 23.
Allen welcomed new students, and existing seminary community members alike, with a challenging message from Luke 19:1-10.
The story of Zacchaeus is one, Allen said, that’s far more than the song many learned when they were young. He noted it is one that “conveys the act, the heart, and the determination of our Savior to find a man and save him – a man who was most unlikely to be saved.”
Also in sharing of this story, Allen compared and contrasted Zacchaeus’ situation with that of the “rich, young ruler” from Luke 18.
“A sinner Jesus sought”
In Allen’s first point, he said that there was a sinner Jesus sought, and he did so intentionally. In explaining Zacchaeus’ character, Allen noted that Zacchaeus was wealthy from serving as the chief tax collector, and he was likely amongst the most despised person in society due to his corruption.
Allen added that wealth has differing effects on people. Some can be hardened to life while others can be left with emptiness and searching to fill a void. Zacchaeus was one that was left unsatisfied and looking for something fulfilling. Within this story, this likely left him looking for Jesus.
And Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus. He approached the small man in the sycamore tree and sought a relationship with him.
[quote]“Kingdom topography is always inverted,” Allen said. “Jesus delights in turning upside down the conventional wisdom and expectations of the world…Jesus reaches up, sees this sinner, calls him down, and Zacchaeus climbs down…This implodes the conventional religious wisdom of the first century based on merit, on works, on law-keeping, on outward appearance, on self-righteousness, but if we’re not careful we need it to implode the conventional religious wisdom of the 21st century as well.”[/quote]
“The salvation Jesus wrought”
The salvation Jesus wrought was Allen’s second point. In explaining this, Allen noted that when it comes to salvation, Jesus loves to save sinners. However, there are two types of people – those who accept Jesus and others who do not.
In the case of Zacchaeus and the rich, young ruler, you have two men that are quite similar. Both are in similar stations of life, similar states of heart, both are wealthy, both are seeking Jesus. However, one departs lost while the other finds salvation. They key between the two is that Zacchaeus expresses unqualified repentance. This was not the same effect found in the story of the rich, young ruler. His interaction was more transaction-like, and he was not willing to process it.
As a side note, Allen lamented that there is little repentance being preached in our time. “I am concerned with how little preaching on repentance we hear these days…When I was a kid, I heard repentance preached often. Repentance is a relic of a previous generation, not ringing from evangelical pulpits much or, even worse, perhaps being intentionally shelved because it may repel those who are visiting.
“Let me remind us this morning that repentance is a sweet word, an essential word, and a life-giving word,” he continued. “It is sweet act, a sweet expression, a sweet change of heart that is essential and life-giving as well. Without repentance, there is no conversion. Without repentance corporately, there is no revival.”
Allen further noted that this story is about the worth of a soul. Not many people would have thought that Zacchaeus would be a likely candidate for salvation, but Jesus placed his affection on Zacchaeus and saved him.
Understanding the sermon Jesus brought
Allen’s third point was to understand the sermon Jesus brought. In calling Zacchaeus a true “son of Abraham,” Jesus deeply offended the Pharisees. They were sons of Abraham physically, but because of his faith in Christ, Zacchaeus became one spiritually.
Jesus had come to seek and save the lost. Unfortunately, the rich, young ruler had not accepted Jesus’ offer, but Zacchaeus, on the other hand, had. As Christ’s followers, we should strive to do his work.
Allen concluded, “We ought to love what Jesus loves and like what Jesus likes. It’s always good to do what Jesus did in as much as we can. We are never more like our Christ than when we share his love and compassion for that which was lost.”