Sunday, May 29, 2022 Brad’s manuscript
Salvation for the Outcast
Everyone likes a good story, I think. Stories entertain us. They make us think. They capture our attention. They teach us. They make us laugh and cry.
The Bible is full of stories. In fact, approximately ½ of the Bible is stories. Sometimes serious stories. Sometimes very sad. Sometimes ones with a very good ending.
God teaches us through stories
This morning we’ll read two simple stories from Luke. Turn in your Bibles to Luke 18.
- One of these stories is about a poor blind man who is desperate for healing.
- The other is about a rich tax collector, Zacchaeus, an outcast in Jewish society, who surprises us with his humble faith in Jesus.
Before we read those, I want to quickly review what has preceded these stories.
- Two weeks ago, we read a parable from Jesus about praying persistently and not giving up.
- Last week, we read the story of a rich young ruler who seemed to want life from Jesus, but we discovered his first love was money, not God.
Both those passages are going to connect to today’s stories.
We’ll compare them more in depth later.
Luke 18:35-43 [ESV]
Now let’s begin reading the first fascinating story.
35 As he [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.
36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.
37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him,
41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”
42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”
43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
This story is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mark tells us this blind man’s name is Bartimaeus.
Bartimaeus is a desperate man. He is blind, and so unable to work for a living. By his poverty and inability to do meaningful and paying work, he is forced in humiliation to beg for help from anyone who passes by. It’s hard to imagine being in a much lower, more desperate place.
But on this day, he hears a commotion on the road. Finding out it’s Jesus, he begins loudly calling out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And then of course, his kind neighbors who were in front by the road, do the nice thing: They tell him, “Shut up!” How nice of them. They find him annoying.
So Barty, of course, listens to his neighbors, right? No! Instead of being quiet, he hollers all the more and all the louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Over the years every time I read this, I smile. The scene reminds of a family at home. Little brother keeps talking and asking for things, but the older siblings tell him to shut up. And does little brother comply? Of course not. He asks even more.
Bartimaeus is not shouting to annoy his neighbors. He is simply determined to get Jesus’ attention.
Perhaps surprisingly to the crowd, Jesus hears this blind beggar and calls for him. Bartimaeus then approaches Jesus, who asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus wants to hear what this man is so desperate about.
Bartimaeus asks for one thing: One simple yet very profound thing. He wants to see. He is blind and shut off from the world. He can’t work. He is humiliated to beg. He just wants to see.
And Jesus so kindly and so powerfully simply gives a command: “Recover your sight.”
Imagine being in the crowd that day. You know Barty quite well. He’s there by the road every day. Occasionally you have talked to him. Occasionally you have given him a little money. Just 5 minutes earlier you were yelling at him to shut up, thinking, “You’re bothering me. Plus, Jesus is too busy and too important for you!” Now here is this miraculous moment—Jesus’ last miracle before his crucifixion.
Bartimaeus is now overjoyed. He is leaping and dancing for joy. And you can’t help but smile for him… even though you also feel a bit sheepish. You tried to shut him up, and look now at what happened.
Bartimaeus is praising God, and he begins to follow Jesus. His life on this earth will never be the same again. He can now live normally. He can see his family. His wife’s stress over money will drop, for now he can work. No wonder he wants to follow Jesus. Such a beautiful moment.
But what a contrast to just a day or so before. The story we read last week. Jesus was approached by a rich young ruler. A man who had everything. Money, influence, youthfulness. Jesus challenges the young man about his idol. The idol of money. But this young man is unwilling to give it up. He says he loves God, but he loves money instead. And he walks away sad.
This rich, young man has everything, but he leaves with nothing.
Bartimaeus had nothing, but he leaves with everything.
What a contrast!
One author calls this The Great Reversal. A theme we see throughout Luke’s Gospel.
The Great Reversal. Those who seem to have everything walk away from Jesus with nothing. Those who seem to have nothing to offer Jesus find everything. Forgiveness, healing, salvation, life.
So what makes the difference? Who finds God’s blessing and salvation power?
The one who humbly recognizes the need for God’s mercy.
Who is rich before God?
The one who follows Jesus by faith. Because God’s treasure comes through faith in his Son.
Others may have more money. Better health. More talent. More advantages in life. But for the one who has nothing, yet knows Jesus and is humble before him, that person is richer.
Luke’s Gospel calls to us: “See who Jesus is, just as the blind man did.”
Several important points here with some application for us.
First, Bartimaeus has a tenacious, persistent faith.
The crowd is annoyed by him shouting for Jesus, and they attempt to silence him. But what does he do in response? He shouts out all the more.
We note that Bartimaeus confessed who Jesus is. He called out for “Jesus, the Son of David.” This is a faith-filled acknowledgement that Jesus is the Messiah from God who has been prophesied about for more than 1000 years.
If we had time, we could go back to Chapters 1-3 where Luke references OT prophecies that a descendant of David—a Son of David— was going to rule forever over the people of Israel. Bartimaeus believed that Jesus was the One.
And so he wouldn’t stop calling out for Jesus’ help. Do you remember the parable Jesus taught earlier in Luke 18? That we should always pray and not give up? Bartimaeus is doing that. Essentially Barty is praying to Jesus. That’s all prayer is, is talking to God. So here is the Son of God walking around as a man, so Barty talks to him directly.
He is so desperate and so faith-filled that he will not be silenced until Jesus tells him, “No.”
So let me ask two questions to us.
The first question.
Are we growing in our confidence that Jesus is the Answer to Life and Death, that he is the Only Hope for the World?
I can’t think of a better starting place—nor a better ending place—than to pray and to seek to be utterly persuaded that Jesus is THE Answer for Life. All other things in this world that promise life are puny and insignificant—actually utter vanity—compared to Jesus. To know Jesus better as the One True Answer—the True Hope of the World— is not something we learn as a young Christian and then set it aside to move on to better things. This is THE THING. Jesus is not the ABC’s of the Christian life. He is the A to Z. We start and end with Jesus. And everywhere in between.
Have we meditated on Jesus so much from the Scriptures that we like this impoverished blind man convinced that he is the long-awaited Messiah? The Redeemer? The Savior? Are we paying attention when we read the Bible? When we hear sermons? When we sing worship songs?
Jesus is revealed in this Book.
Think of the names and titles given to him in the Gospels:
- Living Water.
- Lamb of God.
- Bread of Life.
- The Way, the Truth, the Life.
- The Resurrection.
- The Son of God.
- Immanuel, meaning God with us.
- The Light of the World.
- The Good Shepherd.
Like Bartimaeus, let us grow in confidence that Jesus is our Only Hope in life.
Read your Bible to know him better.
Pray persistently that you would know him better, and therefore to trust him more.
The second question.
Are we persistent in our prayers of faith?
Are we as tenacious as Barty, clinging to God in prayer for our needs, committed in our plea for mercy?
A confidence in Jesus like Bartimaeus had keeps us asking for mercy. And even when the crowds—and our circumstances— tell us to stop praying, we persist. We shout to the Lord even louder.
Is there something we’ve given up on in prayer?
Is there something we’ve neglected praying for?
Or someone we’ve neglected to pray for?
May Bartimaeus’s tenacious and persistent faith motivate us to pray.
One other truth we note about this blind man:
Second, Bartimaeus is humble.
He doesn’t demand Jesus’ help. He pleads for it. He calls out, “Have mercy on me!”
By the very definition of “mercy”, Bartimaeus knows he doesn’t deserve help. He cannot boss Jesus around.
This is cry of humility. Of knowing God’s gloriously exalted position and man’s own lowly position. Though Bartimaeus has nothing, we get no sense of entitlement from him. No sense that he thinks God owes him something.
In our prayers to God, we remember that God owes us nothing. We owe him everything.
So we don’t approach God with a tightened fist demanding that he be our Genie in a Bottle and give us our three wishes.
Instead, we approach him with an open hand. In humility, crying out for mercy from him. Though we don’t deserved his kindness and compassion, we humbly ask. And we do this because we know he is so merciful and kind.
Not long ago, in some health trials my wife and I were encountering, I was discouraged and angry. Ultimately, I realized my anger was toward God. I was angry for the trial and that there seemed to be no way out. One day as I realized I was making demands of God. I thought I deserved better and that he ought to do what I tell him to do. God humbled me, and I had to repent of my arrogance.
Are there any demands we have made to the Lord?
Is there any attitude of entitlement that we need to repent of?
Are there prayers of mercy we’ve offered up, and when they didn’t get answered in the way we wanted, we became bitter and angry?
If so, we need to confess our pride and then freshly acknowledge that he is the Lord and we are not. That He is the Potter and you are the Clay? And may we be thankful people, who are on the lookout for God’s mercy to us in large and small ways every day. I know I can be oblivious to the many gracious and merciful acts of God in my life every day. Personally, I’m learning to be more thankful.
May we like Bartimaeus humble ourselves before this great and glorious God.
Third, we see extraordinary compassion by Jesus.
In humility as we that God is great and we are small, and we could despair in hopelessness. But our God is great in compassion. When we read the Gospels, we get the idea that Jesus is busy. He constantly has crowds of people who need his help.
And Jesus has the weight of the world literally on his shoulders. In just over a week, he will be nailed to a cross and bear the guilt and shame of all the evil of the world. From the smallest sins done in private, to the greatest sins in public, even a school shooting in Texas. At this moment with this poor blind man, Jesus is carrying an indescribable weight.
Yet here he is, caring for this nobody. For this outcast. This blind beggar who is annoying the crowds. Jesus’ words here are so sweet. Something we ought to remember in our prayers. He says, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Oh my. How refreshingly tender. “What do you want me to do for you?” Can you picture Jesus asking you this?
Though our God is full of splendor and majesty and glory, he is so intimate. So tender. We can wonder how can such seemingly extreme and opposite qualities reside in one person?
What is your view of God? Do you see him as compassionate and tender?
A verse I am re-memorizing…one that I first memorized 40 years ago…has been sweet to my soul the past month.
Isaiah 54:10 NIV “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Though the earth shake and collapse around me….though my world comes crashing down…YET…YET…God’s unfailing love for me will never collapse. His peace towards me through the precious gospel of Jesus will never be removed.
Who promises this? The Lord of all compassion. The God of tenderness and mercy.
Do we see Jesus as hard nosed? Demanding? Unpleasable? Such attitudes need to be repented of. For he is the God of tenderness and unfailing love.
What a Savior we have! The story of this blind man’s encounter with Jesus reveals such glory to us.
Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus
Now let’s read our second story.
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through.
2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.
3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.
4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
5 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.”
6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
8 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.”
9 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.”
It begins with some interesting details. Zacchaeus was wealthy. But he was a tax collector. The way he got wealthy was to extort money from people for their taxes. More than was required by the Roman government. Essentially he was stealing, and he became very wealthy. For this reason, Jewish tax collectors like him were despised by their fellow Jews, for they were in collusion with the Roman government and they were extortionists.
For whatever reason, Zacchaeus was hungry to see Jesus and to know him. He humiliates himself….This grown man climbing up a tree. But Jesus takes notice. And he speaks to him. In fact, he invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house.
Zacchaeus was thrilled. He was this lowly, despised Jewish tax collector, but Jesus wanted to be with him!
Zacchaeus’s response is so much different than the young ruler we read about last week. The rich ruler left sad. Zacchaeus was glad.
What is the difference? The rich ruler would not yield. In pride, he would not give up his god called money.
Zacchaeus, however, was hungry and faith-filled. In humility and repentance, he relinquished his hold on money and publicly committed to give away half of what he owned to the poor. And to anyone he had defrauded? He would give back to them times four.
Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house.”
So was Jesus saying that Zacchaeus was saved because he gave money away? That would be contrary to the gospel of grace through faith. Jesus said, “Salvation has come because Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham.” What does that mean? Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham because he walked by faith. Abraham was a man of faith and was declared righteous— he was saved— because he had faith in the living God.
Lessons from Zacchaeus
What are some lessons from this story of this short, sinful, tax collector?
First, he demonstrates faith by his repentance.
Zacchaeus’s faith is shown by his repentance.
His sins, at least in part, have been greed, corruption and extortion. So his commitment to give away half of all he has to the poor and repaying anyone he extorted—this is an earnest act of repentance. It’s one thing to say you’re sorry, but it’s quite another thing to humbly, sincerely SHOW your sorrow over sin. Zacchaeus is not buying God’s favor. He is not trying to appease an angry God. He simply is now so united with Christ that he is casting off anything that hinders his walk with Jesus.
You see, faith looks like something. Foundationally, faith is simply trusting someone. But it’s not a nebulous, mystical thing. It looks like something. Faith is demonstrated by deeds, including deeds of repentance.
I like how one author described repentance.
“Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, an inward turning from sin to God, which is known by its fruit—obedience. It is hating what you once loved and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ. The true repenter is cast on God. Faith is his only option.” (Jim Eliff),
I love that last line: Faith is his only option. His only hope is the stunning forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Such forgiveness cannot be bought. True repentance is not a payment to appease an angry God. Only Christ’s blood can and does do that. Repentance is running back to the Cross after we’ve run away from it.
What can we do? Here are some simple and very general ideas.
- Pray Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”
Ask him if there is any sin that is hindering an intimate walk with him?
- If there is, confess it to God. Tell him you love him and you hate the sin.
- Thank him for the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.
- If the sin has impacted other people, confess to them. No excuses. No “if’s” or “but’s” or “maybe’s.”
- Ask others to pray for you.
- Get advice on how to grow. Follow that advice. And if it’s a habitual sin, get advice on developing a plan to grow in Christlikeness.
Let us be like Zacchaeus and be men and women who walk in humble, faith-filled repentance.
A second lesson:
Second, Jesus’ purpose on earth is clear: to seek and save the lost
He said, “I came to seek and save the lost.”
Jesus was a great teacher. A perfect moral example. A prophet from God. But we can’t stop with just that. We have to understand that his overarching purpose was to save lost souls. Jesus came for the broken. For the downcast. For the lowly. For the sinners. Even an extortionist like this despised tax collector.
And we remember that Jesus initiated in Zacchaeus’s life. He saw this grown man sitting up in a tree, and he called to him and told him he was going to the man’s house. Jesus knew what kind of man he was dealing with. But he saw the man’s hunger for life.
Two errors we can have:
- Thinking we are too good for Jesus.
- Thinking we are too sinful for Jesus.
The first error has misplaced confidence. It has a heart of SELF-righteousness. We think we are more than fine on our own.
It’s the problem of the Jewish leaders.
And what also comes with this is a harshness of judgment toward all those sinners out there. It’s exactly what the crowd said when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’s house. When we think we’re too good for Jesus, we’re quick to criticize others, but we don’t keep our own house in order.
So the first error is we think we’re too good for Jesus.
The second error, that we are too sinful for Jesus, has too little confidence in the Savor. We think we’re too dirty. Too broken. Unfixable. We’re an irredeemable outcast. And we have too low of a view of Jesus. In pride, we despair because we seem TOO dirty. And we simply walk in doubt and unbelief in the rich mercy of Jesus and the cleansing power of his blood that was shed and his resurrection that conquered death.
Whatever error we tend to succumb to, we must all remember what we’ve seen in Luke’s Gospel.
Story after story of people who were brought low, but Jesus sought them and saved them. .
- The sinful woman (in Luke 7) who wept over Jesus’ feet in the Pharisee’s home, and Jesus forgave her many sins.
- Ten lepers (in Luke 17) who were outcasts of society, but Jesus healed them. And the only one who came back to worship was a lowly Samaritan.
- The blind beggar named Bartimaeus who had no hope, but Jesus gave him sight.
- Zacchaeus, a lying, cheating, greedy extortionist who was hated by the people, but he found a place with Jesus.
So today, do we remember the simple yet profound gospel message? That salvation and forgiveness and hope is found only in Jesus, who so willingly and mercifully and lovingly offers it to us?
He tells us to come down from the tree, for he is coming to our house.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus, the Holy Son of God, knew no sin. He was holy and pure. But on the Cross, my sin was placed on him.
And when I believed that, his righteousness was placed on me.
This is sometimes called the Great Exchange. Our sin is exchanged for his righteousness.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Let us humbly receive that. And let us rejoice with all our hearts.
Let me conclude with this.
In these two stories—Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus— we find a beautiful summary of much of Jesus’ teaching and work at a practical level.
Who has access to God’s blessing and salvation power? The one who recognizes the need for God’s mercy.
Who is rich before God? The one who follows Jesus by faith, for God’s treasure comes through faith.
Who can find our Savior to be full of compassion? The one who humbly calls out for help.
What a Savior we have. Let us rejoice in him.