February 4, 2001
Going to Jerusalem
Luke 18:15--19:10

KEY VERSE: The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. -- Luke 19:10

Zaccheus was a hated tax collector. Why should Jesus pay attention to him? He was but one man Jesus chanced to meet on his way to Jerusalem. Why so much fuss over one sinner?

The answer is obvious. To our Lord one person counts, especially when that one individual is lost. Jesus did not attempt to build his ministry by courting the wealthy and influential. He was always looking for the person who needed him, the one who was interested in a relationship with God. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus taking time to minister to individuals who needed his love, forgiveness, or healing.

Those of us who exercise leadership in the church should study the story of Zaccheus and learn from it. While there may be many sermonic points we can draw from this story, we must not fail to see the main point, which is that Jesusí primary mission was to seek and to save the lost.

What has this to do with the church? It is a warning to the church not to become so absorbed with programs and activities that it fails to observe the lonely sinners who can be so easily overlooked. Running church programs can consume so much energy that, unlike our Lord, we can fail to see a Zaccheus sitting on a tree limb. The great danger is that pastors and key leaders can, while running the church, run right by individuals in need of salvation. When that happens, and we become oblivious to the lost all around us, then the church becomes a pleasant irrelevancy. It is exactly for that reason that the church is largely ignored by modern society. And such churches deserve to be ignored!

That church which fails to focus on seeking the lost so that the Lord may save them from their sins is not worth its salt. We dare not spend our days maintaining the church, and oiling its machinery, to the extent that we have no time to offer the good news of salvation to the lost Zaccheus who is at our doorstep.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. That remains the essential business of Christís church. Thus the only reason to ever have a watermelon-cutting at the church is so that around the tables we may notice a man or woman, a boy or a girl, to whom we can offer the saving hospitality of God.

Like its Lord, the church must notice lost persons, befriend them, and offer them the chance to fall in love with Jesus and be saved from their sins.