Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
What exactly does it mean to mock God?
The Greek word used here in this verse is,
mukterizo (mook-tay-rid’-zo) specifically having to do with the nostrils,
to turn up the nose or sneer at, to mock
Merriam-Webster defines the word,
to treat with contempt or ridicule
to jeer or scoff at
to defy or challenge
Mockery always finds its source in an attitude of pride. To have an upturned nose, and to look down upon someone or something. There are several occasions in the Old Testament where God responds to this kind of prideful mockery.
Zephaniah 2:8-10 (God pronounces judgment on Moab and Ammon)
“I have heard the reproach of Moab and the insults of the Ammonites, who have taunted My people and threatened their borders.
Therefore, as surely as I live,” declares the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, “surely Moab will be like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah—a place of weeds and salt pits, a perpetual wasteland. The remnant of My people will plunder them; the remainder of My nation will dispossess them. This they shall have in return for their pride, for taunting and mocking the people of the LORD of Hosts.”
2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (The Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar)
Again and again the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to His people through His messengers because He had compassion on them and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD against His people was stirred up beyond remedy.
Notice how verse 16 says, “despising His words.”
To mock God does not always mean blatantly ridiculing His divine character or Holy name.
More often, it has to do with making a mockery of His statutes and principles by disregarding His wisdom and instructions and thereby showing contempt for His Word. Whenever we turn our nose up and scoff at God’s Word, or when we attempt to oppose and defy His will, we are in essence mocking His very nature.
We are assuming that we’re able to establish our own kingdom, to pursue our own endeavors by whatever means we deem necessary, and without all the hoopla of having to adhere to some rigorous moral standards.
The Word of God makes clear that we are to exemplify His goodness in all that we do, so that it may go well with us and that we may prosper. There is an established paradigm.
However, if I am able to achieve my own success by way of selfish shortcuts and treacherous dealings, then I didn’t have to bother myself with some ‘divine dictator’ or ‘religious rulebook.’
If such were possible, then I will have made a mockery of God’s Word.
He says in His Word, “it must be done this way,” but I do it my own way instead.
For instance, let’s say that I’m a hotshot business investor, and with the goal of growing my own company name, I’ve seen fit to lie and cheat and backstab, in order to come out ahead of the competition and acquire the most profit. By all outward observation, it would appear as though I’ve prospered. That my selfish ambition and greed has paid off. I will have managed to achieve personal success and accomplish my goal, even if it were at the expense of others. After all, what’s that to me, now that I’ve gotten what I wanted all along?
My way has paid off in the end right? No.
Let’s go back to Galatians 6:7
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Here, Paul writes of a divine principle that is universal and unchanging. This truth is communicated by using an agricultural understanding of sowing and reaping. Whatever type of seed a person chooses to plant, this is the same type of crop they can expect to harvest. One should not plant vineyards of tomatoes and expect to harvest bushels of strawberries instead.
You may be sure of this, that whatever is sown and cultivated, this is what shall be reaped.
Keep in mind that this analogy was given in a time well before the conveniences of grocery stores and fast food shops. There weren’t options on every corner. This is also why seasons of rain and harvest times were so important. The simple fact was that whatever you reap is what you will have to eat.
This Scripture begins with a warning, “Do not be deceived.” Obviously, this implies the potential of falling into deception and error. How might one become deceived in this? The answer is found in the latter half of the verse, which gives the example of sowing and reaping. In the process of agriculture, the cause and the effect are not immediately evident. There is always a lapse in time between the sowing and the reaping. Between that which is buried beneath the soil, and that which manifests to the surface.
A person might be able to fool themselves for a time, into believing that sowing seeds of selfishness and unrighteousness will yield more benefit than sowing seeds of sacrifice and servitude for the sake of God’s will.
But this is not so. As we see in the following verse,
For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
The Greek word used here for ‘corruption’ conveys the process of decomposition which takes place in death. Paul is saying that the one who sows in order to satisfy their flesh, will from the flesh reap the corruption or decay of death. It is fleeting and empty. Worthless.
On the other hand, the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life which is everlasting. It is eternal. Priceless.
Therefore, sowing is very similar to investing. Whenever someone chooses to make an investment, the wise decision is to invest in something which appreciates in value, rather than depreciates.
Sowing to the flesh is investing into that which is and perishable and passing away. There is no lasting substance.
The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness will reap a sure reward.
Notice the stark contrast.
The Hebrew word used for deceptive is
sheqer (sheh’-ker) deceitful, falsehood, fraudulent
that which deceives, disappoints, or betrays
The wages of sin are deceitful and fraudulent. Although they typically provide a measure of instant gratification, they will inevitably disappoint and betray the one who trusts in them. They promise, but cannot deliver. In the end, they always take more than they ever give.
Whereas, the one who sows in righteousness will reap a sure reward. It is certain, guaranteed.
These men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of all who are greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Notice that those who are plotting an ambush for the lives of the righteous, actually end up losing their own blood.
See, you assume you have succeeded in taking something, that it has added to you, when the truth is, it has actually robbed you. It is not gain but loss.
Judas Iscariot thought he was making a good investment when he betrayed Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver. Yet, once he realized the worthlessness of those coins in light of the sin he had just committed, he attempted to return the silver and then went and hung himself.
A life is built in the same way a building is constructed.
One brick at a time.
Throughout our lives, we make choices one situation at a time, moment by moment.
And with each of these momentary decisions, we set in place another brick.
Therefore, the kind of life and character that is built from our decision-making depends upon the countless individual choices that went into its construction. In essence, we are the culmination of our choices.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
There’s a similar idea put forth from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
We have this concept where we’re constantly distinguishing the ‘big things’ from the ‘little things.’
But the truth is, the big things are made up of the little things. It is by remaining consistent and faithful in the small matters, that we are preparing ourselves for the larger matters.
While it’s certainly true that some decisions have more significant ramifications than others, the focus of attention should not be so much on the decision, but on the decider.
If we are to get to the source, we must first identify the character.
Jesus Himself says,
“Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
It’s about integrity and consistency.
As it’s written in 2 Corinthians 5:17- If you are in Christ, then you are a new creation, the old things have passed away. He has now placed His Spirit within you and He has given you a new nature.
Scripture teaches us that righteousness is something we practice, something we exercise. It must be expressed. There’s a phrase in martial arts, “You become how you train.”
Whatever individual circumstances may arise, these are simply opportunities which allow for the expression of whatever the inner nature consists of.
1 John 2:29
If you know that He is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
1 John 3:7
Little children, let no one lead you astray; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
According to the spiritual, what you sow, you also reap. And what you reap, you must eat.
Therefore, you inevitably become synonymous to that which you cultivate and produce.
Now do you begin to see how sowing to the Spirit produces life, while sowing to the flesh produces death?
But what exactly does this mean, sowing to the Spirit?
Simply put, it means investing yourself in the things of God, which are Spiritual rather than carnal.
John 4:23-24 Jesus says,
”But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Notice how the Lord specifically says that the flesh profits nothing.
Earlier we mentioned the analogy of investing. A wise man does not continue to invest into that which is worthless.
To sow to the Spirit means to walk by the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (One step at a time)
The phrase, “keep in step” is an idiom which means to pattern or conform yourself to the rhythm or behavior of someone or something else.
The Greek word used here is stoicheo (stoy-keh’-o)
meaning to follow after, walk in order
military terminology: to proceed in a row as in the march of a soldier
As believers, we are not to keep in step, or be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).
Instead, we are to keep in step, or be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Whatever you cultivate, that is what flourishes. To sow to the flesh speaks of continually gratifying the carnal, sinful nature. It’s like the old Native American proverb, where the grandfather explains to his grandson how there are two wolves at war within each of us. One wolf represents evil, anger, envy, greed, and falsehood.
The other wolf represents goodness, love, joy, peace, kindness, and honesty.
When the boy asks which of the two wolves wins, the grandfather replies, “The one that you feed.”
Which wolf are you feeding? Which type of seed are you sowing and cultivating?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
You cannot choose to sow to the flesh time and time again, day after day, and then find it a strange thing to reap a harvest of corruption in your life.
Paul goes on to give examples of what comes from the flesh as opposed to what comes from the Spirit.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I have before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Sowing to the Spirit means abiding in Christ and in His Word.
Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
John 15:1-2, 5
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
“I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”
These Spiritual fruits will be evident in the lives of those who walk by the Spirit, who are abiding in the true vine of Christ Jesus. Notice how the Lord said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The fruit of the Spirit does not originate within ourselves, but comes through Christ, the vine in whom we are rooted.
The fruit which comes forth bears witness to the inward nature.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her actions.”
to provide justification or defense for
to confirm, to substantiate
In other words, wisdom is proven by what it produces.
Each new day, we encounter hundreds of opportunities to sow seed in either one field or the other.
With every moment, every choice, every action, we are sowing to either the flesh or to the Spirit.
While this concept may seem overwhelming, the truth is, there’s actually a beautiful simplicity and peace which comes in the ability to render down each situation, each predicament, regardless of its size, and to see through the haze of confusion, to part the waters of distraction so to speak, and ask yourself, ‘What is my ultimate intention here? My motivation? Will this bring life or death? Righteousness or wickedness? Which wolf will this feed?’
And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up.
Here is that lapse in time again, the time between the sowing and the reaping, between the planting and the harvesting. Paul gives us an absolute, a guarantee: “In due season we shall reap, IF we do not give up.”
In due season, or at the appropriate time.
Every farmer must learn this kind of patience. They do not immediately expect to see the harvest of what they’ve sown. They understand there is a process which takes time.
Herein lies the importance of not losing heart. The phrase used here for “lose heart” is translated from the Greek word ekkakeo (ek-kak-eh’-o) which means ‘to be utterly spiritless’, ‘to be wearied out’, or ‘exhausted.’
The implication is to fail in heart.
This type of discouragement can be used to describe the weariness a woman experiences during childbirth. Before the delivery, the labor is exhausting work, both difficult and painful. Just when it seems to be unrewarded and all for naught, that’s when the baby comes forth.
2 Thessalonians 3:13
But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
We are given encouragements against both of these
Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.
He who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing, will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
This is to illustrate the point that although there will be seasons of struggle and of difficulty, we are to remain faithful in our sowing, so that when the time for harvest comes, we may be able to reap that which we’ve sown with joy and gladness.
Despite experiencing times of trial and hardship, let us not become discouraged and lose sight of our hope.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon comments of this verse:
“They who sow unto the spirit sow in tears, for sowing unto the spirit involves self-denial, struggling against the flesh, running counter to the instincts of our fallen nature. To sow unto the spirit, is to sow in the field of obedience and patient endurance.
While for now, our tears may fall with the precious seed, our momentary weeping is scarcely to be thought of in comparison with the sheaves of exceeding glory in the land where tears are divinely and finally wiped from every eye.”
Here in these few verses from Galatians, we are given three primary encouragements: “Do not be deceived,” “do not lose heart,” and “do not grow weary.”
As believers, there are certainly times when we labor in doing good, but seem to see no real fruit. We pray, we witness, we give, we serve, but nothing outwardly appears to be producing any results.
This is why we must not judge based upon appearances.
As our Lord instructed,
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
We walk by faith not by sight. Whenever a seed is planted into the ground, it’s buried beneath the soil, out of sight. By all outward observation, it’s gone. But the truth is, although it is no longer visible, it’s still there and it is going to work, beginning to sprout and spread its roots.
Faith is trusting this process of growth even though we cannot see the results at the moment.
Although we may not fully understand the intricacies of its inner workings, we can still be sure that it is indeed at work.
The physician Luke is the only gospel writer to include the account of Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from Jericho who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a view of Jesus.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. 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.” So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Ironically, the name Zacchaeus comes from the Hebrew root word meaning ‘pure’ or ‘righteous’, but as a chief tax collector, this man would’ve been seen as anything but pure or righteous. Tax collectors, also known as ‘publicans’, were independent contractors commissioned by the Roman government in order to collect the various taxes, which included: income, land, property, commerce, etc. Rome would auction up these tax franchises, which would then be bought by a wealthy native of the province. Anything the purchaser might have collected above the cost of the franchise would be kept as personal profit. As you can imagine, this was a system ripe for injustice and corruption.
The collection agent would line their own pockets by charging an additional percentage on top of the taxes already owed. In the cases with merchants for example, the tax collector would arbitrarily assess the value of the goods being sold, and then charge an inflated payment for that amount. They were also known for accepting bribes and hush money from the wealthy upper class, who would typically be expected to pay more in taxes. So, in order to make up the difference for these underhanded tax breaks, the collector would then charge the common people even more. There was no recourse or method of appeal since these individuals were authorized by the Roman government. Basically, it was legalized extortion.
Not hard to imagine then, why these tax collectors were often socially despised and rejected by their fellow countrymen. They were seen as being in collusion with Rome, and therefore were viewed as traitors to their nation. An ever-present reminder of the foreign oppression.
Because of their close working association with Gentiles, tax collectors were thought of as ‘unclean,’ and were regarded along with the lowest class of sinners. They were excommunicated from all Jewish synagogues, and were not even permitted to testify in a Jewish legal court, since they were well known for being liars and cheats.
Earlier in chapter 3, Luke records that even tax collectors were among those coming out to John in the wilderness in order to be baptized.
Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he answered them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to.” (Luke 3:12-13)
When they ask John, “What shall we do?” He instructs them to no longer collect more than what is due.
In verse 2, we’re told that Zacchaeus was a ‘chief tax collector.’ So he was the head contractor of this franchise, the top of the tax pyramid, and therefore he would’ve had other collection agents working under him. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were receiving an additional percentage from each of their commissions as well. We’re also told from the text that he was rich.
The city of Jericho was considered as the tax capitol for Palestine. Located in the Jordan valley about 17 miles east from Jerusalem, it was a wealthy center of commerce and travel. Just as we see Jesus and His disciples passing through here, thousands of other travelers would’ve passed through this area, making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
Jericho, which literally means “fragrant place,” was also referred to as the ‘City of Palms’ (see Deuteronomy 34:3), being known for its many date-palm trees. A lush oasis with plenty of vegetation and therefore a high agricultural area, even to this day. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of it as “a divine region, the fattest in Palestine.”
Interestingly, Jericho is considered to be one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, with archaeological discoveries dating back to 9,000 B.C. Located on the northern end of the Dead Sea, it is also the world’s lowest geographical city at about 780 feet below sea level. Because of its warmer climate, Herod the great actually had a winter palace built there for himself, which brought even more wealth to the area.
So Jericho was a choice location for a man of Zacchaeus’ profession, and we see that he had indeed been financially successful up to this point.
In verse 3 we read, ‘He was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, for he was small in stature.’
Why does he want to get a look at Jesus? To see who this man was?
A mild curiosity perhaps, to see this Rabbi from Galilee that everyone was talking about. Or rather, and this is the direction I lean, perhaps there was something deeper at work below the surface. An undefined drawing within him to this compelling source of goodness that was radiated from Christ. Maybe he has heard of the compassion that Jesus displayed even for men like Him. After all, He had accepted a former tax collector named Matthew to become one of His disciples.
Even if it were on some subconscious level, I believe there was this feeling of discontentedness, a knowledge that all was not right between himself and the Lord God.
Despite all of his acquired riches, there is something missing in Zacchaeus’ life.
There’s an emptiness.
It’s not uncommon to hear of testimonials from celebrities, who, despite all the wealth and the fame, still claim to have a pervasive feeling of discontentment, unhappiness, and unfulfillment.
So often we tend to fix our gaze on material possessions, not realizing that these temporal things can never truly satisfy.
Jesus Himself specifically warns against this in Luke chapter 12 verse 15:
“Take care, and be on your guard against all forms of greed, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
It reminds me of the superficial slogan: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
What a sad sentiment. The truth is, he who dies with the most toys still dies, and cannot take any of those so-called toys along with him. You will never see a u-haul being pulled behind a hearse.
Due to his being short in stature, and because of the large crowd of people, Zacchaeus was unable to get a visual of Jesus. So In verse 4 we’re told that he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass by that way. This type of sycamore fig actually makes for an easy tree to climb because of their shorter trunks, which are closer to the ground, and for the way their limbs branch out in a crown-like fashion.
Surely this would’ve been an amusing sight to see. Consider for a moment, this well-known rich man, a chief publican, arrayed in his fine apparel no doubt, shimmying up into the leaves and branches of this tree. While this certainly sounds like fun to us, understand that in the culture at the time, this would’ve been seen as undignified behavior for a grown man. Think about it, who climbs trees? Children. Zacchaeus was unknowingly fulfilling Jesus’ teaching about becoming childlike in Matthew chapter 18,
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to Him a child, He placed him in the midst of them and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)
I like what Matthew Henry writes about this in his commentary, “Children, when they are young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable and dependent upon their parents. Children for the most part, are destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness.”
Onlookers would’ve undoubtedly been snickering and jesting, but Zacchaeus wasn’t concerned about any humiliation this action might’ve warranted against him. All he cared about in that moment was finding a way to get a better look at Jesus.
See, we display how valuable or important a particular thing is to us by the tenacity in which we are willing to seek after it.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your Salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” (Psalm 40:16)
Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.
We see that this is exactly what Zacchaeus is doing here, seeking the LORD while He is near. In fact, this would be the very last time that Jesus would ever pass through this way. He is making His way into Jerusalem for what is now known as the ‘Triumphal Entry.’ Within about a week’s time, He will be scourged and crucified.
In verse 5, whenever Jesus had made His way over to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
This is actually quite humorous to consider. Here is short little Zacchaeus perched up in this tree, and for all he’s thinking, is that now he has achieved a way to at least catch a glimpse of Jesus as He and the crowd make their way past. The last thing that was on his mind is that Jesus would somehow turn His attention towards him. He wanted to see Jesus, not to be seen by Him. Imagine though, instead of this large procession simply passing on by, they all come to a halt right here beneath this tree. And there He is, there’s Jesus. And Jesus looks up and sees Zacchaeus amongst the branches, and He calls to him by name, and tells him to hurry down, because He’s coming home with him.
The searching sinner meets the seeking Savior.
This is the first and only time we read that Jesus invites Himself to someone’s home.
Another indication that this was far more than merely a superficial curiosity on the part of Zacchaeus. There was something else at work in the soil of his heart, which our Lord fosters into life by His self-invitation.
Notice too, how Jesus uses language that seems to speak of necessity. “For today I must stay at your house.” Is this an accidental encounter?
Jesus chooses to momentarily pause His steadfast path towards the cross, in order to have fellowship in this man’s home.
And how does Zacchaeus respond?
Verse 6 says, ‘So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully.’
Although it is Christ who initiates the interaction, and extends His own invitation, Zacchaeus received Him joyfully.
This is a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words in Revelation chapter 3 verse 20,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus takes the initiative. He approaches, He stands at the door and knocks. But He in turn must be received, welcomed into the home, and into the heart.
Zacchaeus received Him joyfully, or with gladness. There is a delight in truly receiving the Lord. You cannot twist a person’s arm to bring about a profession of faith. No one can be argued into the kingdom of heaven. But when the Holy Spirit is at work in a person’s heart, and Christ extends His salvation, that person does not come reluctantly, but joyfully.
Notice then, the reaction of the people in verse 7, ‘And when they saw it, they all grumbled, saying, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
Even more surprised than Zacchaeus, are these onlookers who question,
“How can You possibly have fellowship with this wretched sinner? This traitor?”
“Don’t You realize what kind of man this is? How he’s acquired all his wealth? What he’s done to us?”
I always appreciated the scene in the old movie Jesus of Nazareth, where Jesus is invited into Matthew the tax collector’s home. We see a similar situation in which the people are grumbling, and someone asks Him, “You would enter the house of a sinner?” And Jesus responds, “I would enter any house where I am welcomed.” He goes on to say, “For I’ve not come to call the virtuous to repentance but the sinners.”
This scenario can be found scripturally in Luke chapter 5 verses 29-32,
Then Levi hosted a great banquet for Jesus at his house. A large crowd of tax collectors was there, along with others who were eating with them. But the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled to His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32)
In this same situation recorded in Matthew chapter 9 verse 13, Jesus makes reference to the book of Hosea chapter 6 verse 6 when He says,
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
Why did the eternal Son take on fleshly humanity and dwell among us?
To seek and to save that which was lost.
Why did He offer to enter this publican’s home to be his guest, and at the sneers of the crowd, to associate Himself with the outcast?
For that very same reason.
Alexander MacLaren writes of this, “His example is our pattern. A Christian church which does not imitate its Master in its frank and continual willingness to associate itself with the degraded and the outcast has lost one of the truest signs of its being vitalized with the life of Christ.”
In verse 8, Zacchaeus stands up and says to the Lord, “Behold Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore it fourfold.”
In receiving Jesus with gladness, and spending just a brief amount of time within His presence, Zacchaeus felt the holy conviction of his sin and therefore naturally knew that he must repent and make full restitution to the many persons he had undoubtedly wronged.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes, “Jesus Christ did not teach Zacchaeus by going to his house that character was of no consequence. On the contrary, Zacchaeus perceived at once that character was of the greatest consequence.”
At first glance, it may almost appear as if he’s casting some doubt to his own cheating conduct. But this phrase in Greek, ‘If I have defrauded anyone” does not imply doubt to the fact of guilt, but is better understood as “wherever I have defrauded anyone” or “In so far as I have defrauded anyone.”
The Law required that the wrongdoer was to make full restitution for whatever was taken, plus an additional 20% of the item’s value. (See Leviticus 6:5, Numbers 5:6-7)
Zacchaeus is willing to go above and beyond that which the law required. This is a man who previously, so desired money that he was willing to cheat and lie and to take advantage of his own people, and therefore to be alienated and despised by society. He had a love of money. His sole desire was to “get rich”, to “make that hustle.” And that is exactly what he was, a hustler. A swindler.
In Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 Jesus says,
“No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
What are you serving?
We see here that there is a drastic change in Zacchaeus’ priorities. A shift in his focus. Now he says to Jesus, “Lord,” that is, ‘Master’, this denotes authority, ownership. “I no longer care about the money. I’ll give half of it away to help the poor, and with the rest I’ll make four times the restitution to those I’ve swindled. It’s no longer the money that I want to serve, Lord it’s you.”
One of the chief evidences of a true conversion is a reorientation when it comes to the material world. Lost individuals live as though the material world is all there is. Their focus is set on the treasures and the indulgences of this world. While saved individuals understand of heavenly realities, and therefore set their primary focus upon the spiritual rather than the natural.
Whenever Zacchaeus stands and gives this public declaration of his repentance, he is not seeking to be justified by his works, but by his good works he will now show the sincerity of his conversion. This is not the grounds or the means by which he is saved, but this is the natural evidence of that reality, the outward expression of that salvation.
Does your life demonstrate change? Does it reflect the grace and influence Christ has upon you? Do you live as though He has saved you? Are you being conformed into His image? Or are you still that same old crook?
We know that this is indeed a genuine conversion, because in verse 9, Jesus says to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.”
I’ve always enjoyed this play on words that the Lord uses here. His very name Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, literally means ‘salvation.’ A combination of ‘Yah’ or the name of God, and ‘Yasha’ meaning ‘to save, rescue or deliver.’ This is why the angel of the Lord instructed this name to be given to Him.
“She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
So in one sense, salvation had indeed come to this home that day, the actual embodiment of salvation, the Savior Jesus Christ. And in another sense, salvation had come in that Zacchaeus had now received and entered into the source of that saving mercy and grace.
This is a beautiful revelation of the Lord Jesus. That whenever we come to Christ in salvation, He not only delivers us from the penalties of sin, but He also delivers us from its bondage, the ongoing habitual nature and power of that sin. He sets us free completely, and thereby changes our focus, our priorities, and our very nature.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Now, why does Jesus say, “because he also is a son of Abraham”?
Because although Zacchaeus was indeed a physical descendant of Abraham by birth- It was only according to the flesh, in the natural.
As the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 9 verses 7-8,
Not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants. So it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise who are
regarded as offspring. (Romans 9:7-8)
And again in Galatians chapter 3 verse 7,
Understand then, that it is those of faith who are the children of Abraham.
So it is here, as Zacchaeus professes his repentance and belief on the Lord, that Jesus now says he is truly a son of Abraham according to faith.
And lastly, the beautiful closing words of Christ in verse 10, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus says of Himself, that He came on a search and rescue mission.
This reminds me of when Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep earlier in Luke
chapter 15 verses 1-7
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The physician Luke is the only Gospel writer to include an account about Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from Jericho who climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. Join me in this seventh episode of the podcast, as we take a closer look into this story to see what details we can learn from this man’s encounter with Salvation.
Are you aware that wealth does not exclusively involve money or possessions?
The truest forms of wealth are those things which money could never buy. Things like contentment, joy, love, spiritual health and well-being.
Do you realize how valuable peace of mind is? Or the ability to sleep sweetly at night?
Simple pleasures that are so easily overlooked or taken for granted.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)
This is how someone may outwardly own many possessions, expensive clothing, and a large bank account, but inwardly be destitute.
“For you say, ‘I am rich, I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ Not realizing that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)
Or how another could seemingly be lowly and in poverty, but truthfully be rich.
“I know your afflictions and your poverty- yet you are rich” (Revelation 2:9)
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says,
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. (Psalm 37:16)
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it. (Proverbs 15:16-17)
King Solomon writes,
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift from God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
Notice how it is God who not only provides the wealth and possessions, but also supplies the ability to be able to enjoy them.
This is why Paul writes in his letter to Timothy,
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)
According to Christ, we are to have a kingdom first mindset.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
So where is your wealth?
In this very first episode of the podcast, we will be studying the Miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana, as recorded in the Gospel of John Chapter 2 verses 1-11.
He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house.
Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
When the scribes heard Jesus forgiving the man’s sins, they asked, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Mark 2:7)
Jesus then asked which would be easier to say to a paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk”?
According to The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:
‘This is an unanswerable question. The statements are equally simple to pronounce; but to say either, with accompanying performance, requires divine power. An imposter, of course, in seeking to avoid detection, would find the former easier.
Jesus proceeded to heal the illness so that men might know that he had the authority to deal with its cause.’
“None on earth has either the authority or the right to forgive sin. None could forgive sin save the One against whom all have sinned. When Christ forgave sin, as He certainly did, He was not exercising a human prerogative. Since none but God can forgive sins, it is conclusively demonstrated that Christ, since He forgave sins, is God.”
-Lewis Sperry Chafer, Founder & President of Dallas Theological Seminary
The paralytic had not sinned against the man Jesus; the two men had never even seen each other before. The paralytic had sinned against God. Then along comes Jesus, who under His own authority says, “Your sins are forgiven.” We may forgive sins committed against us personally, but in no way can anyone forgive sins committed against God except God Himself. Yet this is exactly what Jesus claimed to do. It is no wonder therefore, why the Jewish leaders reacted so violently at these claims Christ made.