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“Why Did the Son of Man Come?”
Luke 19:1-10, Matthew 20:20-28
March 26, 2017
We encounter Jesus in our brokenness and learn that he came to seek, serve, ransom and save.
I. To Seek and Save the Lost (Luke 19:1-10)
II. To Give his Life a Ransom for many (Matthew 20:20-28)
You know that I love the Chronicles of Narnia. Usually I focus on Aslan, but today I want to illustrate our texts with Edmond’s story. It begins when Lucy goes through the wardrobe to Narnia. Her brothers and sister don’t believe her, but Edmond follows her the next time and ends up meeting the evil White Witch.
“And how was it, Edmund, that you came to enter my dominion?” “I walked through a wardrobe following my sister.” “Your sister? How many are you?” “Four.” “Edmund you look so cold! Come and sit with me here on my sledge.” (Edmund joins her) Now, would you like something warm to drink.” “Yes...your majesty.” (Take vial and drops a green drop on snow that becomes a hot drink that the dwarf gives Edmund) “How did you do that?” “I can make anything you like.” “Could you make me taller?” “I can make anything you like to eat.” “Turkish Delight.” Drop once again comes down and makes the box of Turkish Delight and the Dwarf gives it to Edmund.
“I'd love to see your family.” “They're nothing special.” “I have no children of my own and you are such a good little boy. If you were to prove yourself to me, it's possible that you might one day become Prince of Narnia.” (She leans closer) “Or perhaps even King.” (mouth full) “Really?” (nods) “Of course you'd have to bring your family.” “They're nothing special.” “Oh, Peter will be king too?” “No! But a king needs servants.” “I-I guess I could bring 'em.” “Beyond these woods, do you see those two little hills? My house is right between them. You'd love it there Edmund, it has whole rooms simply stuffed with Turkish Delight!” “Couldn't I have some more now?” “NO!” (smiles) “Don't want to ruin your appetite.” “I'm going to miss you Edmund. But we are going to see each other soon.” “I hope so, Your Majesty.”
Edmund, who sees himself as the oppressed little brother but who is really more of a nasty snot, gets caught up into a great sin, the betrayal of Peter, Susan. Lucy and Narnia. But that’s what sets the glorious plot of the story going. Today, as we look at the story of Zacchaeus and then at the request of James and John we’ll find that it is their brokenness that leads to an encounter with Jesus, and that, “this is what sets the story going.” Jesus knows that no one can fix their own brokenness by willpower; they are lost and need to be sought, served, ransomed and saved. So think about your own brokenness. The places, the times you fail and fall and sin, the frustrations that depress or ignite you, the tears you weep, the trials you rebel against, the good you feel inadequate for and avoid. Jesus came to seek, serve, ransom and save you in these things.
Luke 19:1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5And 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.” 6So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8And 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.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus was a broken man. He was a tax collector, which in the eyes of his people and probably in his own eyes meant that the was a traitor, a collaborator and a sinner, unclean because of his contact with the Roman oppressors. More than that, he was a chief tax collector and had become immensely rich as a result of his extortion. He had, undoubtedly, charged more than the taxes due and pocketed the difference, along with bribes and his legitimate share. What kind of person is this in the privacy of his own soul? He is outcast, he’s despised, he’s made to feel worthless despite his wealth. I suspect he’s lonely, hurting to have a friend who cares for him rather than his money. Certainly at one time he’d been hard-hearted toward God and others, coldly pursuing his self interest. He may still be doing that. He’s broken and a sinner.
But it seems clear from this account that he’d found it to be empty. Verse 3 says ‘He sought to see who Jesus was.’ It’s an interesting phrase. He didn’t just want to see Jesus - he wanted to see who Jesus was. Perhaps he’d heard that Jesus was a friend to tax collectors and sinners. Perhaps he’d heard of his miracles or his compassion. He wanted to see for himself, hoping without hope that this man could free him from the brokenness in which he was trapped. In this sense he is further along than many. In Luke 18 Jesus met another rich man, a rich young ruler, and told him to sell all he had, to leave it behind and follow. But the young man’s heart was hard: he would not give up his brokenness.
Zacchaeus is at least seeking, and won’t let obstacles deter him. We’re told that he is short. The crowd is large. Nobody really wants to let the town’s biggest sinner to the front. But Zacchaeus was resourceful. He ran ahead, verse 4, and “climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him.” This is almost certainly a sycamore fig tree, not the same as the American or European sycamore trees. It has edible figs, though smaller and less sweet than the ones we eat.
These trees still grow in Israel and even in Jericho. They are also an easy tree to climb. So that’s what Zacchaeus does. Verse 5: 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.” Jesus, probably supernaturally, knew Zacchaeus was there, looked up at him and called him by name. He commanded this powerful man to hurry and come down. “I must stay at your house today.” The word ‘must’ translates a common Greek word ‘dei,’ often used of the divine necessity placed on Jesus. In Luke 2:49 Jesus as a child says to his parents “Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I must be in my Father's house?” In Luke 9, Jesus reveals his mission saying “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” In a similar way the stop at Zacchaeus’ house is necessary to God’s plan.
So Zacchaeus did exactly what he was told: he hurried and came down and opened his home joyfully. There’s an implied transition here, as Jesus, Zacchaeus, the disciples and the crowd all move from the fig tree to Zacchaeus’ house. But the crowd begins to object, verse 7: “And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’” In previous chapters it was the Pharisees who grumbled or muttered or murmured against Jesus, and made the accusation that Jesus dined with sinners. Now the whole crowd is of the same opinion. To them a tax collector is ‘a sinful man’, and for Jesus to stay in such a person’s home was virtually the same as sharing his sin.
In verse 8 Zacchaeus makes a great declaration of repentance from the sins that have trapped him. But in my opinion there is a conversation missing. We wish we could know what Zacchaeus said to Jesus and Jesus to Zacchaeus. Could it be that Luke expects us to understand what has gone on by virtue of having read this Gospel? I think so. In particular, he wants us to think of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable in the previous chapter, where the key line is “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Luke expects us to see in Zacchaeus a living example of that repentance and heart change, him crying “have mercy on me,” and Jesus saying “your sins are forgiven. Only then, I think would Zacchaeus stand and say “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” In Zacchaeus, more than in the next episode, we see the life change the Savior works in broken people.
Up until now he has grasped his possessions with both hands; he’s been driven to cheat and defraud. But now he stands, either at the meal or at the door of his house and he announces that he’ll give half his possessions to the poor, and four times the amount to all he’s cheated. This is probably most of his wealth, and well above the law’s requirement of 120% of what was taken.
So there was a dramatic life change in Zacchaeus, enabled by his encounter with Jesus. And Jesus immediately relates this to his own mission. He knows and wants us to know that he came to seek and bring salvation. Verse 9 “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus, but to the grumbling crowd as well. He says “salvation has come to this house,” that is, “salvation has come to this sinner.” Zacchaeus has been saved. This is the same word Jesus used when talking about the rich young ruler, where he said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to be saved. The disciples said ‘well, then who can be saved?’ Jesus said ‘with man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.’ Even a Zacchaeus, broken and trapped in sin, can be rescued.
Jesus also says ‘this man is a true Jew.’ To the crowd, a tax collector was unclean, cut off from his people, a sinful man with no part in the Jewish covenant. But Jesus says they’ve got it wrong. A true Jew is one who, like Abraham, has depended on God by faith for the salvation Jesus alone can give. Paul will say “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.”
But the point Jesus makes is that this is the reason he came, this is the mission he’s on, to seek and to save the lost. That’s the punch line to the story, that’s how it connects to God’s big story. Jesus came to seek and rescue the broken. Don’t miss the fact that the broken could not rescue themselves. Zacchaeus could not rescue himself. Like the lost sheep in Jesus’ other parable, we lost sinners cannot find our way back or free ourselves from the snares we’re caught in. Jesus must seek and Jesus must save, even at the cost of his own life.
This is what happens in Edmunds story. He returns to the White Witch without Peter and Susan and Lucy, and the witch makes him her prisoner, and takes him with her when she sets out after Aslan. But Aslan’s army rescues him and that’s when he has his encounter with Jesus . . . I mean with Aslan. (Aslan and Edmund are on the rock above camp Peter comes out and sees him. Then the girls come out.” “Edmund!,” Lucy cries. But Peter stops her. Aslan motions Edmund down and they go to the group of his siblings.
Aslan says “What's done is done. There is no reason to bring up the past with your brother.” “Hello...” “Oh, Edmund.” Lucy hugs him and Susan does too. “How are you feeling?” “I'm feeling kinda tired.” “Get some rest...and Edmund try not to wander off again.” Some time later, at breakfast, Lucy says “Narnia isn't going to run out of toast Edmund.” Peter: “Then you better pack some for the journey.” Susan: “So were going home?” “You are, I promised I'd keep you three safe but there's no reason I can't stay and help.”
Lucy: “But they need us...All four of us.” “Lucy it's too dangerous. You almost drowned, Edmund was almost killed!” Edmund: “Which is why we have to stay.” They all look at him. “I've seen what the White Witch can do and I've helped her do it, and we can't leave these people behind to suffer for it.”
So Edmund encounters Aslan and desires life change. Zechariah encountered Jesus, and we learned that Jesus came to seek and save. In our last text we learn that Jesus came to serve and ransom. Matthew 20:20-28 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Just as Edmund and Zacchaeus were people whose brokenness was made evident in their sin, so also James and John, aided and abbeted by their mother. It’s true that it was their mother who came forward to promote them to Jesus. But it is clear here, and explicit in Mark 10 that James and John are behind this request. It’s a clear case of self-promotion: “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” James and John desire greatness: power, recognition, influence. Examples of this are clear: it was James and John who chastised someone who was ‘not one of us’ for casting out demons in Jesus’ name; it was James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven on the uncooperative Samaritan town; so pronounced was this tendency that Jesus called these brothers ‘the Sons of Thunder.’
Here they ask for the two places of greatest honor in the kingdom which they expect Jesus to establish, seats at his right hand and his left. They wanted to ride to greatness on the coat-tails of Jesus. This is self-promotion, self-elevation, not unlike the Pharisee in Jesus’s parable who blew his own horn while cutting down the tax collector. And these are just some of selfies of fallen human nature. We could also cite self-interest, self-centeredness, self-preoccupation, self-pity, self-glorification, self-protection and just plain selfishness.
If that sounds too harsh, think of all the times you have seen obvious self-focus played out, from taking the best piece of pie to posturing on the world stage. But Jesus’ response shows us his God-ward focus and submission. Verse 22: "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" Notice that Jesus does not reply to their mother, or at least not to her alone. He says this to ‘them,’ to the brothers. And they certainly don’t know what they’re asking. They probably expect the road to lead to victory in Jerusalem, a successful struggle for power, the defeat of the Romans and to David’s earthly throne. They’d love to be part of that, but they should already know it’s not the plan. Jesus just told them that “the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
So they don’t know what they’re asking, and really can’t drink the cup he will drink. Yet they continue in their self-promotion. Notice their pride, which sounds like extreme foolishness in our ears, and may have sounded that way to Jesus “We can” drink this cup. Don’t mock them though. How often do we make vows and promises out of pride or ambition? And we sense there was a desire here to do what’s right, to suffer for the cause, even if driven by ambition. Jesus picks up on that when he says “You will indeed drink from my cup.” He’s not saying they are going to bear sin and God’s wrath as he did, but they are going to follow him into persecution and trial and suffering and ultimately to death at the hands of his enemies. All the disciples did walk this road.
But even so, Jesus says, “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” In addition to everything else, Jesus modeled radical submission to God; radical obedience, which is radical love for God. Though himself God the Son, he submitted to the Father’s will. The disciples, on the other hand, are caught in brokenness, which leads to sin, in this case selfish pride, and Jesus confronts that.
It all happens again when the larger group of disciples hears about this. Verse 24: “And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.” The key word is indignant. When the Pharisees watched Jesus enter Jerusalem the Gospels say they were indignant. In the same way some of the crowd who saw the woman pour the expensive ointment on Jesus' feet were indignant. On the other hand, when the disciples kept the little children away, Mark tells us that “when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me.’ Indignance is not entirely negative, but in practice for almost anyone but Jesus it is usually a response of selfishness, taking offense because something represents unfair treatment, threat or potential loss to me.
In the case of the disciples they are indignant for the worst reasons. They’re put out because James and John got there first, might get some advantage, some inner track with Jesus. They’re trying to protect their interests, and therefore they attack others. It’s a common form of selfishness. In the Garden of Eden Adam blamed Eve for his sin. Little kids shout ‘it’s not fair’ when their brother or sister seems to be getting the advantage. Young people give in to peer pressure and foolishness to protect themselves from un-coolness, and many of us either lash out or withdraw because we perceive ourselves as being judged.
It is to behaviors and attitudes like these that Jesus addresses himself. You can almost hear him sigh as he gives them a riveting example from their own experience. He calls their attention to the Gentiles, Romans and others, who ruled the conquered people of Israel. He says these rulers lord it over them. He uses a word for being a master, by implication a haughty demanding or even cruel master. These high officials of the Gentiles exercise authority with arbitrary and capricious power, disregarding the needs of conquered peoples. The irony in Jesus’s example is that this is exactly the kind of authority the disciples and most Jews wanted to see overthrown by their longed-for Messiah. But Jesus is telling the disciples they have become what they hate. In their own circle of competition they’re raising up the same evils they hope Jesus will defeat.
Verse 26: “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” Jesus turns the world’s ways on their heads. The way to greatness is humility. If you want to be great, be a servant, be a slave. The word servant is diakonos, a common household servant. And if you want to be first, as all of these disciples did, become a doulos, a slave, and owned person.
Jesus confronts the brokenness and calls them to radical life change. But as in the account of Zacchaeus, he immediately links that to his own mission. Verse 28: “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, from Daniel 7 to emphasize his sovereignty and humanity. He says he came ‘not to be served but to serve.” This is the common, menial service. He’s the one who takes up the basin and towel and washes feet. But then he goes to the cross. He says the Son of Man came ‘to give his life,’ to drink the cup, to be betrayed, condemned, mocked, flogged and killed. Why did he do it? As a ransom. He sacrificed himself to be the payment that freed us. The Greek word, ‘lutron,’ implies deliverance by purchase, whether paying a price to release a prisoner of war, to free a slave or to buy someone out of their debt. In our case, sin has made us slaves, with death as the outcome, and only by the payment of a price, the blood of a sacrifice, can we be redeemed from God’s wrath.
Jesus was the ransom: “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” That’s redemption, payment of the price, the servant sacrifice of Jesus. And he did so for ‘the many’. The many had forfeited their lives and the Son of Man gives his life in their place; he pays the price that sets men free. This painful and glorious destiny is in almost every way unique: only he is willing to do it; only he is able to do it. No one else can pay that price. If you and I want to take hold of that payment, we don’t have to pay. We turn from ourselves and our sin and trust in him to forgive and cleanse and renew. This is his mission and he knows it is essential for life change.
So what have we seen? As we look at the story of Zacchaeus and then at the request of James and John we learn that it’s their brokenness that leads to an encounter with Jesus, and that, for Jesus, “this is what sets the story going.” He realizes that no one can fix their own brokenness by willpower; they are lost and need to be sought, served, ransomed and saved. This is what happens in Narnia.
“Jadis.. Jadis!!!” Jadis arrives at the camp, Cyclops carry her chair. She steps down and walks towards Aslan. “You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan.” Everyone gasps. “His offence was not against you.” “Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” “Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was made.” “Then you will know that the boy belongs to me. His blood is my property.” Peter says “Come and take it then.” “You think that mere force will deny me my right, little king? Aslan knows that if I do not have blood as the law demands, all of Narnia will be overturned, and perish, in fire and water.” Aslan intervenes “Enough, I shall talk with you alone.”
Time passes and the Witch exits tent. Aslan waits, then proclaims “The Witch has renounced her claim on Edmund.” As the Narnians cheer, the witch says “How will I know your promise will be kept?” Aslan roars and the White Witch falls into her seat, stunned. The Narnians laugh. But as the White Witch leaves, Lucy sees Aslan sigh and bow his head as he walks into his tent.
And you know what happens after that. Sacrifice and resurrection. So think about your own brokenness. Your sin. Jesus came to seek, serve, ransom and save you in these things.