“Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore 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 has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’”
It’s People Like Zacchaeus Who Are Saved by God
Warm greetings to all of you! The summer discipleship training camp starts tomorrow. Many saints are already at the discipleship-training center, and we are all quite excited about it. I ask you all to pray for the safety of everyone traveling to and from the center. Road accidents are particularly prevalent during the summer vacation season, leading to many injuries and deaths. So let’s all pray to God to watch over everyone traveling from our Churches all over Korea, to protect our saints and servants of the Lord, and to ensure their safety. And let’s also pray to our Lord to watch over each and every family.
We just published a book in Hindi. It came out nice. The publication of this book means that we can now spread the gospel to India more effectively. I am so grateful for this. India has multiple languages. Our books have been translating into two of these languages so far, Hindi and Telugu. We will soon translate our books into other Indian languages as well, such as Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu, and Marathi. Our books are also being translated into Tagalog, which is one of many languages of Philippines. Like this, there are so many pending tasks, but for now, we should set aside our work and concentrate on the summer discipleship training camp.
Today, brother Sakamoto from Japan and deacon Soon-ok Park will travel to Inje Discipleship Training Center (DTC). I am sure that more souls will come to Inje DTC from around the world to attend our next discipleship training camp. I hope we can all get some rest for a week, share fellowship through the Word, and receive many blessings in both body and spirit.
Recently we composed some new praises. This endeavor has also produced a very good result. If we continue in this direction, it seems to me that we will also make a name for ourselves as excellent composers and writers of gospel songs.
My fellow believers, there are many people who are unable to set their minds in the right direction. This is particularly true when it comes to today’s youth. Adolescence is a very confusing time, as this is when one builds his values and forms his character, rather than just learning about social norms. Nevertheless, I am confident that in time, the young men and women in our Church will all be able to set their minds and decide on their direction.
Today, we will look at how a man named Zacchaeus was able to receive the remission of sins. Jesus said in today’s Scripture passage that He came to this earth in order to find and save those who are lost. Looking at this passage, several questions come to our minds: “What kind of people receive the remission of sins? What is important when it comes to receiving the remission of sins?” And we can also thank the Lord once again for the grace He has bestowed on us. My fellow believers, Jesus’ mind is set on all the people of this world, not anywhere else.
Today’s Scripture passage starts with words, “Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” There was a man named Zacchaeus in Jericho, who was a chief tax collector and very rich as well. When Jesus came into Jericho, Zacchaeus wanted to see Him. But because he was too short and there was a big crowd gathered there, he couldn’t see Jesus at the other side of the crowd. So he climbed up into a sycamore tree trying to see Jesus.
Most people who receive the remission of sins by believing in Jesus are in fact like Zacchaeus here—they have many problems, they suffer from inferiority complex, and they are weak. What does this mean then? Simply put, Zacchaeus was a thief. The Bible says that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and a rich man. But Zacchaeus had many serious problems. He was suffering from inferiority complex, and he was also a weak man. As a chief tax collector, he had accepted a lot of bribes. In other words, he had become wealthy by unjust means. Money has a captivating allure enticing everyone—the bigger the bribe is, the more effective it is.
What the Bible is teaching us here is that it’s such flawed people who receive the remission of sins. As mentioned, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and rich. But no matter how high his position might have been in the tax bureau, he couldn’t possibly have become rich solely on his salaries. After all, few salaried workers can really become wealthy just by relying on their monthly income. How could Zacchaeus then have become so rich? He had built his wealth on bribes. As a tax collector, he probably got kickbacks for turning a blind eye to tax evasion. In other words, he used his position to receive a lot of money under the table through various means. In all likelihood, that is how he became a wealthy man.
A Big Crowd Gathered in Zacchaeus’ Town
One day in Zacchaeus’ town, a big crowd gathered around to see Jesus when He was passing through the town. People spoke about what Jesus had done, saying how He had not only healed lepers but also raised the dead back to life, and how He had commanded even the stormy sea into submission.
As one of the inhabitants of this town, Zacchaeus was also very much interested in Jesus. Even though he didn’t quite know who Jesus was, he still wanted to see him, wondering what He was like. So Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Why did he climb up into the sycamore tree? To harvest its fruit? Sycamore trees bear mulberries, and if you eat them, your mouth will turn all black. It was not to harvest its fruit that Zacchaeus climbed up into the sycamore tree. Rather, he went up the tree to see Jesus. As he was a short man, he couldn’t see Jesus with the crowd blocking his view. That’s why he climbed up the sycamore tree to see Jesus.
I’d like you to all realize that those who are saved by believing in Jesus Christ are, in fact, weak people suffering from inferiority complex and numerous problems, rather than smart and perfect people. We need to grasp here that it is the imperfect rather than the perfect ones who find Jesus and receive the salvation offered by Him. People demand perfection in all things, but there is no one who is actually perfect. Just like Zacchaeus, everyone is greedy and weak, and everyone has human weaknesses. It’s such people who are able to receive the remission of sins, and Zacchaeus is their symbolic representation. Today’s Scripture passage illustrates that it is such people who are remitted from their sins.
Zacchaeus saw Jesus from a sycamore tree. While he was watching Jesus passing under the sycamore tree, Jesus looked up and saw him up in the tree, and He said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus said to Zacchaeus that He would stay at his house. Zacchaeus was watching from above, and Jesus looked up from below and said, “Come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Rejoiced to hear this, Zacchaeus came down and received Him in joy, taking Him to his house. Jesus already knew all about Zacchaeus. He knew that Zacchaeus was a weak man, that he had become rich by stealing, and that he had many complexities as a human being. Jesus also knew that Zacchaeus was an imperfect man. But referring to Zacchaeus, Jesus said that this man knew his shortcomings and admitted them, and that instead of trying to cover himself up before God, he sought salvation and the remission of sins from Him. This means that Jesus wants to dwell in the hearts of those who are like Zacchaeus.
In what kind of heart does Jesus want to live ? It’s the hearts of those who are like Zacchaeus here. In other words, Jesus wants to call those who are suffering from inferiority complex, those who are flawed, and those who are insufficient; He wants to blot out all their sins with His baptism and His precious blood on the Cross; and He wants to dwell in their hearts. It’s such people whom Jesus has saved, and it’s in such people’s hearts that He dwells as the Holy Spirit.
All of us want to be completely perfect. However, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to safe that which was lost.” Jesus came to this earth to find and save from sin those who are lost and suffering from their insufficiencies—that is, the lost souls who, born as the descendants of Adam and Eve, inherited their weaknesses and shortcomings and are doomed to be cast into hell. In other words, Jesus came to save all human beings from all their sins.
When Jesus called Zacchaeus, He did so because He knew all his flaws. So He said to him, “Come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Rejoiced to hear this Word of Jesus, Zacchaeus came down from the tree in haste and held a feast in his house.
Zacchaeus then said to Jesus, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” When one finds the Lord and receives the remission of sins, he is grateful for the fact that even though he is such an insufficient being, Jesus accepted and bore all his sins through His baptism, died on the Cross, rose from the dead again, and thereby blotted out all his sins. And when this person believes in the Lord and his heart is dwelt by Jesus, he is made a new person. What Zacchaeus meant was that he would no longer steal as he had done so before. He had become a new man.
After meeting the Lord, Zacchaeus became a new man. Although he had been a dishonest thief before, now that he met the Lord, he became a new person. From then on he wanted to live righteously. He had always lived in opulence and wealth from his ill-gotten proceeds, defrauding and extorting people shamelessly, but now he no longer wanted to live for such ends, but for others.
Once someone is born again, he comes to truly realize all about his inferiority complex, his handicaps, and his weaknesses. Moreover, when one understands the Word of God and admits that he is indeed destined to hell according to the Word of God, he comes to believe that in order to save him, Jesus came to this earth, was baptized, died on the Cross, and rose from the dead again. And when this happens, salvation comes into his heart. The remission of sins descends upon him. Gratitude arises from the depth of his heart, realizing, “Jesus took away all my sins. He has become my Savior. I have now really become a righteous man. I’ve become righteous even though I didn’t deserve this. Even though my acts may not have changed that much, at least my heart has been completely transformed. Before, I used to have sin in my heart, but now, there is no more sin.” This person then becomes a completely new person. This is none other than ‘being born again of water and the Spirit.’
For Zacchaeus too, it was by meeting Jesus who called him, and by going through such transformation, that his heart was renewed before the Lord. It was with this renewed heart that he said to Jesus, “I give half of my good to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” This means he now wanted to live righteously. This shows that Zacchaeus was determined to end his past practices. The flawed life that he had led until then was no more.
Truly, Jesus knows all our shortcomings. According to the Law of God, we could not avoid but be cast into hell. But a new life will begin if we believe that the Lord has saved us through His water and blood, through His baptism and His blood on the Cross; if we believe that all our sins were passed on to the head of Jesus when He was baptized; and if we believe that our hearts are sinless. We will then become like Zacchaeus.
Those who have received the remission of sins are like Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and rich, a man of short stature looked down upon by his neighbors. All of us are like Zacchaeus before God. We are insufficient people, weak and vulnerable. Yet even so, the Lord has called such people like us. Our Lord said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but to call sinners and make them righteous.” It’s our Lord who has saved us from all sins and made us righteous.
Our Lord said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” Even though you and I are so insufficient, our Lord has still saved us. He has blotted out all our sins. He has made us righteous. He has turned us into new people, able to do truly righteous work. He has given you and me the same blessings that He had given to Abraham, and He has bestowed on us today the same salvation that He had bestowed on Abraham.
You and I need to ponder on here and ask ourselves whether we are like Zacchaeus. Because he was short, he couldn’t see Jesus well, and so he climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him more clearly. In doing so he was able to see Jesus and meet Him. This man knew himself well even before he encountered Jesus. He had embezzled so much tax money that it would have taken him just one morning to appropriate a whole building for himself. Zacchaeus also knew very well how many bribes he had accepted. When he compared himself to others, he knew that he had stolen more than anyone else, that he was ethically and morally worse than others, and that he had more shortcomings than everyone else. But this man had heard about Jesus, and he wanted to verify what he had heard and to truly believe in Him. So, wanting to see what Jesus was like, Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, and Jesus looked up and said to Him, “Come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus is the Lord who blots out all the sins that are in such people’s hearts, dwells in their hearts, and makes them God’s children to take them away to Heaven.
You and I Must Cast away Our Preconceived Notions
Do you think on your own that the Lord has called you and you are now leading a life of faith like this because you yourself is a perfect person, because your ethics and morals are decent compared to most people? There are many people who are even worse than Zacchaeus, but in general, they do not know this themselves. In contrast, Zacchaeus knew himself very well. When Jesus looked at Zacchaeus, He saw that his mind was set on salvation. Suffering from the sins of his heart, Zacchaeus had truly longed for Jesus Christ and waited for the Messiah to deliver him. He was ready to hold on to Jesus and believe in Him as soon as He appeared. As Zacchaeus was looking down from above, Jesus looked up and saw him yearning to receive His mercy. And knowing all about Zacchaeus, Jesus told him to come down. Zacchaeus, too, also realized that Jesus knew all about him. So he hurried down from the tree, took Jesus to his house, and treated Him to a dinner.
When we stand before someone who knows all about us, we are compelled to speak everything that’s in our minds. Jesus knows all about you and me. He knows even the things that you don’t know about yourself. It’s a mistake to think that the Lord somehow doesn’t know you that well. Jesus knows even what kind of sins we are going to commit in the future. You cannot cover yourself up from His eyes no matter how hard you try.
Some people think that they are quite decent, but others think that they have some serious flaws. I’m sure that there are both types of people among us. But Jesus knows all about these people also. We had all gone each on our own sinful way, and yet Jehovah bore our iniquities and died in our place. We are all flawed and insufficient. However, Jesus knows all about our weaknesses. Do you recognize your fragility? The longer you live, the more your shortcomings will be exposed.
The people of the town denounced Zacchaeus. But in their inside, they were not any better than Zacchaeus, if not even worse than him. All of us also have weaknesses. Jesus knows this very well. When the Lord told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, Zacchaeus hurried down and took the Lord to his house. What did the Lord then say to him? He told him, “Salvation has come to your house.” Jesus had told him to come down from the tree because He already knew everything about Zacchaeus and He absolutely had cleansed all his sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. It’s the Lord who reached out to Zacchaeus and met him with His righteousness.
It’s the Lord who has blotted out all our sins. Our Lord bore all your sins through His baptism. And He carried the sins of the world to the Cross and died on it. That is how Jesus has saved you and me.
My fellow believers, if you have an arrogant heart, I ask you to humble it. I admonish you to come out to Jesus Christ, hold on to Him, and believe in His baptism and His blood of the Cross. I ask you to receive the remission of sins by faith like Zacchaeus. If you receive the remission of sins, you will be born again into a new person even if you try not to.
People change when they receive the remission of sins. Their minds are changed. Their acts are changed. Their faith is changed. Their wisdom is changed. Do you really want to become an upright person? Do you want to become a virtuous person? Then believe in the salvation that Jesus is offering you through His baptism and blood. Accept this salvation into your heart. You will then become a new person. It’s not by trying on your own that you can become a righteous person, but it is by believing in Jesus Christ with all your heart. In other words, if you believe that the baptism of Jesus and His blood on the Cross constitutes your salvation, you can become a new person by your faith in Christ. Then your acts will be upright and your heart will be transformed.
My fellow believers, do you really want to become new men and women? Then believe in Jesus. If you want to become a servant of God and used by Him as His instrument for His righteous work, to live an upright life, and to go to Heaven, all that you have to do is just believe in the salvation of Jesus Christ. God will then stay with you, just as the Lord said to Zacchaeus, “Today I must stay at your house.” The Holy Spirit will descend on your heart, and through the Holy Spirit God will lead your heart, hold it, and guide it to live a righteous life. So if you really want to lead an upright life, all that you have to do is just believe in this gospel. If you believe in the Lord and His gospel Word, you will become a righteous person. But if don’t, then you will stay a sinner, and you will never be able to be born again into a new person.
I can understand what Zacchaeus said after he met the Lord. I can appreciate why he said, “I will give half of my possessions to the poor.” If you meet the Lord and truly believe in Him, a new heart will spring forth. You will want to really live an upright life. You will yearn to live the life that God wants you to lead.
Before I was born again, I was just like everyone else. Even though I wanted to live virtuously, I was too sinful to lead an upright life. However, once I met the Lord, I became a changed man. Before, I used to do many evil things even as I tried not to commit sin, but once I received the remission of sins, everything changed. I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to the Lord, to offer my mind, my will, and my everything to Him, and to live for His righteous work. I now had a joyful reason to live in this world. If you meet the Lord, you will also be changed like this.
If you really want to become an upright person, I ask you to believe in the Lord. The Lord will then transform you. Believe in the Lord first, and He will transform you without fail. If you instead try to fix your acts without believing in the Lord, then you will only go astray even more.
My fellow believers, today you heard about how Zacchaeus was saved. Spiritually speaking, weren’t you and I also like Zacchaeus? Indeed, all of us were just like Zacchaeus. We had many handicaps and weaknesses. When facing an extreme situation, everyone’s weaknesses are exposed eventually. However, when we were yearning to be saved, and when we had fallen into despair wondering who would save us from our sins, Jesus came looking for us. He came looking for you through the gospel Word of His baptism and blood. And we accepted this gospel. By accepting this gospel, you and I became new creatures. That is how we came to lead a completely righteous life before God. We have become God’s own children.
If you are having a hard time trying to correct your flawed behavior, do not be too disappointed by this. Instead, ruminate on this gospel, preach it and take pride in it, and meditate on it. Remember that all your sins were passed onto Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River. Look toward the fact that Jesus has fulfilled your salvation by being baptized and dying on the Cross. Your heart will then be renewed. It’s the Holy Spirit, not yourself, who transforms you. Rely on God. Look for Jesus Christ and hang on to Him. And once you are born again, never lose the sight of the way of Jesus but follow it always. Believe that when you listen to and learn about the Word of God countless times, wisdom will spring forth and a new way will be opened to you. The Lord has given truly amazing salvation to you and me. I give all my thanks to the Lord time after time.
Now that we have become new people, we are sharing half of our possessions with the poor. We have indeed dedicated all our lives to the Lord, 100 percent. None of our ministry workers has private property. We are devoted to the work of the Lord so singularly that it may even seem obsessive. But we are working to save countless people. The Lord has made us live such a righteous life. It’s not because of our own merits that we are leading a righteous life. Rather, it’s all because the Lord has met us, who, just like Zacchaeus, are full of handicaps and weaknesses. He also said to us, “Come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Even though we were doomed to hell because of our sins, the Lord has saved you and me from all our sins by coming to this earth, being baptized, and dying on the Cross. He has made it possible for us to live a righteous life.
Words cannot express just how grateful I am to the Lord. For the sake of this salvation that the Lord has given us, we must spread the gospel Word all over the world, lead a righteous life, and then go to the Lord to see Him face to face.
Half of this year has gone by, and we’ve faced many difficulties so far. But on this summer discipleship training camp, let us meet all the servants of God and His saints from all over the country, share fellowship with them, and give our testimonies. Through this, we will find new strength.