“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.’”
Spiritually Speaking, Who Is Zacchaeus among Us?
Today, I want to give a sermon about the story of Zacchaeus shown in the Gospel of Luke chapter 19. Dear fellow believers, you all might know Zacchaeus well, don’t you? Among Christians, there probably isn’t a person who doesn’t know Zacchaeus. Today’s Scripture passage is a famous one about that tax collector Zacchaeus who had climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus. This is a well-known Scripture to us, and his story even appears in our new hymnbook. As you have read today, Zacchaeus received blessings for He had accepted Jesus, and by having accepted Jesus into his heart, He was able to go through a great and wonderful change. This story about Zacchaeus gives us a tremendously wonderful teaching.
It is written, “Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho” (Luke 19:1). The word, ‘Jericho,’ has the meaning of ‘aroma,’ and this in turn refers to this very world. Hence spiritually speaking, the passage which says that Jesus entered and passed through the town of Jericho, which means ‘aroma,’ tells us that our Lord has come to this world having thrown away His throne in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And then it goes on to say, “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” (Luke 19:2-6).
When we look at the personal profile of this Zacchaeus, it states that this man was a chief tax collector and very rich. In today’s terms, a chief tax collector is equivalent to the head of the revenue office. Usually, government officials’ salaries are a set amount, and so it is only right that they should only have a reasonable amount of wealth to make a living. But despite being a government official, Zacchaeus was said to be an enormously rich man. It probably means that he had sat behind an important post and embezzled some backdoor funds. Even these days, it is possible to think that those government officials who own much land or have palace-like houses are people who sit behind important posts being bribed with much money. We can’t say all of them are like that, but it is very difficult for a person to buy even a small house with the amount of salary earned by having worked all throughout his life as a government official. Yet, that person owning much land and having a large house would probably mean, nine times out of ten, that the person sat behind an important post and received bribes coming in backdoor. Whatever the case, we could safely assume that Zacchaeus had filled himself up with the much money he had embezzled.
This man named Zacchaeus being a chief tax collector and a rich man means that he was person whose worldly status was at a certain level and that he had a large amount of wealth. This Zacchaeus’ only weakness was his very short stature. Zacchaeus had an interest in Jesus, and when he opportunely heard that Jesus was going to enter and pass through Jericho, he climbed up into a sycamore tree, thinking in his heart, “Let me for once see who this Jesus is by taking this opportunity.” Climbing up into a sycamore tree, that was how he got to see Jesus.
Just then, from underneath the sycamore tree, Jesus saw that sight and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). Hearing those words, Zacchaeus quickly came down, brought Jesus to his house, and provided a meal. As he did so, a surprising change came about in his heart. Regarding this, the Bible tells us the following: “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’” (Luke 19:8). After receiving Jesus, Zacchaeus, who was a corrupt government official, experienced such a surprising change.
What Happened to Zacchaeus?
How did this Zacchaeus react when he was told by Jesus to come down from the sycamore tree? Following Jesus’ words, He came down quickly from the sycamore tree. And a change occurred in his heart as he received Jesus. But what do these Scripture passages mean? Dear fellow believers, if you take a look at chapter 19, verse 10, it is said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The Lord came to seek and to save those who were lost. In other words, today’s Scripture passage is telling us that Jesus came to this earth to seek people who are like this Zacchaeus and save them.
When we look at Zacchaeus, we can see that he had strengths and weaknesses such as being a chief tax collector, rich, and short in stature. However, regardless of such humanly things, it is clear that Zacchaeus’ heart was headed toward Jesus. When Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down quickly, Zacchaeus obeyed Jesus’ words by coming down in haste. In this part, we must also be able to realize how Zacchaeus came to meet the Lord and how he got to experience change in his heart. From a worldly perspective, Zacchaeus was very rich and held an adequate position, but on the other hand, he was short and had nothing much to show. However, regardless of these things, he came down in an instant without any hesitation when the Lord told him to come down. And this shows us that regardless of what kind of a man he was, he was able to recognize who Jesus was. Zacchaeus would often hear about who Jesus was only through words. But after having met Him personally, Zacchaeus quickly realized that He was the One whom the Israelites had been waiting for, the Savior who was to remit all their sins and to save them. Zacchaeus had accepted such truth into heart. That is why he was able to accept the Savior Jesus into his heart and to gain salvation.
However, if everything had ended with Zacchaeus coming down from the sycamore tree, saying, “Oh my, how does He know my name,” when Jesus said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down,” taking Jesus to his house, and providing Him with food, then Jesus would have been of no meaning to him. However, we can confirm that this man named Zacchaeus went through a very surprising change in his heart when we look at the words he spoke to that Jesus after he had taken Jesus into his house and received Him. Zacchaeus said that he would divide his goods in half and give it to the poor and that if he had taken anything from anyone by false accusation, he would restore fourfold.
When we listen to the Word from the Scriptures, we must know what they mean spiritually, and we must recognize what kind of changes will occur when we listen to those Words and believe in them. It is the same thing when you read today’s Scripture passages. It is because all the Scripture passages are Words that the Lord speaks toward you and me. You and I are like Zacchaeus. Like this Zacchaeus, we are those who have worldly wealth, prestige, and power, and we are also those who have human weaknesses and trespasses. That is why we must realize why Zacchaeus had shown such surprising changes after having met the Lord, and why we must also receive the blessing of great surprising change in our hearts like Zacchaeus.
I am not saying these words to admonish you to help the poor by sharing your wealth. Rather, what you need in this day and age would be the attitude of trying to keep what you have. Along the lines of formality, people have the biased view that Christians have to help the poor unconditionally and perform many virtuous works. I think that sermons given in churches usually flow along that line. However, the Bible tells us something opposite to that instead. The Bible isn’t speaking of such things. People of other religions in this world can help the poor and the pitiful far better than Christians.
The Bible speaks about us human beings and our lives, and it tells the most important thing for us human beings – the salvation from sins, eternal life, and how to enter Heaven. Therefore, when we hear the Word, we must listen to it by throwing away our thoughts and carefully see how that Word relates to you.
In your own ways, you have wealth and prestige, as well as fleshly weaknesses and strengths. Everyone is the same. Someone who is tall may have his or her own weaknesses for sure. There are people whose outer appearance is sleekly but the inside is all rotten, and then there are those whose outer appearance is poor but the inside is full. There are certain people who are smart, of good personality, and good all around but without money. Then again, there are certain others who have great amount money but lacks prestige. Also, there are certain people who have it all including wealth and prestige but from a human perspective, small in stature and fat.
If you ask how could being small and being fat be a weakness, I say yes it can. Modern people really despise people like that. Especially women don’t like people like that. There were times in the past when such people were favored. They used to be envied because people had thought that being pot-bellied meant that the person would have to be someone like a president of a company who could get hands on and consume a lot of rich food. However, these days, people who are pot-bellied are considered as those who cannot take care of themselves, not some company president. “To be considered” might not be the right words because it is actually true.
But the truth is that everyone, regardless of whom, has some sort of a handicap, either in one’s outer appearance or in one’s mentality. There are certain people who have enormous wealth, rich, and from a fleshly perspective, good looking but has a complex over their level of education. And so, at times in the newspapers, don’t we hear about people like that going back to high school at an old age and getting a diploma that’s thirty years late, or about people receiving an honorary degree from a certain university although they had never even been close to entering a college? Like so, from a worldly perspective, everyone has at least one or more these shortcomings for sure.
Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree and looked down, but then, Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down quickly. Now, why do you think Zacchaeus had climbed up into a sycamore tree? Because of his fleshly handicap, he had tried to see Jesus by climbing up into a sycamore tree. A sycamore tree is a plant that grows well even when it’s lying sideways. Jesus was walking past that sycamore tree. And as Jesus passed under that sycamore tree, His heart communed with Zacchaeus’ heart.
Truly, Zacchaeus Was Wholeheartedly Waiting for the Savior
He was waiting for someone who is worthy of his respect, can solve his problem of sin and restore his honor, and give him salvation, eternal life, and blessings. He was waiting for someone like that. Just then, on top of a sycamore tree, Zacchaeus saw Jesus walking by, and Jesus, as He stood right under the sycamore tree that Zacchaeus had climbed up into, looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” In other words, Zacchaeus’ heart had communicated with Jesus’ heart. By meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus experienced a change of heart. His heart had been congenial with the Lord’s heart.
What kind of grace did Zacchaeus receive? How was he able to receive grace from the Lord? When Zacchaeus met Jesus, he did not just meet and showed his respects to Jesus simply from a fleshly perspective. Rather, he was able to recognize Jesus spiritually. Zacchaeus, able to recognize who Jesus was, was able to receive grace in his heart.
Jesus is the Son of God who had come to save the humankind from sins and also the Creator of all things of this universe. When we believe in Jesus, we mustn’t believe in Him thinking that He’s just one of the four great sages. Jesus isn’t just another great man, but rather, He is the Master of Creation who had created this universe and everything in it. Furthermore, He is the Savior who had come to save people from sins. He is the One who had come to this earth to save us from all sins. I am saying that He is the Messiah who has blotted out our sins and blessed us by changing our status from sinners to the righteous and making us God’s children. Having met Jesus, who was to take responsibility for his past, present, and future, Zacchaeus got to receive all the grace that the Lord wanted to offer.
What does Jesus going into Zacchaeus’ house mean? It means that Jesus recognized that Zacchaeus was looking for the Savior and that Zacchaeus, too, recognized Jesus to be the Savior. And, Jesus going into Zacchaeus’ house means that Zacchaeus has received Jesus into his heart and that Jesus has gone into Zacchaeus’ heart. Thus, this represents Jesus Christ having given Zacchaeus not only the true remission of sins and the genuine salvation but also all the blessings of eternal life.
How Do We Think about Jesus?
“Who do you say that I am?” asked Jesus to His disciples. Then, Peter answered, “Jesus, You are God and also the Son of the Living God.” This is how we must know Him.
Yesterdays, news about the space shuttle Columbia exploding in mid-air was broadcasted. Columbia was a space shuttle that had traveled into space seven times. This time, the shuttle was carrying seven astronauts who were coming back from space after having conducted various tests for seven days. Fifteen minutes to landing, it had exploded in mid-air. It was reported that the remains of the explosion have fallen in a certain state in the United States.
Who was the One who had created this very universe that they were trying to explore? He is none other than Jesus. What does the word, ‘Jesus,’ mean? It means ‘the Savior.’ Jesus Christ is God, the King of all kings, the Master of Creation who had made all things of the universe, and the One who had come down to this earth as our Savior. That is why we call Him, Jesus Christ. When we say that we believe in Jesus, we are saying that we believe in God, precisely. It means that we believe in Him as the Savior God, who has saved us all and made us children of God by saving us from the destruction and the curse, the One gives us blessings, rather than simply believing in Him as God.
By coming down to this earth, what did Jesus do for you? Jesus saved you and me from sin. And, He gave us the blessing of becoming the children of God. In order to blot out your sins and mine, our Lord received the baptism from John the Baptist. If you read the Gospel of Matthew chapter 3, you will see a scene in which Jesus receives the baptism from John the Baptist. Well, let’s take a look at the Gospel of Matthew chapter 3 verse 13 through 15 together. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him” (Matthew 3:13-15).
Dear fellow believers, you must know what Jesus has done for you by coming down to this earth. Jesus came down to this earth and became your true Savior by taking on your sins through His baptism, vicariously dying on the Cross, and being resurrected from that death. For He has taken away all your sins and received the judgment for you, God has indeed given you the enormous blessing of becoming God’s children. Ever since the beginning of the world, Jesus had made the promise that He would come to this earth to save you and me. And He actually did come by being born into this world in human flesh, and at the age of thirty, He did indeed receive the baptism from John the Baptist. Just as He said, “For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” as He was receiving the baptism, Jesus took on all your sins and mine by receiving the baptism. I am saying that Jesus received the baptism to take on your sins and mine. Finding joy in that, just as Jesus came up from the water after having been baptized by John the Baptist, God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
After having come down to this earth, how did Jesus blot out all your sins and mine, and how did He become our Savior? Also, how did He blot out all the sins of Zacchaeus? In order to blot out all your sins and mine, as well as those of Zacchaeus, Jesus came to this earth and at the age of thirty received the baptism from John the Baptist.
The word “baptism” is “βάφτισμα (baptisma)” in Greek, and it means “being immersed.” This word also implies ‘to cleanse’ or ‘to bury.’ Jesus received the baptism from John the Baptist, the representative of all humankind. However, this baptism wasn’t like the baptism by effusion practiced these days in which a pastor brings a bowl of water and says, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I baptize you,” as he sprinkles water on top of a person using his or her fingers. Rather, it was a baptism by immersion in which Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan River and came out, just as John the Baptist, the representative of all humankind, laid both of his hands on top of Jesus’ head. This is referred to as the baptism by immersion.
What is important is that in this baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist laid his both hands on Jesus head. You have to pay great attention to this fact. “To lay on hands” implies “to transfer sin onto the sacrifice.” When Aaron the High Priest laid his hands on the head of the scapegoat, all the yearly sins of the Israelites were passed onto the goat (Leviticus 16:21). Like so, Jesus came to this earth and at the age of thirty received the baptism from John the Baptist, a descendant of Aaron the High Priest. Then, why do you think Jesus received the baptism? The reason why Jesus received the baptism at the age of thirty was to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus received the baptism in order to carry out the righteous work of blotting out all the sins of all people.
What did Jesus do for you and me by coming down to this earth? He took on all your sins and mine completely by receiving the baptism. By receiving the baptism through John the Baptist, He took on all the sins of humankind. Human beings cannot but only commit sins from when they are in their mother’s womb until they die and from the days of Adam until the last day when the last person dies. But, Jesus received the baptism so that He could take away all those sins. Jesus took on all those sins you commit from your birth until your death, regardless of how long you will live. Jesus received the baptism that takes away all the sins of this world that people commit, leaving out none, and also, after having taken on all the sins through that baptism, He vicariously received the judgment for those sins on the Cross. In doing so, He fully achieved the goal of saving you and me from sins. Jesus had fully accomplished that righteous work which He had planned and promised even before the creation.
What Kind of Change Did Zacchaeus’ Heart Receive?
If Zacchaeus had welcomed Jesus only to a moderate degree thinking, “How does Jesus know my name,” and also if Jesus had gone into Zacchaeus’ house, had a meal, and went away saying only, “Thank you. I wish you many blessings. Take care. Good-bye,” then as we read the Bible, there wouldn’t have been anything for us to realize and the incident wouldn’t have been anything meaningful. It is because for all human beings, the most important problem is how to resolve the problem of sins inside one’s heart. Therefore, if this problem hadn’t been solved, solving any other problem would have meant nothing. This is same for all human beings including Zacchaeus, you, and me. For Zacchaeus as well as us, all human beings have many sins—sins we have committed consciously or unconsciously, sins that we know only ourselves, sins that others also know, and so on—this is the greatest problem. Only after solving this problem, other problems such as having no wealth or prosperity, having no reputation, and having certain weaknesses can be listed as problems. Whether or not we have received the remission of sins while living in this world is our most important issue that decides whether we will go to Heaven or hell in the next life.
Therefore, even though Jesus has carried out with authority and performed many miracles, more than all these, His work of having blotted out all our sins and solving the problem of sins is the most prominent and meaningful work. We must realize this fact and believe in it. In order to save you and me from sins, Jesus came to this earth and received the baptism like this. Believe in the baptism through which Jesus has taken on all your sins, so that you may be able to receive the remission of sins while you are alive in this world and then go to Heaven while you move into the next life.
When were your sins transferred over to Jesus? Do you accurately know this fact? The Scripture passage from Matthew 3:13-15 we just read tells us this. As you believe in Jesus, you read the same Bible in the same way, but you might never have heard a sermon like this. However, once you hear it—whether you had heard it in the past, whether you are now hearing it for the first time or whether you will hear it in the future—all you have to do is to realize the Truth, thinking, “Alas, Jesus did not just die on the Cross after having come down to this earth to save me from sins. He didn’t save me with the blood of the Cross alone.” Jesus having taken on our sins occurred not when He was at the Cross but when He received the baptism. I want you to accurately know the fact that Jesus took on all your sins and mine by receiving the baptism.
Because He has cleansed us by taking on the sins by receiving the baptism, the word ‘baptism’ also means ‘to cleanse.’ It was possible for our sins to be cleansed because all your sins and mine have been transferred over to Jesus through the laying on of hands. You must realize this fact and confess, “My sins were transferred over to Jesus because Jesus had received the baptism from John the Baptist. Jesus has taken away all our sins by receiving the baptism.”
Some people say that the Bible isn’t more accurate than the science of people. However, they are saying so with a mistaken knowledge. In a figure of speaking, the Bible is like a grandfather to science. What do people do when they shoot up rockets in to space? They measure distance, calculate time, and make various preparations, but information regarding this can already be found inside the Bible. To such an extent, the Bible holds inside infinite knowledge and information that we need in this world. But among them, the most precious truth is the work of Jesus having blotted out all our sins completely and thereby washing us into having clean consciences.
Then, when did Jesus Christ take away all your sins and mine? Jesus came down to this earth and at the age of thirty, took away all our sins by receiving the baptism from John the Baptist. In that moment, all your sins and mine were transferred over to Jesus. “But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him” (Matthew 3:15). Because Jesus took on your sins and mine by receiving the baptism, all our sins were transferred over to Him. Also, by our faith in this, all the sins are washed away. To take on all our sins, Jesus vicariously received the punishment for those sins by getting nailed to the Cross. In other words, He had suffered death, which is the wages of sin, on our behalf. Henceforth, by believing in Jesus Christ as our own Savior, you and I are able to pass onto Him all those sins, which we commit consciously or unconsciously with our hearts and actions, and we also can receive judgment by faith. This is how we are able to receive the perfect salvation by faith.
Jesus completely took away all the sins of all the people, leaving out no one. There are people who insist that He has taken away the sins of only those who had already been chosen before the creation, but that is not true. God is the God of everyone, not of just a small number of selected people. Therefore, by faith, anyone can be cleansed of their sins, become clean in his or her heart, and avoid the judgment.
How was Zacchaeus able to obtain a change of heart? Zacchaeus was also able to receive the remission of sins because Jesus had taken on all his sins through the very baptism He had received from John the Baptist in the Jordan River. All our sins were cleansed because they had all been transferred over to Jesus through the baptism. We have become clean all the way through our heart because we had sent over our sins by faith.
“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” As this passage tells us, Jesus bore the sin of the world on His back, receive the punishment of getting nailed to the Cross, and saved you and me from all the judgments. If Jesus hadn’t received the baptism, there wouldn’t have been His passing away on the Cross. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). If Jesus hadn’t shed blood, there wouldn’t have been the remission of sins. Also, Jesus was able to shed His precious blood vicariously because He had taken on our sins through the baptism. Like so, Jesus died for you and me, and by resurrecting from the dead in three days, He lives eternally. And He became God to those who believe in Him even now.
He is the One who becomes the Savior to those who believe in the fact that the Lord came down to this earth and blotted out all your sins and mine through His baptism and the blood of the Cross. He became the Master of Salvation to people who believe in their heart, who have passed on their sins by faith, who have received judgment for all sins by faith, and who have received salvation by faith. Accordingly, a change comes about in the hearts of those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
Then, what kind of change occurs in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus? A change of heart like that of Zacchaeus occurred when he said, “I will give half of my goods to the poor,” as he received Jesus who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit as the Savior. What kind of change is this? The heart of caring for other souls will arise in those who believe in our Lord having saved us perfectly by taking on all our sins by being baptized, cleansing our sins, and receiving the judgment on the Cross. An altruistic change of heart will occur. As for those who believe in the Lord having truly become their Savior, they cannot but live for the souls of others because deeply thankful thoughts for that Lord-given salvation will arise in their heart. The righteous without sin cannot but carry out this noble work of spreading the gospel to others. Furthermore, even though they had lived unjustly and like a miser in the past, after the receiving of salvation, a renewed heart of living for the others will come into existence.
From under the sycamore tree, Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come down. Today, I must stay at your house.” Just then, Zacchaeus came down from the top of the sycamore tree. He then took Jesus into his house and received a great grace. After that, this Zacchaeus had a change in his heart for having received a great blessing, and thus, he was able to confess his resolution.
When Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down, he came down immediately. What about you? You are also a human being like Zacchaeus who has honor and wealth as well as handicaps in fleshly terms. To you who are like that, if the Lord says, “Come down. I must stay at your house. I will save you, and I want to go inside your heart,” what will you do? Will you be able to obey the Word of the Lord and open up your heart to the Lord, whether or not you are decent? Dear fellow believers, are you thankful for the fact that the Lord has saved you and me by the water and the Spirit? Are you accepting this fact? Like Zacchaeus in today’s Scripture passage, those who recognizes, believe in, and follow Jesus will be greatly blessed. People who genuinely accept the Lord with a thankful heart and faith will receive the wonderful blessing of becoming God’s children. Those who receive Him, that is, those who believe in His name will be given the right to become children of God. And in this world and the next, they will get to receive wonderful blessings.
Dear fellow believers, the Lord tells you and me that He has saved us by the water, the blood, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:5-8). When we accept in our hearts this word of the Truth that the Lord has blotted out all your sins and mine and has made us God’s children, a great change comes to our hearts. The Lord has blotted all our sins clean like the white snow and has made us God’s children. Thus, you and I must truly become someone like Zacchaeus who had immediately climbed down to Jesus and said to Him, “I believe in You according to your Words.” All people, regardless of whether their status is high or low, whether they are high in honor or full of disgrace, and whether their humanistic weaknesses and trespasses are a lot or a few, they have to believe in the gospel in which Jesus has saved them by the water, the blood, and the Holy Spirit with their heart.
Some people say they believe in Jesus as their Savior, but these people, at the same time, do not know about Jesus having blotted out all their sins by His baptism and the blood on the Cross and having allowed us to be born again by the water and the Spirit. And then there are some people who are able to accept Jesus as their Savior into their heart and believe in Him because of their self-conceit. They think like this: “I am a person who has honor in this world, yet must I timidly go to a place so-called a church?” In this world, there truly are many people like this who think: “I would rather go to a large church. Why must I go to a small church like that? I would rather go to a large church if I were to believe in Jesus. Do you think I can properly believe in Jesus by going to a tiny church?”
Like so, there are people who do not believe despite the Word of God falling upon them. That is just another excuse said by many people who do not believe in the Truth of Jesus. Certain people have so much money that they don’t believe, and then there are certain people who say they cannot believe in Jesus Christ who has come by the water and the blood as their Savior because they lack so much. People who do not believe with all sorts of human thoughts and excuses like that as they hear the Word of God are the ignorant who block the path of the approaching blessing on their own.
What Was Zacchaeus Like?
He probably also had many reasons not to believe in Jesus, but when Jesus told him to come down, he did not hesitate to do so. When Jesus told him, “For today I must stay at your house,” Zacchaeus immediately heeded that Word. And by quickly coming down from the sycamore tree, he invited Jesus to his house.
Dear fellow believers, with the faith of believing in Jesus truly being inside your heart, it is only right that you accept wholeheartedly like this: “Yes. You have taken on all my sins. I have committed sins since my birth until ten, but even those sins were transferred over to You. Also, You took away the sins I have committed up until the age of twenty, thirty, as well as forty. I believe you have saved me by coming down to this earth, taking on all my sins up until the day my life ends, although I don’t know how long my lifespan will be, and by receiving the baptism once, and dying through crucifixion once.” If the Word of the Lord like that, then no matter what your situations are, you must believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior by immediately coming down from where you are situated. You must believe like Zacchaeus. People who come down immediately and believe in Jesus at once, regardless of the work that they have to do or their status, when they are called by Jesus to come down after having put down all their circumstances, get to receive the blessing.
Dear fellow believers, the Lord saved you and me by the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit. He said people can enter the Kingdom of God only by being born of water and the Spirit, and the water mentioned here refers to the baptism Jesus had received. The Spirit bears witness to the fact that God has saved us by becoming a human being, taking on all your sins and mine through His baptism, and vicariously receiving the judgment for those sins on the Cross. And yet, should we be making other excuses instead of believing in this blessed fact with our hearts? I want you to carefully examine yourself to see what you will genuinely look like before God. Are you not making up this excuse and that by putting up a sense of superiority or a sense of inferiority, thinking perhaps your prestige would suffer or you are either so great or so foolish? Rather than making excuses before God, it is wiser to believe in the Lord-given gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit.
The Lord knows everything about you and me. He knows everything: How weak you are, how arrogant you are, and also what your problems are. Therefore, as we hear the Lord telling us that He has saved you and me by coming down to this earth, receiving the baptism, taking the sins of the world to the Cross by bearing them on His back, getting crucified, receiving the judgment for those sins, finishing it, dying, and then being resurrected from the dead in three days, all we have to do from our side is to say, “I believe. Lord, You have told me to come down like this, so I have come down. And, because You told me that You have saved me like this, I believe in that Truth,” I believe. Everyone must possess the faith of genuinely believing in and obeying the salvation God has given you all. Dear fellow believers, do you believe?
Dear fellow believers, this isn’t just a sermon. Yes, it is a sermon, but it is the Living Word that will blot out the sins only when you actually believe it in your hearts. With this Truth, I speak to those who have sins inside their heart.
If a patient has to go to a general hospital and visit the psychiatry department, the doctor on duty will ask the patient, “Where are you feeling ill?” When the patient says to the doctor, “I came here because of pain in my head,” the doctor will then ask various questions, “What is your job? What is your age? How are your household circumstances? Did you ever experience a business failure? Have you ever been shocked?” Then the patient will answer the doctor. The doctor carefully writes down what the patient says. He also checks up some physical conditions, like blood pressure, and practices some inspections. And then, he prescribes accordingly.
It is said that Jesus is the Physician. Worldly physicians find out symptoms only after having checked up many conditions and answers, but Jesus already knows all about our problems. He knows all your problems of sin, and He fully knows that you suffer hardship and are cursed because of sins. He also knows that you act as servants of the devil because of sins, and He fully knows that even though you hate sins, you cannot help but commit sins. He fully knows that inside your hearts, there are sins which cannot be blotted away even if you were to repent. Because the Lord knows it all, He came to this earth and took over all the sins of humankind along with all your sins and mine by receiving the baptism without even asking us. Through the baptism, Jesus took on all the sins, regardless of whose sins they were, even those of Kim Il Sung, the former North Korean dictator, as well as those of Adolph Hitler. If there is someone who seems to be good, without blemish, and perfect, then that person is indeed a hypocrite and a person of falsehood. Speaking about human beings themselves, there isn’t a single human being who isn’t evil and wicked. Everyone is a fierce rat-like being. As it is written, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12), our lives are such that we are born with 12 kinds of sin and die after having committed these 12 kinds of sin day by day, season by season each and every year.
By receiving the baptism just once, our Lord took on the sins of mine and yours once and for all. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Then, the Lord went to the Cross carrying the sin of the world once and for all on His back, was crucified, received the judgment for all our sins, and said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Afterwards, He came back to life in just three days after His death, bore witness to His resurrection for forty days, and went up to Heaven. It is this Jesus Christ who is your Savior and mine. Jesus Christ came down to this earth to blot out your sins and mine, and through the 33 years of His life, He completely blotted out the sins of all those on this earth, including of course, you and me. And by doing so, He has saved us perfectly like this.
The Lord has given us this wonderful grace. Yet, if you and I were to make this excuse and that, saying, “I cannot believe,” then we only would be deceiving God. “I cannot believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit because I feel shameful. I already have faith in Jesus, but why must I believe in so-called the gospel of the water and the Spirit to complicate things? Of course, there are sins in my heart, but if I were to say that I believe the gospel of the water and the Spirit once again, wouldn’t that be something cumbersome and shameful? My current status in my church is all right, and my standpoint is such that I cannot confess to believe in Jesus once again. My current rank in the Christian community is very high, so even if I am not born again, I would still be someone who is high in rank.” Have you perhaps had thoughts like this? If yes, you must remember the fact that Zacchaeus went down immediately when Jesus said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down.” And when Jesus said to him, “I must stay at your house,” Zacchaeus immediately welcomed Jesus. Like so, we must also receive Jesus Christ who has saved us by faith.
You must profess, “Lord Jesus is Christ and the Son of the Living God. He came to this earth as my Savior, and took on my sins by receiving the baptism, and He died vicariously on the Cross for me and saved me by resurrection from the dead.” Wholeheartedly, we must receive Jesus in to our hearts by faith, saying, “You are my God of salvation. You are my Savior.” What kind of faith? Jesus came to this earth and took on our sins once and for all by receiving the baptism. And through His 33 years of life, He perfectly saved you and me from sins, destruction, curse, all weaknesses, and the devil once and for all by dying by getting crucified once and shedding blood. I am saying that you must receive salvation like Zacchaeus by believing in all this wholeheartedly.
Today’s Scripture passage is telling us exactly this. It’s not telling us to do good. Once a person believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and receives the remission of sins, that person will become all so thankful for the God-given grace. The Lord took on all my sins by receiving the baptism. And how thankful is this? Being grateful and thankful again and again, the righteous heart of wishing to preach this gospel to others arises. And this reflects a change of heart, wishing to do righteous works rather than wicked deeds, even though we have been committing many wicked deeds up until now, for a new heart has come into existence. Dear fellow believers, do you believe?
Dear fellow believers, do you commit numerous sins, or do you not? Truly, we all commit so many sins. Especially for those living in this day and age, sins are very common and familiar. So much so that it is almost a great discourtesy to be telling them not to commit sins as we are discussing sins. We must realize that the Lord has given such a precious Truth of the water and the Spirit to those of us living in an age like this.
The Lord says that He has saved you and me by the water and the blood. He says that He has saved us by receiving the baptism and dying vicariously on the Cross. Now, what is important is whether or not you have in your heart the faith of believing in Jesus as your true Savior. Jesus requires such faith from you. Even though Jesus did save you perfectly from sins, if you don’t accept Jesus into your heart, it will be of no use at all. My sins were also transferred over to Jesus when He received the baptism. Jesus took away not only my sins but all your sins as well. Furthermore, He has taken away not only our sins but the sins of our children, our parents, and all others. Thus, shouldn’t we be greatly thankful?
Jesus told us to spread this gospel of the water and the Spirit to all the people throughout the world. Because Jesus has blotted out all our sins, we are able to receive the remission of sins by believe in that same Jesus Christ. Thus, we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith. Dear fellow believers, do you believe?
Dear fellow believers, for the past week, did you commit sins or not? Yes, you did. Today is the Lord’s Day. There are people who will gather here on the next Lord’s Day. On that day, if I were to ask, “Did you or did you not commit sins during the week,” you will all answer the same, “We have committed sins.” However, of course including all the numerous sins we have committed thus far, Jesus has blotted out even those sins that we will be committing in the future.
If so, how did Jesus blot out all the sins? Did He blot them out just by getting crucified? By getting crucified, Jesus vicariously received the judgment on our behalf, and it was when He received the baptism from John the Baptist that He took on all our sins. Like so, we must know properly. This is why the Lord said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) and “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
The words, ‘water’ and ‘the Spirit,’ appear quite often in the Bible. In the Book of Hebrews, there appears the phrase, “our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22), and if you take a look at the First Epistle of Peter chapter 3, verse 21, the Lord firmly says to us, “Water is an antitype which now saves us—baptism.” As we look at these Words, we must wholeheartedly have the faith of believing in Jesus Christ, who has saved us by the water, the blood, and the Holy Spirit, as our true Savior. Jesus Christ took on all the worldly sins that all the human beings commit throughout their entire lifetime, received the judgment for those worldly sins vicariously by carrying them on His back, and became the Savior for you and me by being resurrected in three days after His death. Therefore, you must genuinely believe in this Truth with all your heart.
The Living God created this universe, but if you and I don’t have in our hearts the fundamental heart of believing in God, this Creator God will also not exist in your hearts. However, if you have in your heart the faith of believing in God and the heart of believing in the Word of God, God will become someone who is greatly related to you. To believe in and follow Jesus, who carried out the sacrificial ministry of remission of sins according to the way it is written in the Bible, is to receive God into your heart. If you and I read the written Word of God with our eyes, listen to it with our ears, know and verify it through the sermons, and believe in God, we will get to believe in the work He has done. By that faith, we get to receive salvation.
God said, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). When He says “with the heart one believes unto righteousness,” the word ‘righteousness’ can be written with the Chinese character, ‘義(yi).’ When you look at this character, you may be able to recognize that it is comprised of two separate characters, ‘羊(yang),’ meaning ‘sheep’ and ‘我(wo),’ meaning ‘I.’ Chinese characters are hieroglyphic characters, that is, characters represented by pictures, so one can see that in the word ‘righteousness,’ its spiritual meaning is shown within that character. In order for us to receive the remission of sins and to become righteous, we need a sacrificial lamb. And that in turn witnesses that Jesus Christ who has come as the sacrificial Lamb is our Savior. Jesus Christ came down to this earth as the Lamb of God, and by receiving the baptism, taking on the sins of the world, and dying on the Cross, He saved all of us. This is why the righteous work of God is expressed with Jesus’ baptism and the Cross.
Also, ‘righteousness’ in Greek is ‘δικαιοσύνην (dikaiosunen),’ which means the fairest state that has no defect at all. The Son of God came down to this earth and carried out the righteous work in the fairest way. Rather than coming down to this earth and simply saying, “I will save only those whom I like and send all the rest to hell,” He saved the entire humankind by He himself coming down to this earth in human flesh to save you and me from sins, receiving the baptism righteously, taking on the sins, vicariously receiving the judgment for the sins on the Cross, and coming back to life from the dead.
We should no longer be having false faith by having fallen into a false religion, but rather, we should believe in the Lord justly having saved us with accuracy as it is and accept it wholeheartedly. The Lord has saved us most properly and justly, but the most important thing is whether or not you and I believe in that Lord wholeheartedly by having put off everything else. Dear fellow believers, do you believe in God? Do you believe in the work that God has done, that Jesus has done?
Dear fellow believers, regarding having faith in the Lord, you must believe in and know about Him through the Scriptures. How did your sins get transferred over to Jesus Christ? It went over when Jesus was receiving the baptism from John the Baptist. The passage showing to that is clearly written in the Bible, starting from verse 13 through 17 in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 3. When you see this passage written in the New Testament, you must know it as it is and accept it as it is. Just as Zacchaeus had come down immediately when the Lord had told him, “Zacchaeus, come down,” as we hear the Word telling us the Lord had blotted out all our sins when He was receiving the baptism like so and had fulfilled all the righteousness, we must believe wholeheartedly like that. We must be able to think, “Jesus took on our sins like so, as He received the baptism and came up from the water. That is why it is said in the Gospel of John chapter 1, verse 29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” And also, this is why in chapter 19 of the Gospel of John, it is said that the Lord got nailed to the Cross and shed blood to atone for all our sins as He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Then, He was resurrected in three days after His death. That is how He became our Savior.” Dear fellow believers, we must believe like that in our hearts.
Zacchaeus was a rich man, had fame, and also some handicaps. But through his faith in Jesus being his Savior and in the works that the Lord had done, he came to receive the blessing of going through a change in his heart. Dear fellow believers, like Zacchaeus, I hope that such wonderful blessing will be bestowed upon you as well through your wholehearted faith in the Lord’s gospel of the water and the Spirit.