Jesus’ earthly mission was to seek and to save the lost. That is still His mission today, and we are a part of it, called to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ with the world.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church back in the 1700s, was once asked how he would spend his remaining time if he knew that tomorrow was his last day. He replied:
“Why … just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening . . . and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to . . . Martin’s house . . . talk and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at 10 o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in Glory.”
In our Wisdom Journey, Jesus is rapidly approaching the end of His earthly life and ministry, and what a profound testimony it is that He does not change a thing. He keeps right on with His ministry as usual—healing, saving, and teaching.
We are following Him as He arrives in Jericho, in the Jordan Valley about seventeen miles east of Jerusalem. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us about some interesting events that occur along the way.
Luke 18:35, says, “As [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.” When he hears Jesus is passing by, he cries out in verse 38, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
People tell him to be quiet, but he continues crying out; and eventually Jesus tells His disciples to bring the blind man over to Him. Jesus then asks him in verse 41, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man answers, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” This man has no doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David, and that He is capable of doing what the rabbis taught only God could do: give sight to the blind.
The account continues:
Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. (verses 42-43)
Mark 10:46 actually gives the name of this blind beggar—Bartimaeus. Matthew 20 adds that there are two blind men crying out to Jesus. Bartimaeus is evidently the spokesman for the two men.
By the way, Luke says Jesus is coming to Jericho, while Matthew and Mark write that He is going out of Jericho. The liberals love to jump on this kind of apparent discrepancy, but the truth is, there were two Jerichos—the Old Testament Jericho, which was in ruins, and the current Jericho just two miles south, where people lived. Evidently, Jesus was leaving the ruins of old Jericho—I imagine He was teaching His disciples a little more about that amazing miracle when the walls came tumbling down. And as He was approaching the new city of Jericho, these two men cried out for healing.
The next event, recorded only by Dr. Luke, is familiar to many of us. As Jesus is passing through Jericho, one of the residents is anxious to catch a glimpse of Him, but he is having trouble because he is so short. Just about every child in church has learned the song about Zacchaeus, that “wee little man” who climbed up the sycamore tree.
He might have been a little man, but he was a big problem in that community. Luke calls him, a “chief tax collector” (Luke 19:2). Tax collectors were the scum of the earth because of their collaboration with Rome and their crooked tax schemes that lined their pockets at the expense of their fellow Jews.
Jesus stops underneath that limb where Zacchaeus is perched and says to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (verse 5).
We are so familiar with this story, we can easily overlook the fact that Jesus knows this man’s name, although they have never been introduced. And He doesn’t just know Zacchaeus’s name; He knows everything about Zacchaeus’s crooked life—He knows everything about the tax collector’s sinful heart.
Zacchaeus is thrilled with this opportunity and invites Jesus to his home. Luke tells us in verse 8 that at some point later Zacchaeus makes this statement:
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
This is evidence of true repentance and faith in Christ. The Old Testament law required full restitution, but Zacchaeus is willing to repay fourfold.
I remember a man who embezzled nearly a million dollars from his company. When he was caught, I went over to his house, and he seemed to be very sorry for what he had done. But when I talked to him about paying back what he had stolen, he looked at me like I had come up with some kind of crazy idea. He told me his embezzlement was forgiven by God and he did not need to pay anything back.
Making restitution is evidence of genuine repentance. Zacchaeus is demonstrating that here. He is essentially going to empty his bank account to make everything right with all those people from whom he has stolen money through the years.
Then Jesus announces His own mission in life in verse 10: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” That is the reason He had to come to Zacchaeus’s house. Beloved, Jesus is not just on a mission to save people; He is on a mission to save one lost sinner at a time. I happen to be one of them. How about you?
In verse 11 Jesus begins to tell a parable about the coming kingdom. A nobleman is going away to be appointed king. He is going to return eventually, but when he returns, many of the citizens will not want to acknowledge him as their king.
Before he leaves, he calls ten of his servants and gives them each a “mina,” which is equivalent to about three months’ wages. They are to invest the money so that it will grow until he returns.
Now Jesus fast-forwards this parable to that moment when the king returns. He calls his servants to give an account for their investments. Those who have managed his money wisely are rewarded with even greater management opportunities.
But one of these servants returns the king’s mina to him and explains he has done nothing but wrap it up in a handkerchief and hide it away. He even has the audacity to blame the king, saying in verse 21 that because the king is “a severe man” he did not want to risk anything. The king replies, “Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?” (verse 23). The king then takes that man’s mina and gives it to the man who had most faithfully and wisely managed what he had been given.
What is this parable teaching? First, Jesus’ kingdom will not be established immediately. Like the nobleman, Jesus is going away, but He will return to establish His kingdom.
Second, as believers await His return, they are to be faithful in managing the resources God has given them. In light of Jesus’ priority on the salvation of the lost, He has in mind our use of resources to reach people with the gospel.
Finally, those who reject King Jesus are going to suffer His righteous judgment.
What has God given you? What if today was your last day? Would you change the way you are investing your spiritual gifts, your finances, your time, and your talents? Let’s manage them today in a way that will not bring us regret. Let’s join the mission of Jesus, who is seeking and saving the lost today.