1. "Epiphany" means "showing forth" or "manifestation." In our text for today Jesus is manifested as the One Who seeks and saves the lost.
2. Our text is peculiar to Luke. It is not found in the other Gospels.
3. The site of the text is at Jericho, a sub-tropical city near the Jordan River, about 25 miles straight east of Jerusalem. The time of the text is only a few days before Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem, described in vv. 29 to 40 of this chapter.
4. This text is about a superintendent of tax-collectors. At this time in history Palestine was under the control of the Roman Emperor. To collect taxes the Romans hired native Palestinians to collect a fixed amount from the people. The tax-collectors were allowed by the Romans to collect more than the Romans required. Whatever they collected in excess of the required amount became the collector's property. The people disliked these tax-collectors and even hated them for their excessive demands. Therefore, they were known as "sinners" (vs. 7) which here means "social outcast."
5. Some scholars think that Zacchaeus had heard Jesus before and had already become a Christian. Others think that Zacchaeus' desire to see Jesus was merely curiosity and that Jesus used this curiosity to bring the Gospel to him. In vs. 9 Jesus says: "Today salvation has come to this house." This indicates that Zacchaeus was only curious and then became a Christian on this occasion.
6. The divinity of Jesus is plainly evident and active in this account. Because of His omniscience He foresaw and knew that Zacchaeus would be looking for Him. In fact, Jesus even knew his name without being told.
7. Furthermore, the providence of God is plainly evident here. God arranged all these circumstances so that Jesus would be able to speak to Zacchaseus. It all looks so natural but it is all under the control and guidance of God. Without his own knowledge, Caesar August brought it about that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Without realizing it, the woman at the well, John 4, found the water of life in addition to mere water. Nothing is accidental. God rules and overrules the whole world and every detail thereof to bring about His will. Christians see the hand of God at work in their lives.
8. "Son of Abraham" in vs. 9 can mean either "a member of the Old Testament covenant people" or "a believer." We think it means the latter here.
9. In verse 5 "house" means a building. But in verse 9 it means "household." Evidently Zacchaeus was married and perhaps had children. Perhaps more than one person became a Christian on this occasion.
10. In verse 5 Jesus says: "I must stay in your house." This is the divine "must" of the will of the Father. At Luke 2:49 Jesus said: "I must be about My Father's business." At Luke 24:7 He said: "The Son of man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men."
11. Verse 7 tells us that "all of them began to grumble." The disciples were with Him. They, too, very likely, grumbled because this was so unusual. But the love of Jesus disregards man's grumbling.
12. Zacchaeus said: "Look here, I'm giving half of my possessions to the poor and, in case I've cheated anyone, I'll restore it fourfold." True faith produces fruits. Zacchaeus was rich in money, maybe became poor and he had been poor in spiritual matters but became rich.
13. The word "Behold" occurs at verses 2 and 8. This word always draws our attention to something important. In verse 2 it draws attention to the conversion of Zacchaeus and in verse 8 to the fruit of his faith. Cf. Matthew 1:9, 13, 19; Luke 2:25.
14. The expression "the lost" occurs at Luke 15:6, 9, 24, 32. It describes mankind lost in sin and death.
THEME: Jesus Seeks And Saves The Lost
The Bible tells us about remarkable conversions. Who would have thought that Jesus would seek and save the harlot at the well, John 4? Who would have thought that devil-possessed women would become Christians, Luke 8:2? Who would have thought that Paul, the persecutor and blasphemer, I Timothy 1:12-17, would become the great Apostle? Who would have thought that Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector, would become a "son of Abraham?" It is true because the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. He sought and saved the chief of sinners, too.
I. THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK THE LOST
A. Luke 15 gives us three parables about the lost.
The lost sheep, verse 4, could not find its way back. The lost coin, verse 8, could not find its way back. The lost son, verse 24, could not find his way back. Paul could not find his way back to God. He fought against God. The woman at the well of Sychar, John 4, would forever have remained lost. She could not find her way back. The harlot at John 8:1-11, was hopelessly lost in her sin. Mary Magdalene was hopelessly in the power of seven devils. She was truly lost and could not save herself. Natural man is spiritually blind, I Corinthians 2:14, spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13, and an enemy of God, Romans 5:10. Natural man is hopelessly lost. Natural man flees from God. He destroys himself. Hosea 13:9.
B. Jesus SEEKS the lost.
Some people wrongly think that they found Jesus, not vice versa. Some people think that they make a decision for Christ. That is not true. Even Christian faith is a gift of God. Jesus said: "This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He sent." Faith is the work of God, not of man. In the same chapter (John 6:44) Jesus said: "No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day." Coming to faith is the first resurrection. John 5:25. Resurrection of the body is the second resurrection. John 5:28. Both are a gift of God. Dead people cannot make themselves alive. Jesus seeks the spiritually dead. Faith and conversion come by the Word of God, the Gospel. Romans 10:17.
II. THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SAVE THE LOST
The whole Bible tells the story of Jesus saving all the lost in the world. Genesis 3:15 said that Jesus would crush Satan's head. See Romans 16:20; Revelations 12:9; Hebrews 2:14. Genesis 12:3 says that in Jesus all the nations would be blest. Paul applies this at Galatians 3:8. Leviticus 16 is an Old Testament shadow of Christ, the Savior. As the High Priest entered into the Most Holy Place once in the year to atone for his own sins and those of the people, so Christ, once and for all, atoned for the sins of all mankind, Hebrews 9:23-28. The fiery serpent in the wilderness, Numbers 21:8, is an Old Testament picture of the cross of Christ, John 3:14- 15. Isaiah 53 is a marvelous prophecy of Christ the Savior. "He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." verse 5. "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." verse 6. Daniel 9:27 reads: "He (Messiah) shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering." Likewise the Baptist said: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29. When Jesus was on the cross (Matthew 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-43) the chief priests, the people, the soldiers and even the two malefactors taunted and derided Jesus again and again about SAVING people. That clearly shows what Jesus had constantly taught and it shows that even His enemies knew about it. Everyone knew that Jesus was the Savior, as the angel had foretold to Joseph, Matthew 1:21.
The account of Zacchaeus is just one example of Jesus' statement: "The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost."