One of the hardest things we have to do as followers of Christ is keep the reality of eternity ever before us. Heaven seems so glorious…yet so far away, and Hell seems so impossibly horrendous that it is hard to think sustained thoughts about either destination.
And since we have a hard time reckoning with the reality of eternity, we naturally have difficulty generating a concern for the plight of the lost. Oh, it hits us sometimes with force, but for the most part we are perfunctory about it – we know we need to share the gospel. We know we need to be faithful witnesses. We need to love the lost more dearly, but too often our hearts are cold.
Enter Luke 19.
It begins with the story of Zacchaeus, a short, rich man who was desperately lost, but who nevertheless had an interest in Jesus. Jesus knows about this, and invites himself over for lunch, and before the day is done, the Lord declares that we will be meeting the tax collector in heaven:
“Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9 (ESV)
And then Jesus gives us deep insight into his mission and purpose:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 (ESV)
We may have a hard time generating a heart for the lost, but Jesus did not as it was His very mission and purpose. And this same heart is displayed clearly when He finally returns to Jerusalem and surveys the crowd…
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it… Luke 19:41 (ESV)
Jesus loves the individuals (Zacchaeus), and He loves the multitudes, and so, as in all things, He provides a wonderful example. But Jesus’ example here (and elsewhere) can put us under the pile, making us feel guilty for not measuring up to His high standard…which of course, we don’t.
And of course, we never do. We fall short in our heart for the lost, and we fall short in everything else, but here is where we remember that our hope is not in Jesus as an example to us, but a substitute. As Christians we are “in Christ”, and our ultimate hope is that He is our righteousness. Our record is spotty, but His is perfect, and because we are in Him, not only does our sin go on Him at the cross, but His righteousness becomes ours, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21…
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
And here’s the wonderful thing, knowing that Christ’s perfect standard of righteousness substitutes for our sinful record fills us with a peace and joy that ultimately leads us to live more righteously, to serve more wholeheartedly, and especially, in the case of the lost, to love more dearly.
This is the message of Jesus, and that is the reason we call it…good news.
For tomorrow, Tuesday, July 28th: Luke 20