Zacchaeus Is the Model Sinner
Joanna, Mary, and Salome, Myrrhbearers
3 August 2016
Zaccheaus is the model Christian. He is a sinner who recognizes his sin. Christ says: "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt 9:13). Only sinners may be called. And in an extraordinary transvaluation of values, the Lord Jesus calls sinners to partake of His righteousness. That which they are not, they are by imputation. He reckons them righteous. As Martin Luther says "This is Christ's love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person." Christ seeks what is best for us, not by seeking the good in us (that would a fool's errand), but by seeking to give what is good to those who are bad, like us. Ah, to be a sinner like this!

When a dear seminary professor, Dr. Harold Buls, preached his final sermon he told the anecdote from early in his ministry of receiving a man who came for private confession. The man fell on his knees and confessed committing adultery to Dr. Buls. In his sermon Dr. Buls exclaimed, "I was envious of this man!" This elicited sustained laughter in the seminary chapel to which Dr. Buls immediately replied, "No, no! I don't mean it that way! I didn't envy his sin! I mean that the man had deep spiritual courage coming in getting on his knees and abjectly confessing the sin of adultery to his pastor. I was envious of his spiritual courage." He was envious of the man's ability to be the kind of sinner God counts righteous.

God has staked his honor and holy name on the church for the sake of our need. He is willing to be here among sinners, though He is holy, because it is His mission is to save sinners like us. Some years ago a friend of mine quipped, "Confession is good for the soul, but bad for your reputation." And he has a point! We find it difficult to say about ourselves "I, a poor miserable sinner." Yet only sinners receive the divine mercy. Only those who are willing to get off their high horse and allow God to be who He is will be forgiven. Only those who recognize their need for the Physician can receive His healing. Only those who know God is willing to be among the small will receive His ministry to the small and weak. Such was the case for Zacchaeus.

So it has been for two millennia upon the holy hill of the Lord. Here is ministry to the lost that they might be found. Here the Lord, through His Word, seeks sinners like us. Jesus says: "Today salvation has come to this house. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." This is how Zacchaeus can be the model sinner.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"It is as though Jesus says, 'The kingdom of Christ is not one of condemnation. I am not here to condemn you, but to remit the sins of those who, like you, are where death, the devil, evil consciences, accusers, and judges have come to plague them. The slogan in My kingdom is: I forgive you your sin; for in My kingdom no one is without forgiveness of sins. Therefore you, too, must have forgiveness. My kingdom must not be in disorder. All who enter it and dwell in it must be sinners. But as sinners they cannot live without the forgiveness of sins.'"
"If I am a sinner, the matter is not ended there; the sins must be forgiven. Thus none but sinners come into this kingdom. But do not let this prompt you to say: 'Well, we will remain in sin.' No, you must learn to feel and recognize your sin. The Pharisees did not have to become sinners; they were sinners already, and they became even greater sinners when Christ uncovered their sins with the words: 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her' (Jn 8:7). A sinner is a person who feels his sin. The Pharisees, those rogues, were no sinners; but they became sinners when Christ said: 'Let him who is without sin, etc.' Now they became sinners. But they despaired and slunk away. In their arrogance they hid their sin and would not await Christ's second statement: 'Neither do I condemn you (Jn 8:11)."

"Thus only those sinners belong in the kingdom of Christ who recognize their sin, feel it, and then catch hold of the Word of Christ spoken here: 'I do not condemn you.'"  

Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, 8.11
John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." (ESV)
Lord Jesus, You have said that only sinners are among the blessed because they have their sins forgiven. Give us this audacious faith that sees clearly our own sin and Your overwhelming grace to sinners like us. Amen.

For Addison Kist, that Lord would grant her strength, healing, and a full recovery

For police officers everywhere that they would be kept safe in the rightful performance of their duties and that those who are kept safe by them would express their appreciation and love for their sacrifice

For sinners oppressed by their sin, that they may be led to confession that they might hear of their sin's absolution and be set free from this oppression
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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