A homosexual today is like a tax collector in Jesus’s time. The Jews looked at a tax collector and thought “sinner”. And they were sinners! They charged taxes on too much and kept some money for themselves. Zacchaeus, the Chief Tax Collector in Luke 19:1-10, was even worse. He, as the chief, received a portion from each tax collector. His entire fortune came from fraud. When a citizen lost, he gained. By another’s poverty, he became rich. And rich he was!
But Zacchaeus, as sinful as he was, didn’t see himself as too sinful for Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus and perhaps hoped to meet him. Then when Jesus called him, he answered with joy. Without a doubt, he heard of the well-known Jesus. As a short man, he climbed a tree (You know the song) to see him above the crowd. Then Jesus saw him—up in the tree! He called him by name, told him to come down, and insisted on going to his house. And what did Zacchaeus do? He didn’t wallow in shame, nor did he inflate with pride. He climbed down and took Jesus to his house.
The Grumbling Crowd
The crowd saw this and grumbled. A sinner—they thought—with the one who claimed to be the Messiah. Shouldn’t he be holy? How could he defile himself by joining a sinner? This crowd of Jews was sons of Abraham by birth. They lived moral and religious lives. If anyone deserved to dine with Jesus, they did.
Jesus sought Zacchaeus though—the Chief Tax Collector with a reputation. This Chief Sinner, we could say, wanted to see Jesus. And Jesus knew he would see Zacchaeus. By no accident this happened but instead by the providence of God. Zacchaeus climbed the tree. Jesus looked up to the tree. And having never met Zacchaeus before, he calls him by name—as if he knows him already. It was a divine appointment for Jesus the Chief Shepherd to seek the Chief Sinner of his day. Jesus came for this. He didn’t come to seek the righteous but the unrighteous. He didn’t come to redeem the well but the sick. The Shepherd came to seek his lost sheep.
Would We Grumble?
Homosexuals surround us in our day. Perhaps we see them and think “sinners”. And they are sinners. But they are not too sinful to come to Jesus. God works in ways to save the homosexual like he works to save any sinner. Look at the testimonies of Rosaria Butterfield and Jackie Hill Perry. No one exists out of reach from God’s saving arm.
If Jesus lived on earth today, he might choose to dine with a homosexual. Would we grumble like the crowd who saw Jesus with Zacchaeus? Would we too think less of our Savior for doing this?
This is not a plea to love the homosexual AND their sin by asking, “What would Jesus do?” The world mocks Christians in this way. They want us to accept homosexuality and think this would make us more like Jesus. But to love this sin and any sin wouldn’t be like Jesus.
The Necessity of Repentance
Zacchaeus confessed Jesus as Lord. Then he repented of his sin and took action by giving half of his goods to the poor while also restoring fourfold what he stole from others (Luke 19:8). Did he have anything left? Hardly, if you do the math. Zacchaeus did what Jesus commanded the rich young ruler in the chapter before this one (Luke 18:18-30). He confessed Jesus as Lord, repented of his sin, and gave away all he had to follow Jesus. And Jesus said, “Today salvation comes to this house” (Luke 19:9).
Jesus went on a mission to save Zacchaeus by calling him down from the tree and going with him into his home—an intimate act. And Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’s calling with faith and repentance.
Jesus still seeks the lost today. He seeks them to save them. But now since his flesh no longer walks on the earth, he uses us as the means to seek the lost. We share the good news with them and plead for them to repent and believe it.
With the way our world is headed, this modern-day Zacchaeus will be in our daily lives. Are we willing to have an intimate relationship with them? Will we dine with them?
Yet we do not do this to accept or partake in their sin, for Romans 1 condemns this: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
So what would Jesus do? He would seek the lost to save them. He would not fear an intimate relationship, but he would call them to believe the gospel and repent. Psalm 7:12-13 says, “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.” Don’t let your homosexual friends (and any lost friend) go on without knowing this danger.
If God can save a wretched sinner like Zacchaeus, he can save any wretch. After all, he saved me.