The Pryor Times

Religion

April 5, 2012

Jesus died for everyone

At Easter, people focus on the resurrection of Jesus.  But it is important to remember why He died.  He died for everyone, regardless of their nationality, color of skin, level of education, economic status, or even their occupation.  When Jesus went home with Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, the people said, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”  They categorized tax collectors with harlots and sinners.

According to historians, many tax collectors of the time of Christ were dishonest.  We are not told whether Zacchaeus was dishonest or not, but he told Jesus later, “If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”  The Bible does tell us that he was rich (Luke 19:2).  It does not tell us how he obtained his wealth.

At any rate, many people rejected Zacchaeus because they at least perceived him to be dishonest, and they referred to him as a sinner.  But God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4).  Christianity is not just for people who are basically good.  Jesus said in Matthew 9:13, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Not only is the gospel for sinners, it is also for the rich.  Some would hold it against Zacchaeus that he was wealthy.  How many times do Christians really try to reach the rich?  Some people assume that rich people are not interested.  Just because a person is wealthy does not mean that he will not be interested in religion.  When Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25), those who heard it asked, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus answered, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

We are not surprised that Jesus noticed Zacchaeus.  He was so interested in seeing Jesus that he climbed into a sycamore tree so he could see over the crowd, because he was a short man.  Jesus was always looking for people who were looking for Him.  Most people there that day would not have considered Zacchaeus to be a good prospect for Christ.  I wonder how many people today are looking for Jesus, but we fail to notice them.  Jesus told His disciples to open their eyes so they could see the opportunities that were in front of them.  We need to look for people who are looking for Jesus.

Many people murmured when Jesus went home with Zacchaeus.  They wondered, “Why would Jesus go home with a man like that?”  We must be very careful not to prejudge people in that way.  Jesus wants the gospel preached to every person.

There were many religious people in Jesus’ day who “looked down their noses” at people they thought of as sinners.  But Jesus said to them in Matthew 21:31, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”  James and Peter both wrote that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Jesus illustrated that fact by telling a parable in Luke 18.  He said that a Pharisee and a tax collector went up to the temple to pray.  The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like other men, including extortioners, adulterers, or even the tax collector.  Then, he bragged about good things he did.  

In contrast, the tax collector very humbly prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”  Jesus said that he was the one who was justified rather than the other.  And then Jesus added, “Everyone who exalts himself will be abased, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Christ died for ALL and will save EVERYONE who will obey Him!

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