Our world has changed dramatically in the past 100 years, and futurists predict that even greater changes are coming. Consider these facts:
- We now watch as routine as space shuttles propel people into space and land routinely, yet it was under 100 years ago that the first airplane flew at Kitty Hawk.
- The first mass produced Model T Ford came off the assembly only 80 plus years ago, yet we now have the first hybrid cars combining gas and electricity, according to experts it won’t be long until we can purchase automobiles capable of getting 75-100 miles per gallon, that respond to voice commands, and that automatically avoid collisions.
- Penicillin was discovered only 60 some years ago yet we’ve successfully implanted an artificial heart, and have made tremendous strides in cancer research.
Our world is constantly changing and what applies to our culture also applies to us as individuals. We can really say that these breakthroughs or changes are important in our world today…But there is one change that is more important than all others. And that is the change that Jesus Christ can bring into your life. He desires and has the ability to transform all of our lives. The only question is, how will you respond to the changes that He requests?
So whether you are deeply committed to Christ or whether you are thinking about completely submitting your life to Him, let’s reason together from God’s Word and see how He can make “something beautiful” of our lives. In order to do that I want us to look at two men who met Jesus. Both of them had the opportunity to change, but only one of them had the courage to choose to let it happen. Let’s see which one would change, as we talk about the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus.
1. THE RICH YOUNG RULER: 18:18-25
Jesus meets these two men on His last trip to Jerusalem. The first is a man who is an anxious seeker and is described in Matthew, Mark and Luke as a rich, young, ruler. Vs:18 of our text describes him as “a religious leader,” Matt. 19:20 refers to him as a “young man” And Luke refers to him as a ruler, probably in a local synagogue. But all three, Matt., Mk. & Luke make it very clear, that he is rich. So this rich, young, ruler comes to Jesus with an inquiry. Mark tells us he comes and falls on his knees before Jesus. And he asks the most important of all questions. “What should I do to get eternal life?” To the casual observer that question coming from this man must of been a surprise. Because this guy apparently had it all together. He’s rich, young, a ruler in a local synagogue, what more can you ask for? You see to the Jewish mind, possession of riches was a sign of God’s favor. And not only was he rich but he was young & influential. Much like today the people then thought “having it made” was measured by your appearance, your possessions and how successful you were. So why would this young man come to an itinerant, poverty stricken preacher with this important inquiry? It’s because there was something missing in his life. His question denotes an emptiness that had not yet been fulfilled.
You know, that’s true of every individual no matter how impressive they may be on the outside. There’s something not quite right without the Lord. Outside they may look impressive but on the inside they’re insecure and afraid. And maybe you look good on the outside and you look very impressive but there are areas in your life that you know deep down need to be changed! Well, no matter how secret, Jesus has a way of penetrating and seeing through those false fronts. Which is exactly what He did with this rich young man.
Jesus saw right past the ruler’s rhetoric. Lewis Foster wrote: “Evidently, (Jesus) found that this man was using terms and treating subjects too lightly, not weighing all that was involved.” So, Jesus stopped him right in his tracks when he asks, “Good teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?” Jesus counters with a question of his own: “Why do you call me good? Only God is truly good.” (Perfect) Jesus was asking this man to dig deep into his heart. Jesus was saying: “If you are calling me good in an absolute sense then you’re calling me God. Are you ready to take that to it’s logical conclusion and follow Me as God?“ And as part of the follow-up for this man Jesus addresses a second issue by turning him to the 10 commandments and saying, “…you know the commandments…” and lists four of them saying in effect.. “How are you doing keeping God’s Top Ten?”
This elicited what I think was a superficial response from this man in vs:21. “I’ve obeyed all of these commands since I was a child.” Now, he may have been an exemplary boy as he grew up, but to say glibly that he had fulfilled all, and he did say all, is a huge claim. After all, Jesus had just said, no one is good except God. Yet if this boy had never broken the law he was calling himself good, either had a bad memory or he wasn’t telling the truth because the Bible tells us everyone has sinned.
How many of you here today would be ready to say to Jesus, with this rich, young man, “I’ve kept every one of the commandments since I was a little boy or a little girl?” Let’s do a little a little experiment together. I want to list the Ten Commandments for you and I want you think of the number you have never broken. Then I want you to raise your hand at the end and tell me how good you’ve been. They are found in Exodus 20…Now, this young man was taking the commandments literally, he was not thinking so much about attitude, but of action. So just for our experiment think of these as he did as we talk about them…Are you ready?
(1) “You shall have no other Gods before Me.” If you’ve always put God 1st in your life. Nothing has ever taken precedence over Him…Count that as one you’ve never broken.
(2) “You shall not make for yourself a graven image and bow down to it.” If you’ve never fashioned an idol and bowed down & worshiped it you can count that as one you’ve never broken. Aren’t you glad that one is in there? We’ve all got one.
(3) “You shall not misuse the Name of God.” If you have never used the name of God or the name of Jesus in a profane way, never used the popular phrase, “Oh, God.” All your life, you have only used God’s name with the highest respect. Count that one.
(4) “You shall keep the Sabbath Holy.” Now, if you are a Christian, we need to make that the Lord’s Day. If you have always used Saturday night or Sunday in way that always honors God, you’ve never skipped church for your own pleasure or your own convenience, when you’re here you’ve never wished your were somewhere else.. then count that one.
(5) “Honor your Father and Mother.” If from when you were a little child you never sassed your parents, you always obeyed them and now that they are older you hold them with respect you count that as one you’ve not broken.
(6) “You shall not murder.” If you’ve never murdered anybody.. Now, the N.T. says if you’ve ever hated anybody in your heart you’re guilty of murder. But we won’t count it that way, so I’ve you’ve never murdered anyone physically, not counting war or self-defense then you count that as one you’ve never broken.
(7) “You shall not commit adultery.” Now, here we’ve got to count Jesus’ admonition about the attitude of lust because this young man knew Prov. 6:25, which warns against adultery, “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty..”(NIV) If you’ve never been unfaithful to your mate, or to another person’s mate, if you’ve never lusted after somebody that wasn’t your mate…count that one as one you’ve never broken.
(8) “You shall not steal.” If you’ve never stolen anything. Not 10¢ out of your mother’s purse, not a towel from a motel room, not a paper clip from work, not an answer off of someone’s paper.
(9) “You shall not lie.” If you’ve never told a lie to get out of a sticky situation, if you’ve never exaggerated a story, if you have never flattered anybody intentionally you count that one as one you’ve never broken.
(10) “You shall not covet.” If you’ve never wished that you had something or somebody that belonged to someone else you count that one as one never broken.
All right…Ready? How many could say with the rich young ruler, “I’ve kept all the commandments since I was a little child?” Raise your hand. 9? 8? 7? Anybody kept 6 perfectly? We’ve got a bunch of sorry people here! Me either…“No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands – indeed it is the straightedge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.” (Phillips) God didn’t give these commands to make us better but so we would see our sin clearly. So we would understand our need for a Savior. That you and I cannot really be justified on our own, that’s why we need Jesus who had made us righteous in God’s sight, who had justified us! NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOU ARE, WE CAN’T STAND RIGHT BEFORE GOD! The Bible tells us, none is righteous…all of us, I mean all of us has fallen short in the standard of God! That’s why you and I need Jesus! But this young man was saying, “I don’t need to be changed!
So Jesus made a severe requirement of him. Vs:22- “There is still one more thing you lack.. Sell all you have and give it to the poor…Then come, follow Me.” Now, this wasn’t what the young ruler expected! He thought Jesus would maybe give him some extra prayers to say or more fasting each week but sell everything? Jesus knew the problem wasn’t really money, the problem was priority. This man’s money was his God. He had broken the very first commandment! Still, Jesus made the generous offer to him. “Correct that situation and have real treasure- eternal life.”
This Rich Young Rulers’s response? Look at it in vs:23. “When he heard this he became sad…” Matt. & Mk tell us he not only was sad but…”he went away sad…” This man rejected Jesus’ proposal! He chose possessions over God. HE REJECTED THE OFFER OF JESUS TO HAVE A CHANGE IN HIS LIFE…His shoulders are drooped, his head is hanging in dejection and he is obviously filled with despair. Why? In spite of the fact that he came to the right Person, asked the right question, and received the right answer, he made a wrong decision. He was not honest with God and with himself, not honest of admitting that he needs to be changed…On his right hand are still his rings. You see, he’s still got his wealth, he’s still got his pride…and he’s still got his emptiness.
What is it that keeps you from completely giving yourself to Jesus? – Honoring Jesus as Savior and Lord? – Submitting completely to Him? Possessions? Prestige? Popularity? Jesus is willing to change you but He won’t transform you by sheer force. He doesn’t chase after this man even though Mark tells us that Jesus loved him. And unless you submit to Christ and are willing to allow Him to change you, you will find yourself like this young man who refused to be changed, deliberately choosing to walk away from eternal life.
2. ZACCHAEUS THE TAX COLLECTOR: 19:1-9
In contrast to the rich young ruler the 19th chapter of Luke gives us, Zacchaeus, the tax-man. Jesus meets this man in Jericho, one of the great taxation centers in Israel. This is where Zacchaeus worked and notice in 19:2 that he wasn’t just an ordinary tax collector, he was the “…director of tax collectors.” Zacchaeus had reached the top of his profession. Vs:2 plainly says that he was rich but he was also an anxious seeker. We are not sure how he heard of Jesus but Luke makes it clear he wanted to see Him. But he was separated from Jesus for several reasons.
He was separated:
(1) Because of his sin. Man is 3-fold: he is body, mind & soul. Somebody once said, “If we spend all our time feeding the body and educating the mind but we neglect the soul, there will be an emptiness in us and a hunger within us that craves fulfillment.” And I believe that is why Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so badly. He wasn’t sure what it was but there was something in what he had heard about this man that he needed to see. Maybe some of you are like that this morning, you know something is missing from your life and you hunger to be filled. You’re not sure what it is but there is an emptiness that just can’t be filled no matter how full your schedule or your time, that there is some sin in your heart that must be removed, be forgiven!
(2) Zacchaeus was also separated from Jesus because of his wealth, that was where his priorities lay. Like the rich, young, ruler, he had sold his soul for the dollar.
(3) Vs:3 tells us that he was physically separated from Jesus by the crowd. There was such a multitude following the Teacher, that Zacchaeus could not get through to see him. But he had another problem.
(4) He was separated from Jesus because of his stature. If you went to Sunday School when you were young you may remember:♪”Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.♪” He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being short, he couldn’t see over the crowd. So, vs:4 tells us, he climbed a tree since he knew Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus’ parade got to where Zacchaeus was, the Lord shocked this little man. Vs:5 tells us that Jesus stopped the whole crowd, looked right at him and called him by name even though they had never met. But the greatest shock of all was that He invited Himself to eat dinner at Zacchaeus’ house.
Now, I want to contrast these two men and notice some similarities between them.
1) Both of these men were young. Now, the Bible doesn’t say Zacchaeus was young but it does say he climbed a tree and in vs: 6 in the NIV it says “…he came down at once…” The word that’s translated as “at once” denotes doing something quickly. In Acts 22:18 the same word is used when the Lord says to the apostle Paul, “Quick! Leave Jerusalem.” So Zacchaeus was able to climb down the tree quickly. Now occasionally maybe an older person might climb a tree but they’re not going to come down quickly. So, Zacchaeus was a young man of 50 or younger. Someone once said, “Old age is always 10 years older than I am.” They were both young.
2) They were both wealthy. That’s the only reason a man, in that day, would be a tax collector. It was a despised position by the Jews because the taxes were being collected by Rome. But some chose to endure the abuse because it was so lucrative.
3) And they were both empty! Zacchaeus wasn’t satisfied with his life either. He needed something more than just possessions and so when he heard Jesus was coming he just had to see him. So, they were similar in age, wage and need. But the one place that they were dissimilar was in the way that they responded to Jesus. You remember the rich young ruler’s response, he rejected Christ and His requirements and walked away from the Lord. But Zacchaeus accepted Jesus’ invitation. He came down from the tree as quickly as he could and 19:6 says that he “was glad to welcome Jesus..”
Notice what one meal with Jesus, did for Zacchaeus. That encounter of a few hours completely transformed his life from one of selfishness & greed to one of repentance & restitution. Vs:8- “Lord, I’ll give half of my property to the poor. I’ll pay four times as much as I owe to those I have cheated in any way.” When you really come to know Jesus Christ you can’t help but repent. There’s no more shifting of blame, no more rationalization, because when you truly see Jesus and what He’s done for you, you’re compelled to see yourself as a sinner and you want to make things right. You say “I want to be changed, I want to confess my sin to you Lord! I need to make restitution.”
When there’s a legitimate conversion, a true submission to Jesus, there is an effort to make restitution. Zacchaeus was no longer greedy, he had a different set of values. Something now mattered more than possessions. Jesus said, “You and your family have been saved today… Indeed the Son of Man has come to seek and to save people who are lost.” So, Zacchaeus accepted Jesus’ offer where the rich young ruler wouldn’t.
3. LESSONS FOR ALL OF US
Now, before we go home, let’s apply several lessons to our lives, from these incidents.
- a. The change that Jesus brings will make your life better!
There are a number of people that are afraid to surrender their life completely to Christ for fear that He will make their life miserable. They think of Christianity as a list of “don’ts”.”If I become a Christian all the fun will go out of life, I won’t be able to party anymore, there won’t be laughter anymore, I’ll never be able to have even one cold “Bud” or “San Mig.” Besides that I’ll have to do boring things like go to church every Sunday, attend Bible Studies, go to Iraq as a missionary, give my money away & watch the 700 Club on T.V. 20 hours a day.”
That’s not true! The change Jesus brings to your life is a positive change! When Zacchaeus came to truly know Jesus he gave up some things, namely some of his possessions but look at why he did that. He did it because he had found something that truly satisfied.
Illustration: THE GOD SHAPE HOLE IN YOUR HEART…
Listen, Jesus doesn’t come into your life to make it miserable He comes into your life to make it mature and complete. In Jesus you find satisfaction in life. Jesus said in Jn. 10:10 “I came so you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”(Message) Jesus will change your life for the better.
2) The change that Jesus brings affects every aspect of your life.
Jesus Christ wants to control every part of your life and when you allow Him to do that He can put your whole being in order. He went right to the heart of the primary interest of both the rich ruler and Zacchaeus. And He always goes for the heart of the issue. He may affect your attitude toward material things too. Or it may be the bitterness that you hold toward others, or that sexual problem that you have, or the trouble you have with your pride or selfishness. Jesus says, “I can change you, just drop those things and follow me.”
The story is told of a passenger on the Titanic, that unsinkable ship, which sank in 2.5 hours. One woman got on a lifeboat and just before shoving off she said to the helmsman, “Wait, I’ve got to get something from my cabin.” He frowned and said, “Alright, but if you’re not back in 2 minutes we’re leaving.” She raced across the deck of the ship which was already listing at a dangerous angle, through the gambling casino where there was money on the floor, into her stateroom where there was a jewelry box of diamonds which she ignored, and she picked up 3 small oranges and raced back to the lifeboat. Isn’t that incredible? 30 minutes before she would of preferred a small diamond to a whole crate of oranges. But the threat of death had completely changed her values, now she preferred 3 oranges to a whole crate of diamonds.
And when you come to know Jesus and to see life from His perspective, your values change. People begin to matter more than things, your family becomes more important than your job, the Church becomes more compelling than the world. That which once seemed to be boring is now exciting and vice-versa. He wants to change the most vital areas of your life.
3) The change that Jesus brings is both instantaneous and gradual.
Zacchaeus was changed instantly, his whole attitude was changed, that’s why he dramatically became so benevolent. That kind of dramatic transformation can occur the moment you give your life to Him. 2 Cor. 5:17- “…those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (NLT) And after that instantaneous change, Jesus continued to transform his life from that moment on. When you come to Jesus there is an instant change in values and perspective but there is also a continual process in which He is working in your life that takes a whole lifetime.
Someone said: “the Christian life is a gift and a growth.”
The gift of salvation comes when we are come to Christ but the growth is something that takes place for as long as we live. In other words, the longer you’re a Christian, the more Jesus should change you into what He wants you to be. The more you and I must aim to be more like Jesus!
But, please understand this, it is so important…When you surrender yourself to Jesus, He gives you the power to change! You don’t do it, He does! When you invite Jesus into your life He begins to fill your life with the power of the Holy Spirit and that’s when you begin to grow! You see, Jesus not only promises to save you but to mold you, make you into a better person IF you place yourself in His hands.
The rich, young, ruler rejected Jesus’ offer & was never heard from again. Zacchaeus accepted the Lord’s offer, opened his home & heart to Him. Jesus transformed his life here & promised him eternal life in the hereafter. So, now it’s your choice. Which one of these two will you be today? Someone said, “Everyday is election day, God casts a vote for you, Satan casts one against you, but you cast the deciding vote.” Why not vote to place yourself in the Potter’s hands? And CHOOSE TO CHANGE?