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The Way of Jesus Matters

Charlie Boyd - 8/13/2023


As followers of Jesus, we know that the teaching of Jesus matters. We know that the mission of Jesus matters. But do we know that the “way” of Jesus matters? What does that even mean?  


Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

As followers of Jesus, we know that the teaching of Jesus matters. We know that the mission of Jesus matters, But do we know that the “way” of Jesus matters? What does that even mean? 

We will be looking at Luke 19:10 today, but first, I want to highlight something from Luke 15:1. Luke tells us that “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus.” If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know that Jesus would go out of His way to reach “sinners”—the poor, the outcasts, and the socially marginalized. Jesus hung out with “tax collectors and sinners,” and that did not sit well with the rule book, checklist, and religious elite of His day. They were not drawing near to Jesus because they believed that Jesus affirmed and condoned their lifestyles. They were in the crowds who heard Jesus teach the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, we see clearly that Jesus held to the highest ethical and sexual standards. But still, the most unholy people on the planet wanted to get up close and personal to the most holy man on the planet. Why?

Push pause for a moment. In Eph1:23, Paul says that “the church is the body of Christ,” meaning the local church is the physical presence of Christ on earth today. Jesus was God in a body. The church is the body of Christ. Now, that being true, that raises a question. If sinners and tax collectors were drawn to Jesus, and if we are now the presence of Christ on earth, are modern-day tax collectors and sinners drawn to us? Not so much. In fact, the way young adults describe the church today is like this: #1 homophobic, #2 judgmental, and #3 hypocritical. Think about this—Who was it that Jesus railed against the loudest? The judgmental, hypocritical Pharisees! How has the church cultivated a reputation for the very things that Jesus stood against? The common people in Jesus’ day would have described Him as “loving, kind, compassionate, merciful, wise, truthful, hopeful, helpful, healing, life-giving.” If we are the body of Christ today—the physical presence of Christ today—why aren’t those words used to describe us? What would have to change so that 5, 10, or 15 years from now, people use those same one-word descriptions to describe the church? What would have to change so that people outside the faith say, “When I think of Christians, I think of people who love unlovable people?” If local churches had that kind of Jesus-like reputation, maybe people would be drawn to us like they were drawn to Jesus.

Back to Luke 19—(READ vv1-10). Luke begins by telling us that as Jesus came into the village of Jericho, there was a great crowd of people following Him. There was a very rich chief tax collector who was small in stature, and he wanted to see Jesus but couldn’t because of the crowd. So, Zacchaeus climbed up in a tree to take a look. Most of us know that tax collectors were “bad” people. But we don’t really have a contemporary category for just how bad they actually were. They were greedy, money-hungry traitors who lived the most immoral lives imaginable. Definitely not just the sanitized Sunday School version of Zacchaeus that we grew up singing about. As Jesus makes His way through town, He sees Zacchaeus perched on the limb of a tree. He stops and calls to him—“Zacchaeus (How did He know his name?), hurry, come down. I must stay at your house today.” ”I must,” meaning “it is absolutely necessary that I stay in your home.” The Greek word “dei” carries the weight of Jesus being under a “divine compulsion” (see Matt 16:21 and Lk 4:43). Out of all the people in that crowd, Jesus was divinely compelled to stay in Zacchaeus’ house. In the Middle East, in that day and in our day, to stay in someone’s home and to share a meal with them was a public sign of relationship, acceptance, peace, and reconciliation. You would never—unless you wanted to invite public shame—extend hospitality to somebody like Zacchaeus. Understandably, all the good, upstanding religious people in the crowd began to grumble—“This man has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” They began doubting how “good” Jesus really was. Then, the scene changes to inside Zacchaeus’ house. Luke doesn’t tell us what Jesus said to Zacchaeus. I wonder if He said much. He has already made a huge statement as to what He thinks about Zacchaeus by inviting Himself to his house.

I can imagine that conversation going like this. Jesus steps into Zacchaeus’ house, and He immediately says, “We need to talk. I didn’t want to shame you in public, but seriously man, you’ve got a laundry list of sins you’ve gotta work on here—greed, idolatry of money, oppressing and stealing from your own people, extortion. And that girl you’re hooking up with is bad news. How can you call yourself a son of Abraham.” But again, Jesus doesn’t say a word. Does Jesus care about repentance and obedience? Absolutely! And He got that. How? Not by laying down the Law but by laying down love. You see, we cannot/will not obey God until we first realize we are accepted by God. That’s what Zacchaeus felt from Jesus—love, grace, acceptance—without Jesus saying a word.

But what we do hear (v8) are the words of Zacchaeus’ repentance and heart change. Zacchaeus’ repentance goes way beyond what the Law demanded. “I’ll give half of everything I own to the poor, and whoever I have cheated, I’ll pay them back 4-fold. The Law required a thief to pay back what they stole plus 20 percent.”

Never underestimate the presence and power of Christ embodied in the tangible, unconditional love of His followers. Paul talks about this in Rom 2:4. He asks, “Do you not know that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” I’m not sure we do know that. We’re more like, “But if I just show them grace and love—if I don’t call out their sin—they’ll think that their sin doesn’t matter to God—they’ll think I’m affirming and condoning their sinful lifestyle.” Funny how Jesus wasn’t concerned about that.

This is what the “way” of Jesus means. Jesus’ way with fallen, hurting, broken, messed up people was mercy before judgment—grace before truth.

Mercy before judgment — John 12:47-48 —Jesus says clearly that He did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He tells us clearly that there will be a final day of judgment. But that judgment comes on the “last day” (12:48)—not today—but on the last day. During Jesus’ life and ministry, His way was mercy before judgment. Luke 4:16-21. When Jesus preaches in a synagogue in His hometown in Nazareth, He takes Isaiah 61:1-2 as His text. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to preach freedom for prisoners and to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” At that point, He closes the scroll and sits down. The point is—He didn’t finish the last sentence. Isaiah said, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. Jesus left out the part about God’s judgment. Why? He didn’t come to proclaim judgment. He came to preach the Good News of God’s favor welcoming the last, the least, the lost back home to God. There will be a day of judgment, but we live in the year of God’s favor. That was Jesus’ message, and it must be ours as well. Mercy before judgment.

Grace before truth — John 1:1-14— In this great passage, John tells us that Jesus was with God and Jesus was God. He goes on to say that Jesus came and dwelt among us. And John says, "We were blown away by His glory”—His beauty—His greatness—Which was what? —simply this— Jesus was full of grace and truth. Grace But when Jesus encountered fallen, broken, messed up people who were far from God and far from the truth of God, His “way” with them was grace before truth. This “way” shaped His teaching. This mercy before judgment/grace before truth “way” of Jesus shaped how He carried out the divine mission His Father had given him. The question is—Is His way our way? Is His way our way? If not, why not?

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.