“AND when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”
The publicans and harlots in the eyes of Pharisees were despised of all creatures among the Jews, hence they marveled and murmured whenever Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God, dined with or had dealings of any kind with them. Simon, the proud Pharisee, felt fully convinced that Jesus was an impostor when he allowed the poor, sinful woman to touch him in washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. The Jews could not understand why or how a holy man, a clean Jew, could keep company with sinners. Hence Jesus was condemned for so doing, but in visiting such characters, eating and drinking with them, was God’s condescending grace made known. Paul tells us that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom he was chief; yet he was not a publican nor in any sense a sinner in the eyes of the Jews, nor in the eyes of the law, but in his own feelings of soul he was more guilty than any other man, and presents himself an example of the saving grace of God, suggesting that if it were sufficient to save him it is equal to the sins of any other man. He as a zealous and proud Pharisee condemned Jesus for the strange things he did and said; not only so, but he condemned and persecuted all them that called upon his name. No man among the Jews was more zealous of the traditions to the fathers than was he; no man kept the commandments of the law more perfectly than did he, yet in that condition of nature he knew not Jesus as the Christ, but hadto be taught by divine revelation. When the knowledge came his eyes were Opened to behold the plan of God in salvation, and his purpose in Jesus keeping company with publicans and harlots, eating and drinking with them. How wonderful it is that when the revelation of Jesus as the Savior of sinners comes, all our proud waves are stayed, all our mountains brought low, all our pools dried up and all our beauty by nature fades as the flower of the grass. As was said of Him, There shall be no comeliness in him that we should desire him. According to the flesh that was so, yet as a man he was faultless. So all quickened children of God see the same in themselves: no comeliness, no beauty, no glory, nothing to commend them to God, but everything to separate between them and God.
We have made mention of the above things to show why the Jews murmured because Jesus went with Zaccheus the publican. This man desired to see Jesus, but being little of stature knew he could not for the people, so ran before them, knowing that Jesus must pass that way, and climbed up into a sycamore tree. There he had a view of him that no other man had at that time. No doubt Zaccheus thought he would be unobserved, but the thought to climb the tree to see Jesus was not of himself; Jesus had planned the whole affair to demonstrate the truth that he came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” The record is that Jesus saw Zaccheus, though he thought himself concealed, and said, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down, for to-day I must abide in thy house. Perhaps, notwithstanding all the surprise of the Jews, no man was as much astonished as was Zaccheus. first that Jesus should see him at all; more than that to tell him to come down from the tree, because he must abide in his house that day. Why Jesus should abide in the house of a man who was a sinner and yet claim to be the Son of God, was beyond the comprehension of those who rejected him. It seems to us that he had already taken up his abode in the heart of the rich publican, and because of that the great desire to see him. The mercy of God in Christ was made manifest in abiding in the house of the man hated by the world because of his sins, and this same thing made Jesus hateful to the people. Had he always kept company with the self-righteous Pharisees and scorned publicans and harlots as they did he would never have been hated by them, but such was not the purpose and plan of God. All can see therefore that Jesus was hated for the sins of God’s elect.
The appearing of Jesus to sinners and his words to them always had a peculiar effect upon them. The poor woman condemned by the law and the people, who wanted to stone her to death, was commanded to “go and sin no more.” The man at the pool was commanded in like manner, and we have no record that either was ever guilty of wrongdoing again. “My words are spirit and they are life” – a living law in the hearts of the redeemed of the Lord. The grace of God teaches all men that, denying ungodly and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. This lesson was taught Zaccheus in the appearing of Jesus to him, and in the assurance that Jesus would abide in his house. That dishonest and sinful publican by nature was made honest, merciful and upright by the grace of Christ Jesus. Immediately he said, “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Jesus answered, “This day is salvation come to this house.” He was then dead to sin, and could no longer live therein. This is always the fruit of salvation; a man saved desires to depart from the snares of death, manifesting, as did Peter and John, that he has been with Jesus and learned of him. In this sense the children of God are not of the world, because he hath taken them, translated them out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, and manifests them the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The people of God in this age of the world are reckoned as the most unredeemable characters the world holds; not that they are guilty of wilful transgressions, either against the laws of our land or the laws of society, but because they love, preach and believe the doctrine of God, salvation by grace, just as it came to Zaccheus, without works. How often we all have heard it said, The world would be better off were every Old School Baptist dead. Yes, and they have by calculation of their own appointed the time when all would be gone, but still they live to tell the story of grace, and while the world stands there will be witnesses of God and his truth, and it is just as true that they shall be hated and called sinners to the end. But if Jesus abides in their house, which he surely does, the victory is theirs through him. There is not one quickened child of God in all this great world who does not confess that in Jesus abiding in his house, or heart, that He has become the guest of a sinner. K.
Elder H. C. Ker
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 19.
October 1, 1916