If No One is Lost, Can Anyone Be Saved?
In the midst of Jesus’ encounter with a man named Zacchaeus, we are given Jesus’ self-proclaimed mission statement: “I came to seek and save the lost.” What does his phrase “save the lost” mean? Or, more to the point, what does it mean to be “lost” and what does it look like for one who is “lost” to be “saved.” Since Jesus spoke these words in relationship to his encounter with Zacchaeus, we can look to him as the example, or forerunner, of a lost person who is saved.
So often, when we think of “salvation” we think “my sins are forgiven” and “I’m going to heaven.” Both of these prove to be true, but by looking at the change Jesus made in Zacchaeus life, we can see that “saving the lost” includes so much more: it is a complete restoration project.
· We are restored to fellowship with our Father who created us. Jesus sits at the dinner table with Zacchaeus, enjoying a meal with him. It is symbolic of the “welcome home” our Father in heaven gives to us, ending our separation from him and bringing us into the fullness of the Father’s love for His children and all the blessings that home brings.
· We are restored to a life of faith and trust in God. When Jesus announced that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ home, he called him a “son of Abraham.” A son of Abraham is not one who is Jewish by genetics, but one who is a friend of God because of belief, faith, and trust in God. Abraham was honored by God, not because of his own good deeds, but because of his faith. “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. ..Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:13–16, NIV84) This faith in God replaces our attempts to control people, circumstances, and situations to meet our own needs.
· We are restored to a life of loving relationships with other people; a life of loving, giving and serving others. In fact, we don’t really know what Jesus and Zacchaeus spoke about at that dinner table. And, we don’t hear Zacchaeus shout from the roof tops “all my sins are forgiven and I’m going to heaven.” But, what we do see is the visible evidence of the change in his heart. What we do see is the fruit of something very significant that happened to him. He gave back all he had cheated from his neighbors, and four times more. With this, his neighbor’s lost livelihood had been returned to them. With this, Zacchaeus’ lost integrity, honesty, and character had been restored to him.
Along with Zacchaeus, we are invited to consider all that we have lost in our lives and to imagine what it will look like when we allow Jesus to restore all of that, and more, to us. He will restore to us intimate fellowship with God where we experience the fullness of God’s love for us; the grace to live by faith and trust in God; and power to live a life of freely giving, serving and loving others.