"Make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." Luke 19:5.
The speaker here is the Lord Jesus. The person addressed is a sinner among the publicans. The subject is of vital importance. The words are few, but earnest and decided. The Lord knew the value of one soul, and the profitless character of everything else in comparison with it. He could fully enter into the frailty of human life, the countless ages of eternity, the ceaseless torments of the lost, and the everlasting joy and glory of the saved. He felt the eternal importance of the soul's salvation; hence His ministry was most urgent. At one time He would say, "Fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell;" on another occasion, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish;" and here it was, "Make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house."
Zaccheus was a tax-gatherer, or publican, a chief man among them too, and seemed to have made money by his profession, for he was rich. Publicans were not considered honest persons, and therefore were not much respected; and Zaccheus's allusion to taking things by false accusation seems to imply that he had not been blameless in this respect. He had, however, heard of Jesus, His mighty miracles, and wonderful works and words, and had a great desire to see Him. But the crowd around the Lord was great, which operated as a hindrance to his seeing Jesus, unless he ran before, outstripped the multitude, and got upon some elevated place. Though a rich man, his purpose was so decided, that he would not allow anything to hinder his seeing Jesus; he therefore ran before, and climbed up a sycamore tree, in the direction he knew that the Lord would pass. There might have been more than mere curiosity working in his heart; for he neither allowed the press of the crowd, nor anything else, to hinder his desire being gratified; we see, also, that he was enabled to obey the Lord immediately that he was "called." But, be that as it may, it is clear that Jesus was the great object of attraction to him — "he sought to see Jesus." Nothing less than Christ Himself would satisfy him; so he went where he knew that the Lord would pass. But he little thought, while he was occupied in seeking the Lord, that the Lord was seeking him. Many a seeker says, "I am trying to find the Saviour;" but the truth is, that He who came to seek and save the lost is seeking them. They would not have desires after Christ, longings for an interest in His salvation, and heartfelt cries after Him, if He had not commenced a work of grace in their souls. When the women were seeking the Lord after His resurrection, the bright angel said to them, "Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified." Oh! my reader, if Christ Jesus who was crucified for sinners is the One you are really seeking, be encouraged, and fear not!
In meditating on the Scripture before us, we may notice,
1. The gracious posture of the Son of God.
2. His urgent appeal.
3. The blessedness of receiving Jesus, and its results.
1. The Posture of the Son of God. We are told that "When Jesus came to the place where he was, He looked up and saw him, and said, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." What amazing condescension, for the Lord of glory thus to look up and speak to sinful man! What love! But such is the character of the heart of Jesus. Though bright angelic hosts surround the throne of heaven, we are told that "His delights were with the sons of men." Yes, man, who was created in the image of God, always had a place in His heart; and when fallen into degradation and ruin, through sin and rebellion against his Creator, Jesus still loved man; and his fallen, undone state only served the more to make manifest the vast resources of Divine love and mercy. The Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, left the bright glory and happiness of the throne of heaven, condescended to be made of a woman, and came forth "in the likeness of sinful flesh," that as Man, by the death of the cross, He might redeem man from all iniquity, and bring many sons to glory. This is Divine love. Though He was God manifest in the flesh, He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant. He did all Jehovah's righteous will, obeyed every jot and tittle of the law, and humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross, that by such depths of humiliation, pain, and death under the judgment of God as Sin-bearer, He might glorify the Father, and redeem us from the utter destruction and eternal despair to which, as sinners, we were justly exposed. It was the same loving-hearted Jesus, who afterward died on the cross, that came where Zaccheus was, and said, "Make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." It was the same Jesus who said to sinful Israel by His prophet in days of old, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." It was the same blessed Saviour who said to His apostles after His resurrection, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." It was the same Jesus who said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink;" and who still says, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Such is the love of Christ, and such is the gracious posture He still takes towards sinful man. He delighteth in mercy. He waiteth to be gracious. He saves to the uttermost. He welcomes every sinner that comes to Him for salvation. He calls loudly by His gospel, His servants, and His providence — "Make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." Still, with long-suffering kindness, He proclaims salvation for the lost, saying, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." In wondrous grace He died for man's redemption, and in the same boundless love He says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
"Love, only love, Thy heart inclined,
And brought Thee, Saviour of mankind,
Down from Thy throne above;
Love made Thee here a man of grief,
To bleed and die for my relief;
O mystery of love!"
2. Let Us Now Consider the Lord's Urgent Appeal. "Make haste, and come down." We are all naturally lifted up with self-esteem. Men live and speak as if they were not fallen creatures; but all true Christians have experienced what it is to "come down" to receive salvation. All must "come down" if they would be saved from the wrath to come; for all have sinned, and the blood of Christ alone gives remission. The gospel is preached that men may "come down" to the Saviour; for He calls the high-minded to "come down" and receive forgiveness of sins. Oh that proud men would "come down" and receive Christ! "The Lord killeth, and the Lord maketh alive: He bringeth low, and He lifteth up." The Holy Ghost convinces of sin before He gives peace to the soul through Christ. The way of God the Father is, to bring the lofty mind of man down to the Saviour's feet; for Jesus said, "Every man that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me."
Some persons are especially Pharisaic in their views. They seem inflated with self-righteous notions. They think themselves better than their neighbours. They boast of a well-spent life, and highly prize their good intentions. They flatter themselves in their own eyes, and when conscience accuses, they at once take refuge in their outward sanctity, creature-merit, religious ordinances, alms-deeds, etc., as a compensation. With self-complacent feelings they look down upon the passing crowd, and resolve to pursue their lofty course with increased zeal. Such, however, must "come down," if they would know God's salvation. Self-righteousness must be brought low, creature-merit must be disowned, and high thoughts must be laid aside; they must "come down" as lost, undone, unclean sinners to the Saviour's outstretched arms, if they would know His great salvation; for He came not to call the righteous, but to bring sinners to repentance.
There are also persons who, in pride of heart, cry out, like Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him?" They despise the truth, stifle conviction of conscience, persecute God's people, harden themselves against the gospel message, and say in their heart, "We will not have the man Christ Jesus to reign over us." I have lately met one of these, to whom I kindly said, "Have you ever felt that you are a sinner in the sight of God?" His reply was, "I never talk on that subject." The wondrous love of God to sinful man, that fills all heaven with praise and glory, was a subject too mean and trifling to be worthy of the contemplation of such a great mind as he thought he possessed. Such, however, must "make haste and come down" to the Saviour of sinners, if they would escape the fiery wrath and eternal indignation that is so quickly coming upon the impenitent and unbelieving.
There is another class of persons very different from these, but who equally need to "come down." Their curiosity is excited in religious matters, but they have neither a "guilty conscience" nor a "broken heart," and are, personally, strangers to the joy of Christ's salvation. They like to hear this man and that — go here and there — make what they call religious acquaintances, and take pleasure in understanding every thing that is doing in the so-called religious world. Their minds are more or less exercised about the merits or demerits of various doctrines and outward rites, and the prosperity or failure, the orthodox or erroneous views, of those around them. They know well the difference between Judaism, Mohammedanism, Popery, and Christianity; and, giving preference to the last on this list, they watch with interest some of its outward operations and results. They are acquainted with the letter of Scripture, and bow to the claims of morality and benevolence; but, alas! the conscience has not been exercised before God; they are strangers to the tears of a contrite heart, and know nothing about the new birth. As some persons manifest curiosity in investigating the different branches of science, and take deep interest in watching the various actions of cause and effect, so these people carry the same spirit of curiosity and intellectual gratification in matters of religion as they call it; and, comparing themselves with some others, take pride in their measure of intelligence, instead of taking the place of "shame and confusion of face," on account of their iniquity, transgression, and sin against God. But curiosity is to be dreaded as much as self-righteousness, or proud infidelity; all must "come down," if such would be partakers of Christ's salvation, and realize peace with God through the blood of the cross.
A sense of absolute necessity compels souls to "come down" to receive the Saviour. We take refuge in Him, because He is the only hope. We fly to His outstretched arms, knowing we must perish for ever without Him. With self-abasement we renounce our filthy rags of self-righteousness, and gladly welcome the "best robe." All, therefore, that have truly found salvation, have experienced what it is to "come down;" to lay aside creature-merit and fancied goodness in every form, and receive salvation as lost and undone, as the free gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But our Lord commanded Zaccheus to "make haste." How important this is! How many there are who in heart say, "Not yet!" Like Felix, they sometimes tremble under the word preached, but postpone the further consideration of it to "a more convenient season;" yet it is to be feared that with some "a more convenient season" never comes. There are others who, like Agrippa, are almost persuaded to be Christians, but are never altogether so, because they continually put off the personal application of the truth. When my family is grown up and settled, says one; when my business matters are over, says another; when I am free from present occupation, says a third; then I will attend to the state of my soul. Thus they reject Christ and His salvation. The farm, the merchandise, family duties, social obligations, and necessary occupations, are all cleverly pleaded by man's desperately wicked and deceitful heart, as reasons for rejecting Christ and His great salvation. Still, however, the loving Saviour cries, "Make haste!" it is therefore positive disobedience to delay. "Compel them to come in!" He says; it is therefore rebellion to object. "Come to the marriage!" He proclaims by His servants; is it not, therefore, despising Him and His message still to linger without? How very solemn this is! How few persons seem to be sensible of the vast responsibility connected with the preaching of the gospel of God! How little men think when they hear, and they do not "make haste and come down," that they reject the gospel of the grace of God, and thus close the only door of escape from eternal burning, and the only way of admission into glory! Oh that my readers would ponder again our Lord's declaration, "He that believeth not shall be damned!"
How important it is that men should "make haste and come down" to the Saviour's feet. Who knows of whom it will be next said, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee"? How very soon the divine mandate may go forth, "Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live." How sad, then, to put off the solemn consideration of the soul's salvation! How perilous to say, "It is time enough yet," when we do not know what a day may bring forth! To-day is the day of salvation but we do not know what to-morrow will be. "Choose ye this day," said Joshua, "whom ye will serve." And the Psalmist exclaimed, "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." "To-day I must abide at thy house," said our Lord to Zaccheus. "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," said the Saviour to the believing malefactor. Now the gospel is preached. Now the Saviour welcomes returning prodigals. Now He commands all men everywhere to repent. Now He says, "Make haste and come down." But soon He will come forth in glory to put all enemies under His feet. How eternally important it is, then, that persons should now receive the Saviour whom God hath sent!
3. The Blessedness of Receiving Jesus, and Its Results. We are told that Zaccheus "made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully." This is very simple, yet touching. The Saviour always means what He says; He is always as good as His word. He told the sinful publican that He must abide at his house that day, and He did so; and the reason the Lord gave for being the guest of such a sinful man as this wealthy son of Abraham was, that He came to "seek and to save that which was lost." Zaccheus then received Jesus — not peculiar views, or rites, or ordinances, but the Lord Himself. He believed that the Lord of glory loved him, and had come from heaven to save such a sinful and unworthy creature. This marvellous grace not only comforted him, but humbled him into a spirit of self-judgment and confession, and also constrained him to serve and follow Christ.
No one can receive Jesus without being happy. Zaccheus "received Him joyfully." Present as well as eternal blessing is the portion of those who received the Lord Jesus: "As many as received Him, to them gave He power (or privilege) to become the sons of God." To know the love of God in Christ His Son to us, as sinful and ungodly, in eternal deliverance from condemnation, and the fulness of its unchanging perfectness, fills the soul with joy and peace.
Salvation is immediately the portion of those who receive the Lord Jesus. "This day is salvation come to this house." Man's thought naturally is, that he must worship and serve God now, and risk being eventually saved; but God's way is to give us salvation at once, and to receive our service and worship, because we are saved. Paul taught the Corinthian saints this doctrine. He says, "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified.......Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." But how wonderful is the blessing of present salvation, the knowledge that Christ Himself is now our life and righteousness, and that because He lives, we shall live also!
"More happy, but not more secure,
The souls of the blessed in heaven."
The believer is also brought into fellowship with the Son of God. Eating together is a mark, not only of friendship, but of love and equality. David showed the kindness of God to Mephibosheth, by commanding that he should eat bread with him at his table continually, as one of the king's sons. Jesus might have saved Zaccheus without becoming his guest; but the love of Christ not only saves, but calls us into fellowship with Himself, and brings us into the Father's presence, as sons of God and brethren of Christ; loved by the Father as the Father loved Christ. This is unutterable love; but so it is, and it is our privilege to enjoy it.
But further. Zaccheus was exercised about godly walk, and commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. This must always be the result of knowing salvation by Christ. We then feel that we are not only God's creatures, but God's children; and we serve Him not only from duty, but from choice. We fear not, then, Divine wrath, but fear lest we grieve One who so perfectly loves us. "Not my will, but thine be done," must be, more or less, the utterance of all believers, and this brings exercise of heart and conscience concerning our daily walk and circumstances. Remembering how much we have been forgiven makes it easy to forgive others; and a sense of the Divine kindness and mercy we have received constrains us to take pleasure in loving and serving others. The knowledge that the world has crucified the holy, loving Son of God, and that it is hastening on to its fearful judgment, makes us feel thankful that we are not of the world, but are rescued out of it, in wondrous grace, by the atoning death of Christ; and the blessed hope, that when Christ shall appear we shall be like Him, directs our souls upward and onward to the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thus we see that present happiness, salvation, fellowship, and godly walk, are at once connected with receiving the Lord Jesus.
But what an awful doom awaits those who do not "make haste and come down" and receive the Saviour! Jesus said, "If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins." Thus we see that those who do not now "make haste" to come to the Lord Jesus for salvation are making haste on the broad road to destruction; and those who do not now "come down" at the bidding of the Saviour's gospel, will be cast down into outer darkness at the command of the Judge of all. Then eternity, eternity, must for ever shut out all hope and mercy for weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, in darkness and despair, must be the unchanging portion of those who obey not the Saviour's call.
Once more, dear reader, let me say, "Make haste," delay not, hesitate no longer, linger no more, at once decide, and "come down" to the loving arms of the Saviour, whose blood cleanseth from all sin; and salvation, with all its present and eternal blessings, will be your portion for ever. May the Holy Spirit enable you to do so!
"Thine, alas! a lost condition,
Works cannot work thee remission,
Nor thy goodness do thee good;
Death's within thee, — all about thee,
But the remedy's without thee —
See it in thy Saviour's blood!"