‘What Child is This?’ Two weeks ago we saw the answer the gospel of Matthew gives, that Jesus came to be the bringer of a new creation, the true Israel, and the true Adam. Last week we saw the answer the gospel of Mark gives, that Jesus came to say “Repent and believe in the gospel.” This week we turn our attention to the answer the gospel of Luke gives. While Matthew gives us what Jesus came to be and while Mark gives us what Jesus came to say, Luke gives us what Jesus came to do. So, ‘What Child is This?’ according to Luke? Jesus is the Seeking and Saving Son of Man.
When most of us are young and go through middle school, high school, and even into college our teachers and professors alike encouraged us to begin papers/essays with a thesis statement. Of course we all know what this is, it’s a statement where we describe what we intend to accomplish in the paper that follows. Well, this very thing is why the gospel of Luke stands out. Of all 4 gospels his is the only one with an introduction intended to communicate a purpose why it is written. His is the only one which gives us a thesis statement. In the first 4 verses of Luke chapter 1 he tells he is writing, as many have done before, in order to give us an orderly account of the things that have taken place for the purpose that we would gain a certainty about the message we have believed. This in itself is good for us to see, because there is a popular notion traveling around today claiming the Bible is nothing more than fables or fairy tales. But, as fables and fairy tales begin with ‘once upon a time’ Luke’s gospel begins with a thesis statement and follows with an orderly account. This is no fairy tale…it’s historic truth.
There are many moments within Luke’s orderly account we could draw from to see Luke’s main point. We could name Mary’s magnificat in chapter 1, the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son in chapter 15, the publican’s plea for salvation in chapter 18, or the famous conversation on the road to Emmaus in chapter 24. Any of these would provide us a glimpse into what Jesus came to do. But I’m convinced and want to show you today that Luke’s main point lies elsewhere. To see his main point we must look to another passage. A passage about a wee little man, named Zacchaeus.
In Luke 19:1-9 we find exactly what the song says, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.” After Jesus went to stay at Zacchaeus’ home, the people who saw it grumbled saying “He has gone to be a guest of a sinner.” Though Zacchaeus was a fantastically wicked sinner, being the chief tax collector, his response to Jesus was one of exemplary faith. He went far beyond what the law demanded of him to make up for all that he had stolen from the people. Jesus than says in v9, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” Zacchaeus wasn’t saved by his works of generosity here, rather his works of generosity are the outward proof of his new inward change of heart. Then we come to it. In v10 see Luke’s summary statement of what Jesus came to do. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
This summary statement first and foremost is the appropriate ending to the story of Zacchaeus. He was lost, but the Son of Man sought him and saved him. Moving beyond the story of Zacchaeus to the whole of Luke through the lens of this verse, glorious things present themselves to us: Jesus the Son of Man, and Jesus the Seeker and Savior.
Jesus the Son of Man
This expression ‘Son of Man’ that Jesus refers to Himself here in Luke 19:10 is used 81 times throughout all 4 gospels. It is the title Jesus most often used when referring to Himself. So naturally we want to ask ‘Why?’ When He could’ve referred to Himself as anything why choose this title so often? To see why we must go back to the passage where God gives us the full display of what is intended in this title. The passage is Daniel 7:13-14 and in it Daniel says this, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came One like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should worship Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
In this vision Daniel sees clouds and with the coming of these clouds also comes One like a Son of Man. Think back to directly after the Exodus where Israel is gathered together before Mt. Sinai. As God descended and came to Israel to give them His Law, the glory of God was displayed for all to see and the whole mountain shook and was covered in a great cloud. So too, in Daniel’s vision, this One like a Son of Man comes with a similar cloud of glory as He approaches God Almighty who is referred to here as the “Ancient of Days.” And once this Son of Man is presented before God, God gives Him an everlasting dominion, He gives Him glory, and He gives Him a kingdom that shall not be destroyed. Now think back to Genesis 1 when God gave Adam dominion and a kingdom within the garden. That this same imagery is used here teaches us that this Son of Man is greater than the first Adam. Because the first Adam was to wield his dominion within the garden as his worship to God, but this Son of Man is given dominion and promised that all peoples, all nations, and all languages shall worship Him! Therefore, this Son of Man is no mere man in view here, He is a Man yes, but the nations stream to Him in worship and He’ll reign forever in an unending kingdom, which is something only God is worthy of. So is this Son of Man a man like Adam but greater than Adam, or is this Son of Man God? Yes is the answer presented to us. The Son of Man presented here before the Ancient of Days is none other than the God-Man Jesus Christ. “Truly God…” the creed says, “…became truly man.” Thus in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we have beheld the mystery and the wonder of God made flesh, of God-incarnate.
Jesus uses this title so often to make His full Divinity, His full humanity, and His full and forever authority crystal clear to us. No wonder why the mob was so infuriated when He used this title for Himself as He was standing trial before them prior to the crucifixion! They knew what we ought to learn here – that to use the title Son of Man for yourself is to state that you are the Son of God, the Christ, and that you hold an exalted position at the right hand of God the Father.
Going back to Luke 19:10 we can ask our next question. What does the Son of Man intend to use His glory filled authority and dominion for in His earthly ministry? Two things: He intends to seek and save the lost.
Jesus the Seeker and Savior
I am glad that both of these words are present in this passage, because there would be no hope for any of us unless both words were present and active in the ministry of the Son of Man. Jesus doesn’t say He will save those who seek Him, and Jesus doesn’t say He will seek out those who want to be saved. You see, if Jesus only saved those who sought Him out or only sought out those who wanted to be saved by Him, no one would be saved. Our sinful nature is such that we won’t seek Him out unless He has first sought us out. As a lion only desires meat, so too sinners like us only desire sin, unless God changes our hearts and gives us a desire for something alien to our natural taste, namely, a desire for Himself. Romans 3 confirms this when Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one.” You may wonder I’m speaking in such a negative tone here in a Christmas sermon? Isn’t the Christmas moment a moment of celebration? Yes it is, but I remind you of our natural sinful condition because recall Jesus came to seek and save, who, the lost! All the confidence in our own ability to save ourselves must be shattered. Jesus came for the lost, not for those who think they can be found by their own strength.
Today in Christian circles it is often said that there is a category of person called a ‘seeker’ referring to one who is seeking to know God, or inquiring about the things of the Christian religion. Learn here. No man seeks God. What then is our hope if we’re in such a desperate condition? Our hope is that Jesus doesn’t save those who seek Him. Our hope is that He seeks those who are lost! And that He finds them, and saves them! Our hope is in the Christmas announcement that Jesus came for this reason: to seek and to save! The only One who seeks, the only One who could ever be called a Seeker is God Himself!
Some of you are pridefully thinking that you don’t need Jesus to seek you because your life is already the way you’d like it and frankly you don’t want it bothered. Others of you may be here today shamefully thinking of all the things you do that you know you shouldn’t do and you deeply desire no one else finds out about it. Still others of you are here who despair over family members, co-workers, or close friends who are wandering. Does it not encourage you to know that Jesus seeks? Does it not encourage you to know that Jesus saves? That He is able to seek and save the proud in the midst of their pride? That He is able to seek and save the shamed in the midst of their shame? That He is able to seek and save those who wander in the midst of their wandering? Wherever a man or woman is, Jesus is able to seek them, find them, and save them, whether they’re billionaires or beggars. The shepherds of the Christmas story would tell you this: sheep are prone to one thing, wandering. And once they wander they never come back. They must be sought out. So too, the Son of Man, the great Shepherd of the sheep, knows that we are prone to wander, He knows that we will not come back on our own, so He seeks and saves His sheep.
I remember a time when I was very young (had to be 5-6), when our family went out to some kind of dinner banquet. Or at least I think it was a dinner banquet, all I know is that there were a lot of well dressed people there. Anywho, sometime during the evening I remember walking somewhere with my mother and in the midst of people standing all around us something caught my eye and I turned towards it to see what it was. Well, when I turned back around I grabbed ahold of what I thought was my mother’s hand, but it wasn’t. As I looked up and saw a strangers face I immediately felt a wave of panic come over me as I realized a dreadful fact…I was lost. I didn’t know any of the people around me. For my little 5-6 year old heart in that moment I didn’t know what to do. Instantly I started searching for my mother, turning this way and that, looking all around hating the feeling of being lost. But oh the joy of turning around once again and seeing my mom’s face, the sense of lostness I had felt so heavily washed away with a tide of gratefulness and joy over the realization that I had been found.
I wonder…have you felt this lost? Not the lostness of a wandering child but the lostness of a rebellious sinner. Have you felt yourself to be lost before God? Have you come to the end of your confidence in yourself? If you don’t feel this, if you aren’t willing to place yourself among those who are lost, if you’re not willing to own the title of sinner, I’m afraid I have no Christ to preach to you today. For the Son of Man of ‘came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ If you’re to see the beauty of His gracious salvation, you must feel the weight of your just damnation. In His life the Son of Man came low to bring us high. He worked a perfect righteousness for those who have no righteousness. He satisfied His Father’s wrath for those justly deserving God’s displeasure. He conquered death for those who deserve death. He came low, was born like us so that we would re-born like Him.
‘What Child is This?’ according to the gospel of Luke? Jesus is the seeking and saving Son of Man. Let me leave you with three brief thoughts:
-Since Jesus preferred to call Himself the Son of Man let us be in awe of His glory filled authority and dominion.
-Since Jesus advented among us to seek and to save let us be thankful that He is able and eager to seek us out wherever we may be, and save us to the uttermost.
-Since Jesus seeks and saves the lost let us be ever mindful of our natural sinful condition rejoicing that by faith in His gospel we are no longer lost but found!