The story of Zacchaeus is surprising because it reveals Jesus’ priorities—and how different they can be from our own. Often, we can find ourselves in the position of the crowd, jockeying for Jesus’ attention and creating barriers for those we believe are unfit to reach him. The presence of the crowd didn’t impede Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost and the same is true today. So, our choice becomes whether we’re going to join Jesus on his mission or act as a barrier to his work.

Even though Zacchaeus was actively seeking, the people of God, believing Zacchaeus was unfit for God’s grace, didn’t help him on his search. However, if we believe that Jesus’ goal is to seek and save the lost, we will also believe he can and desires to save anyone, no matter who or where they are. As a church, we want to do whatever we can to help people see Jesus, but—like the crowd—there are a few lies we can believe that keep us from reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus.

1 // Background

Maybe there’s someone you know whose choices have consistently been away from Jesus and the church. Maybe he or she has been divorced a couple times, or maybe this person spent time in prison and has a long history of struggling with addiction. That person (or anyone else) is not too far from gone to be transformed by Jesus. Remember that some of the people God used most mightily—Paul who was a murderer and David who was an adulterer—had disreputable backgrounds, too. That didn’t keep God from saving them or from using them in amazing ways.

2 // Behavior

What if it isn’t a past sin, but a present lifestyle that someone is engaging in? People far from God, like Zacchaeus, will often believe this lie, too. They delay coming near to Jesus until they’ve left a lifestyle of addiction, sexual sin, or even just selfishness, not knowing that eternity hangs in the balance. No one needs to become “cleaned up” before they can come to Jesus. Jesus will save us wherever we are, but thankfully, he won’t leave us there.

When we believe that a person’s background or their current behavior keeps them from knowing Jesus, we’ll respond accordingly and we won’t help them see Jesus. Jesus is always seeking after the lost and this is good news for everyone since we’ve all wandered from grace. If we’re going to have hearts that align with Jesus’ heart for the lost, we must have the kind of faith that believes, “Jesus can save anyone, no matter where they are or where they’ve been.”. When we believe this and embrace the reality that the lost are loved by God, we’ll rejoice with the angels every time someone who was lost becomes found (Luke 15: 10).