I Want To See
New to River City – Luke v by v, ch by ch – Open scripture w/ me to Luke 18:31…
On the road to Jerusalem
The disciples would be thinking, yeah, no kidding. Everyone else is going too. It’s the Passover Festival. It’s a requirement that we, as Jewish men especially, go into the city for this week-long holiday. And just like the Lord commanded Moses back in Exodus 12, we’ll all buy a sacrificial lamb on Monday, and keep it in the house until late Thursday evening, then stay up most of the night to kill it and eat the Passover meal together and remember together how our ancestors killed a lamb the night they left Egypt. They painted its blood on the doors of their house, and the angel of death passed over them when it saw the blood. Yeah, Jesus, we know why we’re going to Jerusalem.
But here’s what Jesus knows that they don’t know, keep reading…”Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For he will be handed over to the Gentiles, and he will be mocked, insulted, spit on;  and after they flog him, they will kill him, and he will rise on the third day."
Here is one of the prophecies Jesus is referring to:
Isaiah 53:7-11 CSB
 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.  He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered his fate? For he was cut off from the land of the living; he was struck because of my people's rebellion.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.  Yet the LORD was pleased to crush him severely. When you make him a guilt offering, he will see his seed, he will prolong his days, and by his hand, the LORD's pleasure will be accomplished.  After his anguish, he will see light and be satisfied. By his knowledge, my righteous servant will justify many, and he will carry their iniquities.  Therefore I will give him the many as a portion, and he will receive the mighty as spoil, because he willingly submitted to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet he bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.
The crowd with Jesus is just going through another Passover. Another festival meal, where you take the same elements you did last year, hear the same words read that you did last time, as they rehearse the symbolism of God’s provision of the meal, but also the future provision of the Messiah.
But Jesus is telling the twelve, his inner circle of disciples, that he is going to be the Passover Lamb. He is going to suffer at the hands of wicked people, even though he hasn't committed any sin at all. In the same way you will crush that Passover Lamb between your teeth as you eat it, Yahweh, God the Father, will crush his own Son severely, because it will accomplish the greatest act of salvation and deliverance anyone could have ever imagined…far more than what happened in Egypt, because it won’t cover you for one night only – it’ll cover you for good! And unlike the typical Passover lambs, Jesus will not stay crushed. This death will not be the end of him. There will be more to come after the third day!
And in verse 34, all God’s people said…HUH!? What are you talking about?  They understood none of these things. The meaning of the saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
He doesn’t expect them to understand. I think that’s why it says the meaning was hidden from them. Jesus didn’t explain himself. There were a lot of times where he did, but this is one of those times Jesus sort of lets them be confused. He knows they will not understand all of this until after his resurrection, but he’s telling them now before it happens so when the Holy Spirit connects the dots later, they will understand what Jesus means when he says everything that is written about me in the prophets is going to happen. Once these dots are connected, these disciples will be unstoppable. But not yet.
This man has been begging for his physical needs to be met for years. Sitting there with his tin can or whatever, asking for spare change, maybe food. But when he heard Jesus of Nazareth was coming, I can picture him chucking the tin can aside. What he calls out now, is not “alms for the poor,” he calls out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” What I need more than food or cash is mercy.
For this blind man to call Jesus the Son of David, it’s a marker that there is one area where this man IS able to see. God has already opened the eyes of his heart to understand that Jesus is the descendant of David that the prophets spoke of. So while this man can’t physically see, his spiritual sight is 20/20. He sees Jesus as the promise of God, and himself as a sinner in need of mercy.
So, just like the widow in chapter 16 who didn’t give up her quest for justice, this man just yells louder when they tell him to stop. Just like the tax collector who stood in the temple near the Pharisee, he begged for mercy. Just like the children who came to Jesus, not knowing all the ins and outs of faith, this man acted on the faith he had.
Just for a second, I’m not asking you to imagine you are blind, but maybe you want to close your eyes for a second and Imagine you are you, and Jesus is Jesus. Maybe Jesus is asking you that same question this morning: What do you want me to do for you? Just think it over – how would you answer that question?
I don’t know if this man knew about Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, like Jesus read back in chapter 4. I don’t know what he knew or didn’t know, but we read enough here to know that with Jesus Christ standing in front of him, given the question “What do you want me to do for you,” the man has at least enough faith to believe that Jesus can open blind eyes – AND enough faith to ask for it.
And so, his reply to Jesus is: "Lord," he said, "I want to see."
This is a prayer of childlike faith. Nothing complicated; nothing super spiritual. Just simply, I want to see. Not only do I believe that you can do this, but you are the Messiah, and giving sight to the blind is one thing you came to do. So, Jesus, Master, Lord, Son of God…I want to see and I believe you can make it happen.
And Jesus said to the man, You got it. Luke 18:42-43
Well, the blind man wasn’t the only one who wanted to see.
Here we go again, right? Another story about a wealthy man. The last one didn’t work out so well. Jesus said back in 18:24, that getting a rich person to see his need for the kingdom is as easy as threading a camel through the eye of a needle. It’s a setup for us, the readers… is he going to be like the previous rich ruler who walks away sad? Or will he be like the blind man and respond in faith?
Are you picturing this scene in your mind? It’s a hot sunny day, dust in the air as a large crowd comes trampling through on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. Shopkeepers are calling out, trying to get the crowd to buy things. The smell of food and sweat and animals is in the air. Children dart here and there playing tag as mothers scold them to watch out for the crowd.
And running alongside the street trying to get a good look at Jesus is a short man who is always just a few seconds late in getting to the right spot, and the reality is, no one is really concerned about making room for him either. Every now and then, he might even be spit on and glared at by the Jews of the city.
The blind man didn’t have a choice to be blind, but Zacchaeus had chosen his profession. Tax collectors were Jews who were legal crooks. They worked for the Roman government, collecting from fellow Jews all the money he could bleed out of them, paying a flat fee to the Romans, and pocketing the rest. This was helpful for the Romans, because sometimes they didn’t know where all the Jews lived, and they didn’t speak the language. So they would pay a Jew who knew where everyone lived and spoke the language to do their dirty work of collections for them.
Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector, so he’s been doing this for long enough that he even teaches others how to do the same thing, and do it better. So, first of all, as noted, he was rich. He has been skimming the top of his fellow Jews for a long time (Capon, 156). Secondly, he was hated. No one was going out of their way to be nice to him or helpful in the slightest. He was an outcast. A traitor to the nation.
He finally gets frustrated enough he just starts running down the road a ways until he finds a tree alongside the road. He climbs up in it and waits. No one and nothing will block his view from here. Who climbs trees? Not grown men. Children climb trees. Like the persistent widow, Zach doesn’t give up when things get sketchy. Like the blind man, he is eager to run into Jesus.
 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house."
Be encouraged today – even if you feel like you’re an outsider, that no one understands you, that no one realizes how deep your pain goes, even if you feel like the church or God himself has forgotten about you or overlooked you or judged you, Jesus sees you, he knows your name, and he is looking for you more than you are looking for him.
That meant everything to Zacchaeus…  So he quickly came down and welcomed him joyfully.
I think it’s at this moment that Zacchaeus is saved. Zacchaeus has heard about Jesus, and sought him out. Jesus has responded to his childlike faith by extending the invitation, Zach has accepted it joyfully. Welcoming him in. I’m sure Zacchaeus didn’t really make excuses about well, now I don’t know if I have enough plates for all of you; I didn’t know you were coming, so the living room really isn’t as clean as it could have been; I don’t know if I have enough beds for everyone… He welcomed Jesus joyfully, knowing rabbis don’t associate with tax collectors. I’m a sinner. This shouldn’t be happening, where the Son of God would want to spend time with me at my house! But he’s called me by name, which means he knows me. He didn’t spit on me – he is giving me the chance to help him!
The crowd wasn’t all quite so enthusiastic.  All who saw it began to complain, "He's gone to stay with a sinful man." It’s like the crowd was saying, Jesus, it’s completely fine if you heal that blind man, but spending the night at Zach’s place? Come on man. You don’t know who you’re talking to. This guy steals from us. This guy is a traitor. He was one of us – now he’s against us. He works for the enemy. But meanwhile, there in his house, after being in the presence of Jesus, something has changed in Zaccheaus…
In the Law of Moses, Numbers 5:5-7 says if a person commits sin against someone else, acting unfaithfully toward the Lord and is guilty, that person is to a) confess the sin they have committed, and they pay back full compensation to that person they sinned against, plus 20%.
Zacchaeus recognizes he has been sinning against people and acted unfaithfully toward God. He acknowledges his sin of extortion, and goes abundantly above and beyond the Law by promising to pay back 400% of anything he’s taken, and give away 50% of his own stuff! He also recognizes his unfaithfulness to God, and in repentance calls Jesus his Lord. Master. King. My authority. I answer to you. I am your servant.
I think it’s tempting once again to look at this story and hold it up against the rich ruler in 18, and think that Jesus rejected that guy b/c he didn’t do this, and that he saved this man because he gave all his stuff away. And if I really want Jesus to think well of me or save my soul, I must do the same thing or something equally as awe-inspiring so he knows I’m serious. But what did Jesus say to Zach when he was still up in the tree? It is necessary for me to come to your house. Then in v9, salvation has come to this house. Salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house by way of a person, not by way of his works. That’s Romans 3:28 – a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. The re-forming of Zacchaeus’ priorities, the transformation of his attitude toward his money & his stuff, all came AFTER salvation, not before it.
Which means God has done what seemed impossible: He has given a blind man sight, and he has threaded a camel through the eye of a needle.
With both of these instances, Jesus shows us that from the poorest person on the street with nothing to offer, to the wealthiest among us, even a traitor to the covenant promises of God, he is here to seek and to save the lost: two more lost sheep have been rescued. Two more lost coins have been found. Two more lost sons have come home. And Jesus’ work will not rest until the house is full.
Some of you here today are like the blind man. As disciples of Jesus, you’ve been called to a life of faith, where you have to believe without seeing. As I talk to some of you, I know there are uncertainties in your lives – children not following the Lord, marriages that are under construction, moving away from the familiar, health concerns, even wondering why God isn’t doing something in your life… in all of those things, we are invited to trust that he will never leave you or forsake you. That he works all things together for good to those who love him. Like the blind man you are called to have that kind of spiritual eyesight, where you learn to trust what you cannot see.
This spiritual eyesight comes from staying rooted in God’s promises. Rooted in his word. Rooted in community. If you want to spiritually see, you must put on the glasses of God’s word. You cannot see otherwise. Make time for it. Lean into it. Ask for help if you don’t know where to start.
Others of you here today might be like Zacchaeus, where God is waiting for you to have childlike faith and climb a tree. He’s waiting for you to put yourself out there; to stop caring what other people will think, and just go all in on looking for Jesus. Let him into your home, into your heart, into your mind, into your bank account, into your job, into your relationships, etc.
He’s been looking for you. It’s time to come out of hiding, and let yourself be found. To invite him in, and let him do his work. He’s not coming over to scold you or embarrass you. He’s coming to rid you of the cheap savior you’ve been hanging onto. There is only one who can save. You can’t pay your way into getting his approval. You can’t grovel your way into his good graces. You can’t prove yourself good or faithful enough times to him where you will get his attention with your good behavior or managing to get your life put together.
Jesus wants you, mess and all. He is your refuge. He is your strength. Stop running, and let yourself be found. Today would be a great time to do that. Even right now as we close in prayer.
- Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997)
- Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51–24:53, vol. 2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996)