With a perfect plan and perfect provision, God reaches out to us. We have only two choices: we can choose to believe what God is telling us and receive what He has to give, or we can choose to not believe and not receive. In Luke 10 we are told the story of one man's response to the invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And He entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crown, for he was small in stature. And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly.
And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."
And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (LUK 19:1-10)
To the Jews of Jesus' day there were few classes of people more hated than the publicans, Jewish men who collected taxes in Israel for the Roman Empire. Zaccheus, whose name means "pure," would have been an outcast from Judaism—considered not only unclean religiously but traitorous politically.
Like another publican—the apostle Matthew—Zaccheus would have been unwelcome in the homes or at the social gatherings of "good" Jews. His only friends would have come from the circle of people referred to by the religious leaders as "sinners."
Zaccheus was looking for something; he did not know exactly what. He did know, though, that it was important that he see this man Jesus. Unknown to Zaccheus, long before he set his sights on Jesus, Jesus had set His sights on him. Zaccheus was being sought by God's grace.
Before He reached the tree and looked up, Jesus knew where Zaccheus was physically and spiritually. He knew this was a man who had been goaded all his life—a small man, a hated man whom others took delight in insulting and vilifying. Jesus knew every humiliation Zaccheus had ever endured.
Jesus knew the other side, too. He knew every fraud Zaccheus had ever indulged in; He could count every penny he had squeezed from every merchant and tradesman in Jericho. Yet Jesus, the sinless Son of God, stopped and looked up to the man everyone else looked down on. The most important man in Palestine—the most important man in the universe—wanted time with Zaccheus so much that He invited Himself, "I must stay at Your house."
Before Zaccheus could meet the Lord, the Lord had to seek him. Jesus had a desire from eternity past for this meeting. He had seen Zaccheus before He created him and had determined to die on the cross for this man.
How did Zaccheus respond to the invitation of Jesus? He "received Him gladly." The moment he opened his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation came to the house of Zaccheus. The charity and the restitution that Zaccheus promised in LUK 19:8 were not requirements for his salvation. They were freely given responses to salvation. Jesus did not require anything of Zaccheus except faith in Him. God is delighted when His children give "not grudgingly or under compulsion" but freely, cheerfully (2CO 9:7). But faith is the only thing that has ever been required for salvation.
To the grumbling of those who were appalled that Jesus would enter the house of a "sinner," the Lord had a message in LUK 19:10: His sole mission in life was to seek and to save the lost, the sinners.
"To seek" is the aorist infinitive zeteo, "to pursue." It means to look until you find what you are looking for. David used the Old Testament counterpart to this word in Psalm 23 when he declared, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all. the days of my life." The word had much more intensity of meaning than the translation "follow" conveys. It meant to hunt someone or something down, to chase with a passion.
With passionate intensity, Jesus Christ had sought Zaccheus. With such intensity, He still seeks the lost. He is the initiator, the pursuer. All He asks of us is that we let ourselves be found and carried to safety, that we receive by faith the life that only He can give.
Once we have by faith received the life, we find that there is only one way to live the life: by faith. HEB 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. If only faith pleases God, then one of the greatest things we can ever say is what the apostles said in Luke 17.
And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (LUK 17:5)
What had brought the usually thick-headed apostles to the point at which they recognized their great need of faith? It was one of the most simple, mundane situations of life. Jesus had just told them to forgive each other. He had said that if their brother sins against them seven times a day and returns asking for forgiveness seven times, they must forgive him.
In a similar account in Matthew 18, Peter had come to Jesus and asked a question something like this: "Lord, If my brother sins against me seven times and I forgive him seven times, then can I deck him?" Peter probably felt that his brother Andrew had reached his limit of allowable offenses. He was probably proud of himself for being willing to forgive his brother seven times. But the Lord looked at Peter and said, "seventy times seven."
Jesus was telling His disciples to forgive and forgive and forgive again, 490 times a day if necessary. And their response was, "This is going to take some faith. Lord, increase our faith."
"Increase" is prostithemi. Tithemi means "to place." Pros means " face to face" or "before." Prostithemi was a banking term which meant "to make a deposit." They were saying, "Lord, we don't have enough to handle this; we need you to deposit more faith to our account." Why? Because He was requiring of them a most practical thing: forgiveness.
Faith is practical. It relates to every issue of life, and one of the greatest areas of need in our lives is in personal relationships. We have to deal every day with people who make us mad, who exhaust our patience, who take us to our limit. The Lord's solution is not for us to change other people's behavior, but for us to learn grace. If we want to learn to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us (EPH 4:32), we will need faith.
And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea;' and it would obey you." (LUK 17:6)
When they ask Him to increase their faith, Jesus answers by explaining how faith works. He is telling them that it is not the size or amount—but the object—of their faith that matters. If they had faith like a mustard seed, He says, they could do anything.
According to MAT 13:31-32, the mustard seed is the smallest of domestic garden seeds, yet it grows into the largest of shrubs. Jesus uses the mustard seed to illustrate His point because it represents growth from the smallest to the greatest. The question is not how much faith we have, but what we place our faith in. The power is not in the person who has faith, neither is it in the faith itself. The power is in the object of faith. The only proper object of faith in the universe is Jesus Christ. In the Bible, we have the mind of Christ. Our faith may be very small, but if it is resting in the truth of the Mighty God, it can accomplish the impossible.
In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples only how faith works. In ROM 10:17, the Apostle Paul tells us where faith comes from. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."
If we want to increase our faith, we need to increase our study of the Word. If we want to trust God more, we need to know Him better. If we know more of the person of Jesus Christ and know more of the Word, our faith will gain in strength because the strength is in the object.