In the House of Christ


January 11, 1998 ~ Pickering Standard Church


In his novel, "Les Miserables," Victor Hugo portrays a magnificent scene in which his central character named Jean Valjean, at this point a thoroughly desperate outcast, meets an extremely pious bishop, a man of exemplary Christian life and conduct. Through this meeting the central character is redeemed and claimed by the bishop as one now owned by God. Confronting Jean Valjean's surprise at being so unexpectedly accepted as a person of value the bishop says:


"You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which I knew."


The man opened his eyes in astonishment. "Really? You knew what I was called?"


"Yes," replied the Bishop, " you are called my brother."


Victor Hugo, "Les Miserables"


In Luke 15:7 Jesus says these words to us:


Luke 15:7 - I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.


I wish to speak this morning upon these words in the context of personal generosity in the name of Christ; or, to use the words of Victor Hugo, how we are to inhabit the "House of Christ."


Jesus shows what it means to inhabit His house through His extraordinary encounter with Zacchaeus.


Luke 19:1-10 - Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.


All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’"


But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."


Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."


To be a tax collector in Jesus day was tantamount to being a traitor and a thief. The tax collectors contracted with the Roman government, a government of occupation through military conquest, to collect taxes from the conquered people for the continuance of the Roman system. Any funds collected over and above the requirements of the ruling powers belonged to the tax collector. So not only did the tax collector side with the enemy, he also made a profit at it at the expense of his countrymen. Zacchaeus was a despised person in the society of Jesus' day, he was a criminal by his own admission who robbed from his fellow Jews so that his Roman masters might continue their rule and so that he could experience financial benefit. In visiting his household Jesus did something that no respected teacher would consider doing: He acknowledged a traitor.


We must learn to look at men with the eyes of Christ rather than of man. To Jesus Zacchaeus salvation was of far greater importance than His personal reputation in the eyes of the current Jewish administration. He entered Zacchaeus' house not to enjoy the fruits of Zacchaeus' treachery but to save this man and his family. He did not see in Zacchaeus a man whose situation made him despicable, but a man whose situation He could remedy. Zacchaeus in his turn shows the impact of Jesus' selfless generosity in that he was not only saved but he also desired to live according to Jesus' calling.


We have before us always the example of Christ, He who came into the world as our saviour while even while we were His devoted enemies.


1 Timothy 1:15 - Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.


And the apostle John writes that:


1 John 4:9 - This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that     we might live through him.


The love that Victor Hugo's bishop showed toward Jean Valjean is nothing less than the love of Christ finding its home in the human heart.


At one point in our lives we were each in the position of a Jean Valjean or of a Zacchaeus, we were each outcasts from God and traitors to His love. We were not reluctant outcasts either but willing, not desiring anything to do with He who made us but rebelling against Him day after day. There was not a thing that we could have done to save ourselves had we even wished to, and we were in such a position that we didn't even wish reconciliation with God. As Solomon wrote:


Ecclesiastes 7:29 - This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.


We were in such a state that we didn't even know how bad a state we were in and to us in this situation come Christ, running toward us to accept us again into the family from which we had run and dying in our place so that we could again face the God we had once despised. Contemporary Christian singing artists Phillips, Craig, and Dean have in one of their songs a chorus that emphasizes the significance of the mercy of God toward us:


            Mercy came running

            Like a prisoner set free

            Past all my failures to the point of my need

            When the sin that I carried

            Was all I could see

            And when I could not reach mercy

            Mercy came running to me.


Phillips, Craig, & Dean - "Mercy Came Running"


To save us, who had declared ourselves His despisers, Jesus came willingly to die for us upon the cross and He calls us to do the same for others.


Luke 14:26-33 - If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters— yes, even his own life— he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.


In one of His parables Jesus says:


Matthew 25:35-40 - "'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’"


To enter the "House of Christ" is to view all that we have and call our own as tools to be used in the saving of souls and the performing of ministry here on earth in the name of Christ. Too great an attachment to possessions will hinder our growth in Christ:


Philippians 3:7-8 - But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ


But because our earthly lives depend on certain of these possessions, such as food and heat, we can significantly influence other lives for Christ by the proper use of what God has given us:


Acts 4:32-35 - All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.


We will be called to account for how we have used the riches that God has bestowed upon us:


Luke 12:16-21 - And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.