In the Presence of Salvation1
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 the lost.
- Luke 19:8-10
We close this week by looking at Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus’ initiative in his life: repentance. When we’re first introduced to Zacchaeus, we’re told that he’s both wealthy and a chief tax collector.
His wealth would have been increased by his participation in his local tax franchise, but it might also have existed independently of this particular source of income. In the ancient world, in the absence of a middle class, it was often the already wealthy who collected taxes from the poor, fueling animosity between different levels of the economic strata.
Zacchaeus’ decision to give half his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times as much as he had cheated would have had radical social implications for him. Already despised by much of the local population, this move would have made him unpopular with his tax collecting peers and employees. The ripples of change often become waves of resentment. And they probably wouldn’t have done anything to quell the voices saying that Jesus shouldn’t be spending time with Zacchaeus.
Why did he do it?
Something had changed in Zacchaeus. His place in the social hierarchy would no longer define him. He would no longer hide aloof from the crowd. He would move toward people because God had moved toward him.
Jesus captures the moment with a delightful pun hidden in the original languages. His name ‘Jesus’ literally means “Jehovah is salvation.” So, when Jesus says: “Salvation has come to this house,” he’s just a half step away from saying: “Jesus has come to this house.” And you always know something interesting is about to happen when people start talking in the third person.
Salvation didn’t come to Zacchaeus because he gave away a lot of money. Instead, Zacchaeus’ relationship with money took a back burner to his relationship with the poor and his local community once salvation came to his house, once Jesus came to his house. Jesus’ presence changed Zacchaeus. Sure, he had choices to make. And he made them voluntarily. But he needed a nudge.
Where is Jesus offering you a nudge toward repentance? How is his presence in your life changing your relationships? Where do you need to make a change?