Because of Jesus there is always hope and encouragement even for most messed up and corrupted lives.
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’
8 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.’
9 Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
This section is one of great encouragement. It is a good news story. Zacchaeus was a man of low reputation in the community, and for good reason. He is described as a chief tax collector. Regular tax collectors were despised for their ruthless behaviour, how much more their chief. He is also described as rich but in a very bad way because it was at the expense of the struggling people of his area. It would be correct to say his life was a shipwreck. Certainly, he had wealth and power, but he carried a very real guilt; what he did was wrong! He also wore a cloak of shame; he could not be content with himself!
God had moved his heart to want to see Jesus and he showed real determination in doing that. Then his world changed. Jesus looked up and saw him in a tree and called him by name and told him to come down because he was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house. Notice that although a despised member of the community, a man of guilt and shame, he had found acceptance by Jesus. Zacchaeus was overjoyed and received Jesus, not just as a house guest but as his Lord and saviour. We know that his acceptance of Jesus went that far because Jesus said, “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, so we know Zacchaeus believed in Jesus. He also repented, to use the biblical word, he had a change of mind about how he would live his life. A new generosity came over him, so he was ready to give away half his wealth. He recognised his sinful behaviour and was ready to make recompense to those he had cheated. This was the renewed Zacchaeus, accepted and forgiven, transformed from ruthless greed to a generosity and possessing a desire to do what is right.
The good news is not just for Zacchaeus. It is the hope for all sinners. We all can examine our lives and recognise there is a great deal we have done which is plain wrong. There are many aspects of our lives which fill us with shame. The perfect, compassionate Jesus is somebody who is attractive to us. He calls to us. Not necessarily as he did to Zacchaeus but usually through one of his people speaking about him and his great saving work. Telling of how he offered himself at the cross to receive the punishment we deserve for our wrongdoing. Explaining how his perfect obedience is ascribed to us when we believe in him. Showing how his resurrection is the defeat of death for all who entrust their lives to him. It is made clear that Jesus came to save sinful people like us. His call is a message of acceptance of the unacceptable. We are drawn to him and place our life in his hands. Then, a further change takes place. The old yearnings of making our way in life and finding security and significance on our own terms melt away because the whole foundation of life, the whole of life is changed.
Head: Think clearly and realistically about the sin of your life and recognise the perfect forgiveness found in Christ.
Heart: Love the Lord who provides hope even when all else seems hopeless.
Hands: How can you better be one who calls the ones like Zacchaeus in our age to come to Jesus.
Prayer: Father, I thank you that when you called me to faith in Jesus, I had no more merit than Zacchaeus and yet you extended your love to me. I ask that I might be able to extend that same love to others. In Jesus name. Amen
A song to listen to: This Is Love
Living Church – Creek Road