Our Lord shows amazing compassion to a man who behaved badly and was a social outcast.
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.’
Jesus was confronted by a man who was very bad by any standards. He was a social outcast because of his greedy behaviour. Like other tax collectors of the time he showed no compassion toward the struggling people from whom he exacted unfair additional taxes for his own gain.
Jesus was undaunted by this man’s overwhelming moral failures. In fact, unlike everyone else, Jesus accepts him, calls to him and invites himself to his home. This behaviour of Jesus was outrageously radical. It was breathtakingly gracious. It certainly upset the crowd who indignantly grumbled that Jesus was staying with a “sinful man”. Yet this is typical of our Lord Jesus who is full of compassion and mercy.
There are three parts of Jesus response to their criticism which provide hope and encouragement to all. Firstly, he says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house. From the rest of the New Testament we know that this means that Zacchaeus’ faith was in Jesus and that Jesus was embracing him with his love and that when he went to the cross and rose again it would be for Zacchaeus. Secondly, he points out that this is the Lord being faithful to his promises to Abraham. The Lord would be the saviour of his people, even somebody like Zacchaeus who was willing to receive him. Of course, all the nations of the earth who come to Jesus would be blessed through this descendant of Abraham. Thirdly, Jesus declares that his whole reason for coming into this world was to seek out sinners who need a saviour and then to act to save them. His whole life, death and resurrection was to bring about this rescue. He says that he has done this for the “lost”.
Jesus also confronts us. We are bad, not necessarily by the world’s standards but certainly by God’s standards. We can often at least feel like social outcast. Our lives can be punctuated by our lack of compassion for the struggling people around us. Jesus message to us is one filled with compassion. He calls us to come and find mercy through him. He calls us to receive eternal life from him. He accepts us and embraces us with his love. We can know that salvation has come to our house. We can understand this love and mercy is founded on the promises of our Lord fulfilled in Christ and not on our ability (or rather inability) to sort out our lives. We can have the assurance that Jesus came for people just like us.
We can also see that as “found” and “saved” people, Jesus will use us to do some of his calling to the many “Zacchaeuses” in our world. It is a message that says, “Jesus has come for people like you. He calls you to come to him and benefit from his saving work.”
Head: Think through the reality that Jesus is far more compassionate, merciful and caring than we can ever be or really understand.
Heart: Delight in the mercy and compassion Jesus has shown to you.
Hands: How can you be that instrument of the Lord to call others to Jesus.
Prayer: I offer you, my God, all praise and adoration that my Lord Jesus Christ is full and compassion and mercy. I need that compassion and mercy for my life, and I ask that I can show it to others. In Jesus name. Amen
A song to listen to: How Great Is Our God
Living Church – Creek Road