1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Lk. 19:1-10
This Zacchaeus guy had to be joking… pay his (probably hundreds of) debtors four times the amount he owed them, and that after he had given half of his goods to the poor?! But, again, we know that the Lord Jesus Christ does not hang about with jokers (Psalms 1), so we are bound to pay careful attention to the words that Zacchaeus spoke here.
Secondly, scripture here says that Zacchaeus received Jesus “joyfully”. I haven’t read that he sang the “Joyfully! joyfully!” song. In fact it does not say that he sang any song at all. But there was a profound meaning to Zacchaeus’ joy; it was the joy of the man “… who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Mat. 13:46).
Zacchaeus had found the one thing that mattered to him, and he had no more need of the riches of this world.
Let us consider the deliberate progression of Zacchaeus’ words here. Notice he did not say, “Lord, I will settle accounts with all my debtors first, after which I will give half my remaining goods to the poor.” No. Instead, he put himself in the most hazardous position possible, by dividing his gross earnings with the poor before he would settle accounts with those whom he had robbed along the way.
Zacchaeus put himself in a position where he would lose everything – and probably more. There was no easy way here. It was a difficult road he had chosen, one less well-travelled. Jesus called it the narrow way (Mat. 7:13). What a great price Zacchaeus would have to pay! But also, what a tremendous heart he had!
The road that Zacchaeus took has nothing to do with material goods. On the contrary, it has everything to do with our hearts. It could well be that you all you are required to do is humble yourself and ask for forgiveness from someone you have wronged; but your hard heart prevents you from doing so. You find yourself unable to pay the price.
What is so difficult for most of us to do, Zacchaeus did with incredible ease. It was the result of a humble, thirsty heart. A heart thirsty for righteousness.
Finally, let us consider something else in this scripture that is of equal significance, and which of necessity is tied in with Zacchaeus’ declaration. It is the words that Jesus spoke.
Notice that Jesus said, “This day is salvation come to this house” only after Zacchaeus had made his remarkable declaration. Many people think that salvation is attained at the initial confession when they accept Jesus into their hearts. That might be so; but in this scripture, Jesus shows us that true salvation is experiential. Just as the Apostle Paul was taken up into the third heaven, there are varying degrees of salvation.
So it was that when Zacchaeus spoke the words that he did, only then did the Lord say, “This day is salvation come to this house”.
Jesus was not saying, the way we do, “This man just got saved”, after we have prayed for someone to receive Christ. On the contrary, Jesus was talking about a higher level of salvation (if we may put it that way), a perfection in the Spirit.
Many believers think they can accept Jesus into their lives and continue living any old lives that they want. But true salvation, the Lord shows us, involves a transformation. That is why the Apostle Paul insists in Romans 12:1-2 that we must be transformed in order to be fully pleasing to God. The initial acceptance of Christ into our lives is commendable indeed, for in it we accept the redeeming work of Christ. But there is the perfecting part, for which God gives us the opportunity to lay down our lives, take up our cross and follow Christ.
And so it was that Zacchaeus, upon believing on the Lord, made this incredible declaration. On the road towards perfection, Zacchaeus paid a price, a tremendous price.
The Bible says,
“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
And the Lord, who knows men’s hearts and who knew Zacchaeus meant what he said, replied,
““This day is salvation come to this house”
In concluding, we could well ask each one of us who reads this post, “Has salvation come to your house?”
[Below: A woman arranges fruits to sell at Marangu-Mtoni, on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro]