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 because he was short he could not see over 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 the lost.” [Luke 19:1-10]
The people singled out a particular sinner but the truth is everyone is a sinner, no matter the sin we struggle with. But, praise God, Jesus came to save sinners! This is awesome and this is LIFE! But this is not the end of the story. People love to stop here – and it’s okay to camp out here for a while! – but it’s not the end.
As far as we can know from Scripture, Zacchaeus camps out at this point of the story for about 2.33 seconds. 🙂
The end of the story is, in some ways, even better than the first. When Jesus saves you, He changes you! A legitimate encounter with Jesus equals life change. You will change. It is impossible not to. And it’s not about this sin or that one. It’s not about elevating one sin over another – they’re all equal, as defined by the WORD who saves you and changes you.
Zacchaeus immediately (1) acknowledges Jesus as LORD, (2) acknowledges his specific sin (and his life as a sinner, far from God), and (3) repents by word and deed. He turns the other direction – 180°. He doesn’t try to cover anything up – what was an entitled lifestyle thirty seconds ago is now seen clearly by him as an affront to the ONE who saved him. An offense to the ONE who changed him. He immediately runs FROM his old, sinful life and runs TOWARD Jesus and His righteousness.
If the first part of Zacchaeus’ story is awesome, the second part is even awesomer! (So awesome that I’m making up words.) Jesus has the power to SAVE you and to CHANGE you. And that is exactly what He does. Don’t stop the story after part 1. The world loves to do this because it makes Jesus out to be simply “the friend of sinners.” Non-judgmental, keep doing your thing, peace-loving, etc. While it’s true that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, it’s also true that the world already stands condemned (John 3:16-21). Jesus makes clear time and time again that when He saves someone, He changes them. “Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).
Part 1 – Jesus seeks you out and saves you. Awesome! LIFE!
Part 2 – Jesus changes you. Awesomer! More LIFE – better LIFE – His LIFE! The Spirit lives in you and through you. Old life gone, new LIFE has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). CHRIST IN YOU – THE HOPE OF GLORY! (Colossians 1:27).
Do not skip this part of the story. Zacchaeus did not, and Jesus does not. True life change awaits.