Zacchaeus was an unlikely focus of Jesus' ministry: He was a chief tax collector and was very rich. But Zacchaeus' wealth was from his legal and illegal tax-collecting business. Under Roman rule, tax-collectors were businessmen who got the tax-collecting contract by offering to the Romans the highest bid for taxes they would collect for the contracted district. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. That meant he had sub-contracted his district to other tax-collectors. Chief tax-collectors made their profit by charging taxes over and above the amount they needed to pay the Romans at the bid price.
So when Jesus volunteered to visit Zacchaeus' house, the crowd murmured: "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." Tax-collectors had about the same social status in the eyes of the Jews as prostitutes. So, it's as scandalous to them as Jesus entering the home of a prostitute.
But Zacchaeus was overjoyed: "So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully" (v. 6). At his house, Zacchaeus experienced a personal conversion and transformation: "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." The evidence of his conversion is his transformed ethics: he was willing to give half his wealth to the poor (50% tithe) and make 400% restitution for illegal taxes collected. And when Jesus heard that, he said: "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
There are three important lessons here:
- God initiated Salvation: Jesus was the one who told Zacchaeus that He would stay in his house. While Zaccheus had demonstrated a desire to know Jesus--enough to make himself look foolish by climbing up the sycamore tree--nevertheless, it was Jesus who said he would visit his house. In our context then, we may say that God is always looking for people who hearts are seeking for him. When He finds it, He will want to stay in that person's "house" (heart).
- Conversion is Jesus in Your Heart: While Jesus may want to stay in our heart, we still need to respond by letting Him come to our house. Like Zacchaeus, we have to quickly open our homes and our hearts to Jesus. When Jesus comes into our hearts, we experienced salvation. Salvation is not about saving from hell to go to heaven but it is saving from our sins to walk in righteousness and obedience to God's law. So, the first evidence that salvation has taken place in Zacchaeus is a transformed life
- Jesus's Ministry is to the Lost: Jesus said something that every Christian who is seeking alignment with God's agenda must pay attention: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (v.10). The object of Christ's ministry is the lost. And the lost are not found in the weekend gatherings--they are found out in the marketplace where majority have yet to experience this salvation. Many people in the marketplace are feeling lost as they struggle with their personal lives, their work and their families. Like Zacchaeus, though they may be rich they are feeling empty. There is a spiritual vacuum in their hearts that only Christ can fill. If the Head of the Body of Christ is seeking to save the lost sheep, why is His Body focusing on the found sheep? If we examine a typical church Sunday ministries, I dare say that almost 100% are geared to serving Christian insiders rather than non-Christian outsiders.
So there is a great need to re-organize the church and Christians' personal lives around Jesus' agenda of "seeking and saving the lost"--otherwise, how can we even say we are His disciples (followers)?
Father, help us to become a missional church where seeking and saving the lost is the core, not fringe ministry. Amen.