Written by Rev Zheng on 11 September 2022
Zacchaeus is the kind of person that people love to hate. He is a chief tax collector who openly abuse the power entrusted by the Roman authorities to defraud his kinsmen of money. So, the poor shun him. The religious leaders condemn him. Others see him as a traitor.
Zacchaeus knew Jesus was coming to Jericho. He wanted to see Jesus so much that he climbed a tree to wait for him. Praise God that He not only grant Zacchaeus his wish but also gave him a public recognition: “This man too is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9) To the Jews, this means that Zacchaeus has the privilege to enter the Kingdom of God! This is unfathomable to them because Zacchaeus’ hands are full of wicked deeds! So, we ask: how does one enter the Kingdom of God?
Notice that Jesus did not say “Zacchaeus! You wicked man, stop cheating your kinsmen, lest you shall wail and gnash your teeth outside the gate of the Kingdom!”
Jesus simply said “Zacchaeus, let’s go eat!” (Luke 19:5) Obviously, Jesus wanted to save Zacchaeus as much as he wants to save you and me. This is the heart of God, as He revealed to us in Ezekiel 18:23, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
Of course, this does not mean that there is no need to do good. We are called to be “Holy to the LORD”. This calling consists of two parts: Serve only the LORD, and turn away from evil.
The Lord Jesus proclaims, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) To repent is not just to do good. Repentance begins with reforming our relationship with God, followed by reforming our behaviour. The right relationship with God is to be reconciled to God by submitting fully to His lordship, kingship and sovereignty.
We cannot make right our relationship with God by doing good, because it is not possible for fallen man to produce good that is good enough for God. We can be reconciled to God only through believing the Gospel, that Yahweh is the only God, and He has sent a Saviour, Jesus Christ, to eradicate sin from the world. Through our faith in Christ, we receive the forgiveness of sin, the adoption of sonship, and the citizenship of God’s Kingdom. This is the rich saving grace of God.
This happens while we are still sinners and still sinning. Nonetheless, the right relationship with God will engender the desire for righteousness This is because the Holy Spirit has regenerated us with the nature of God. We want to be perfect as God is perfect.
Behold Zacchaeus! He acknowledged Jesus as “Lord” and he resolved openly to Jesus that he will no longer cheat. He would make restitution for every cheating he has done according to the Law of Moses. Out of his love for Christ, he gladly gave half of his wealth to the poor! Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ call with repentance. He entered the Kingdom of God by reforming his relationship with God, followed by reforming his behaviour. Dear brothers and sisters, there will be many people in heaven whom we least expect to meet. They are the Zacchaeus that God places in our life. So, take time to pray for every lost soul you know and invite them to the Gospel rally!