If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 16, Luke 19, Job 34, 2 Corinthians 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Luke 19.
Zacchaeus the tax man is famous in a weird sort of way. Anyone who has ever heard of him knows about him because he climbed a tree to see Jesus (v. 4). It’s an odd fact, to be sure, but this odd fact and the children’s song it inspired has eclipsed a powerful story about Jesus. By conventional standards, Zacchaeus was quite successful. He was a “chief tax collector” (v. 2b), which means he had attained some level of professional success; along with that success he achieved personal wealth (v. 2c). True, as a tax collector, he sold out his countrymen to become wealthy but he was certainly well aware that social isolation and societal contempt would result from choosing to become a tax collector. Surely he must have thought the financial stability and benefits would be worth it.
Yet, when Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus was desperate to see and hear him. What drove him to do what must have seemed strange to everyone else—climbing a tree to get a vantage point over a large crowd? Was it simple curiosity? Or was it a sense of his guilt before God? Or possibly just a hunger to know God? Having been excluded, maybe, from his synagogue for being a tax collector, Christ’s visit gave him a rare chance to hear a holy man speak truth about God.
Yet when Christ came to the spot where Zacchaeus was, Jesus did not give him a look of contempt or do his best to ignore the “wee little man.” Instead, Jesus called him out—not to condemn him for collecting taxes but to tell Zacchaeus that he was coming to his home. This caused social disapproval for Jesus (v. 7), but Christ saw past the sins of the man to the repentance of Zacchaeus’ heart. Having come to believe in Jesus, Zacchaeus found in Christ all he needed and wanted. He publicly pledged to give away half of everything he had to the poor; additionally, he pledged that anything he had stolen would be paid in restitution to his victims four times over. Jesus used Zacchaeus’s story to illustrate the nature of true Christianity. Zacchaeus was not a disciple merely because he came to see Jesus. He was not a disciple merely because he welcomed Jesus gladly (v. 6b). No, Jesus publicly affirmed that Zacchaeus was a true follower because Zacchaeus was, for the first time in his life, evaluating his relationship to God (through Christ) to be of greater value than the wealth he had accumulated. So conscious of his own sin and so eager to be reconciled to God, Zacchaeus would do anything. Christ looked at the evidence of change in Zacchaeus’ life and announced that “salvation has come to this house” (v. 9). It was not his good works that earned Zacchaeus favor with Christ; it was his faith in Christ, demonstrated by his desire to pay restitution that made Zacchaeus a Christian. Of all the people who were following Jesus on that day, only this man was singled out and chosen by Christ to receive the forgiveness of sins. It is this humble attitude that God honors; he takes the person who has emptied his heart through confession of sins and fills that man’s soul with life and salvation. This is what God does; he choses the worst sinners and redeems us by his grace, not by our works.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.