And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5
Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He was not just friendly; He was a friend. He gave His time to sinners. He invested Himself in sinners. He interacted with them and entered their lives. He took pain, suffering, and evil from their lives. On the cross He took on their identity and gave them His: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is what He has done for us. This is infinite mercy and kindness, unfathomable love and goodness. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). This is the goodness that has led us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Zaccheus was a chief tax collector, a chief extortionist, a chief liar, and a chief traitor to his people. He was small in stature and morality but large in notoriety. Yet this was the man Jesus chose to invest His time in and single out for a personal visit. To the crowd’s eyes Jesus was the rabbi, the healer, and the prophet of the hour, but He picked a dishonest, disreputable sinner to honor with His presence. Zaccheus “received Him joyfully” (Luke 19:7) and as he dined with Jesus, Zaccheus was changed. “Look Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). This true repentance was motivated by an encounter with the goodness, kindness, and love of the Lord Jesus. Kindness did not produce an anemic commitment. It produced a revelation of Jesus as Lord that inspired a man ruled by wealth to give away fifty percent of his bank account and to give a fourfold restitution to those he had wronged. Zaccheus did not simply modify his ways. He didn’t adapt his behavior to the Christian message or the Christian culture. He repented of his sin. The direction and motivation of his heart was reversed. He cast down his idols and made Jesus Lord of his life. He didn’t simply ask for forgiveness from his actions; he reversed his ways. Jesus came into his home, into his life, and into his brokenness with a revelation of love and grace. Jesus gave him attention and kindness. Jesus was a friend to a man who knew he didn’t deserve it. He was good to Zaccheus for no reason, and this motivated a deep repentance and a personal revolution of righteousness with Jesus as Lord. This was not the response of the righteous, but the response of a disreputable, dishonest sinner. “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9).
Today Christ is not only finding sinners and calling them friends, He stands knocking at the heart of the lukewarm church, asking for entrance, saying boldly before all “today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). So often we imagine we have already had our encounter, our repentance. We are bored with the goodness and kindness of God. We think we know it. We think we’ve experienced it. Yet we have only modified our ways. We have adapted ourselves to a message or a culture or an appearance, but in our hearts we say, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). We deny Him as Lord because we have hardened ourselves to His goodness. But even now Jesus is here to seek and to save that which was lost. He is walking the streets in the hearts of His Servants, reaching out to a lost and dying world with His love and grace and humbly knocking in the hearts of His Church seeking to enter and reign over all the kingdoms of our heart. Every knee must bow. Christ must receive all that He paid for. Repent and believe the good news that Jesus is the Lord who is good to all.