Zacchaeus was a man of money. He was a tax collector and hated by his people. I mean, what's not to hate? He was a Jew who worked for the Romans, whose government oppressed and controlled the Jewish people. Zacchaeus took money from the Jewish people and gave it to the Romans. Tax collectors were considered traitors. They were seen as dogs. Scavengers. The scum of the earth.
Zacchaeus, however, not only took from the Jews to pay the Roman oppressors but also demanded extra to pad his own pockets. If you can imagine the most hated guy in town, he was it. No one wanted to be with him, no one wanted to know him, and no one cared about him. He was a traitor.
Somehow he heard that Jesus was coming to town. Desperate to see Him, Zacchaeus made his way through the crowd, but he still couldn’t see Jesus — he was too short. He made his way to a nearby tree and scampered up it.
I imagine him looking out over the crowd, hoping Jesus would see him even though no one else would. I imagine his lonely heart, his need for attention.
Then comes Jesus …
Then comes the God of compassion …
Then comes a savior to a man hurting and broken inside.
Then came salvation.
“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.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘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 19:5-8, NKJV.
William Barclay in his commentary on this passage says, “A testimony is utterly worthless unless it is backed by deeds which guarantee its sincerity. It is not a mere change of words which Jesus Christ demands, but a change of life.”
Testimony without change is worthless.
A man who is doing wrong, stealing from others, becomes curious about Jesus and then turns completely around. He is suddenly willing to sacrifice what he has.
Jesus’ response to this was “… salvation has come to this house,” Luke 19:9.
Jesus was a friend to sinners. He wants to have a relationship with us.
Us. Real people, who have real problems.
It doesn’t matter what you have done.
What matters is what you do now.