Several weeks ago in our Sunday school class of 9 – 12 year olds, we read the story of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector found in Luke 19:1-10.
During the time of the Roman Empire, tax collectors were among the most unpopular people in Israel. We see this from the reaction of the crowd when Jesus said he was going to Zacchaeus’s house. In today’s world, there are still some people who are not popular or whom people tend to look at with a lot of cynicism.
As we discussed this story with my class, we zeroed down on two points that we would walk away with.
1. No One Is Beyond Redemption
We live in a world were very unfortunately some people will not allow our past to stay where it belongs. Maybe in the days gone by you did somethings you are not proud of and would want to be erased from your life history. On the positive side however, some are gracious enough to allow our past to rest in peace.
In our story we see that it did not matter what Zacchaeus had done or not done. When Jesus walked into Jerricho he felt drawn to him. At the end of the story he remarked “the son of man came to seek and save those who are lost.” We read in another scripture that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world”.
Of significance in this story, is the manner in which Jesus approached Zacchaeus. He began by inviting himself to his house. He did not ask him what he had done but Zacchaeus on his own volition offered to make restitution with generous interest to those he may have cheated. He showed us that internal change must be accompanied with external actions.
The call extended to Zacchaeus is also available for us today. What you may have done or failed to do is not of significance. This is because “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” Today, Jesus is extending an invitation to you to come just as you are. Will you accept his invitation?
2. We Are Saved By Faith Not By Our Works
Another lesson from this story is we are all saved by God’s grace and not our works. One may wonder whether it was the effort Zacchaeus had put in to get a glimpse of Jesus when he climbed the sycamore tree or if it was just the love Jesus felt for him and the fact that he knew he was not popular. However, when you read the scripture that says “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Then you realise that it was grace – unmerited favour that drew Zacchaeus in.
We are told that “our righteousness is like filthy rags…..” this again points to the fact that it is not what you do that will get you a place in eternity. It is having faith in Jesus Christ and asking him to be your Lord and Saviour.
In conclusion, from Zacchaeus’s story, it is evident that Jesus came to save all the lost (read humankind) regardless of race, background or way of life. He stands waiting patiently for you to respond to his invitation and find rest from the cares and burdens of this world.