Zacchaeus, in Luke 19:1-10, seems to have been like that too. We’re told that ‘he wanted to see who Jesus was’ (v.3), so he found a reasonable vantage point in a tree, probably in the hope of viewing Jesus incognito from a distance.
But Jesus came to that place with quite a different agenda that day. He was not content with Zacchaeus viewing him from a distance. He had come intentionally to bring salvation to Zacchaeus and his home, and I imagine that Jesus’ purpose for many who read this article is no different.
He is not content with people viewing him from a distance. His intention is to encounter and call individuals to himself, in such a way that they will respond much as Zacchaeus did here.
Now at the very heart of Jesus’ words, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham’ (v.9), there is an acknowledgement that a long anticipated event in Israel had at last happened, for Jesus says, ‘Salvation has come’.
This was a message that the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, had anticipated. Through Isaiah, God had given a string of such promises — ‘my salvation shall not linger’ (46:13); ‘my salvation is about to come’ (56:1); ‘surely, your salvation is coming’ (62:11).
And, for generations, there were people in Israel who waited in expectation for the fulfilment of such promises, until at last in Luke’s Gospel chapter 2 we read of an old man called Simeon being led by the Spirit of God into the Jerusalem temple at the very time when the parents of Jesus were there for the circumcision of their child.
Recognising who the child was, Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace … for my eyes have seen your salvation’ (v.28).
Simeon quite literally embraced his Saviour, recognising that in him the long awaited salvation had come. So he could die a happy man!
But here, in Zacchaeus’ story, salvation had not just come in a general sense. It had come in a very specific way, to a specific town and specific street, to a specific home and specific man, at a very specific time — the time ordained from all eternity for the salvation of Zacchaeus (v.9). ‘Today, salvation has come to this house’.
And the coming of salvation is just as specific in our own day. Jesus the Saviour and Shepherd of his people comes quite specifically for each of his lost sheep. And for each of them there is a time appointed for their salvation.
It is a ‘today’, a ‘now’ moment, when Jesus must become Saviour and Lord of their lives. Has that day come for you? Is he speaking specifically to you?
Now, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he went to the very spot where Zacchaeus was. He sought out and came to Zacchaeus, because that’s what Jesus does. He ‘has come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (v.10). Every day he is out looking for his lost sheep, tracking them down.
Having come to where Zacchaeus was, ‘Jesus looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus”’ (v.5). He addressed Zacchaeus personally, individually, because that’s the way Jesus is.
In so many places today — in the library, supermarket or bank — we are simply a number or barcode. But you are not a number to Jesus; you are not a statistic. You are a person, an individual with a name.
Indeed, to him, you are a unique individual. He, who knows all the stars and calls each of them by name, knows his sheep. He calls them each by name and leads them out. Are you experiencing the call of Christ on your life?
You may not hear any audible voice in your ears or head, calling your name — certainly, that has never been my experience. But many years ago as an 18 year old, I knew that God in Christ had come to me, while I was standing in a queue for morning coffee, amongst a group of other lads my age (Yes, Jesus can encounter you anywhere!).
Though I had never met God or Jesus until that moment, nevertheless I knew that’s who he was. And you will know too when God, through Christ and by his Spirit, comes close to you, when he begins to break into your experience.
Among the signs of salvation at work in Zacchaeus’ life were his obedience to Jesus and the joyful welcome he gave him, and also the beginnings of a change in his lifestyle: ‘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”’ (v.8).
Have such signs begun to appear in your life, as you respond to the call of Christ and yield to him as Lord of your life?
The author is Principal of the Highland Theological College, Dingwall