Zacchaeus: An Example of Repentance Unto Salvation

Daily Devotion | Day 253

“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” (NKJV).

The story of Zacchaeus is a good example of how Jesus saves people. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus badly. Fortunately for him, Jesus called him and told him His intention to stay in Zacchaeus’ house. Naturally, given that Zacchaeus was a tax collector (and a sinner), people were disappointed that Jesus would be his guest. As usual, those who complained didn’t see far. All they saw was Zacchaeus the sinner. They didn’t see Zacchaeus the changed man. But Jesus saw a man who was about to be saved through repentance.

Note carefully the sequence of events. Shortly after people protested Jesus’ behavior (in entering a sinner’s house), Zacchaeus spoke the words which you see in today’s Bible passage. Let’s go over it again. He said to Jesus, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore it fourfold.” Let’s break down what Zacchaeus said. His statement contains two important things: first, (free will) offering/giving to the poor; and, second, restoration of justice. The two things are related, but they are not the same. 

Notice the generosity (size) of Zacchaeus’ giving. We’re talking about half of all he owned. In addition, acknowledging his wrongdoing, he also declared his readiness to restore fourfold to whomever he had cheated. Observe that Jesus did not ask him to do those things. What then is the significance of Zacchaeus’ actions?

It is an excellent example of authentic repentance. Given Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus’ actions, we know that He approved of the latter’s repentant confession. He said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, for he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The implication is, as far Jesus was concerned, from this point on, Zacchaeus was no longer lost (a sinner). He had been found and saved (see Luke 15:32). 

Lessons for us: Eternal salvation is free, but it has conditions. One such (indispensable) condition is repentance from sin. Salvation is available to all (by grace), but it is repentance (through faith) which gives us access to the gift of salvation. Jesus gives salvation to those who come to Him in repentance. Repentance is more than saying ‘sorry,’ and it is more than a change of mind. In other words, we must not reduce repentance to an abstract mental exercise. Authentic repentance is backed up by observable change in behavior and outlook. Obviously, it is God who supplies us the grace to repent (see Acts 11:18). But at the end of the day, the decision to repent is ours.

Repentance is beautiful and liberating. It releases the soul from the fetters of pride and opens it up to receive the blessings of salvation. Any ‘Gospel’ message which ignores or belittles the need for repentance is deficient. Of course, a person’s mind must first change. Few will disagree that repentance begins on the inside. But repentance does not remain hidden in the mind. When repentance has truly occurred in the mind/heart, it will inevitably show in our outward behavior. This is what the Holy Spirit means when He says, “do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). Of this, Zacchaeus is an excellent example.

If you have truly repented of something, let your deeds show it.

BlessingMay the Lord keep you from all evil and let His face shine on you today. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study:  Luke 3:7-14 and Acts 26:17-23

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