Salvation: “Here and Now”

Luke 19 tells of a wonderful account in the ministry of the Lord Jesus:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

He wasn’t just a tax collector; he was a chief tax collector.  There was not a more hated employment in the entire region.  Basically, tax collectors were employed by the Roman Empire to bilk citizens out of their hard-earned money.  They were seen as little more than traitors.  And to make matters worse, they often collected more than they were entitled to and pocketed it for themselves, which would explain Zacchaeus’ wealth.

But on this day, this short man humbled himself, climbing a tree to see the Lord as he passed by.  What might have been going through his mind and heart is anyone’s guess.  But one thing is sure: his desire to see the Lord over-road any thoughts of pride.  There was a pressing urgency he just couldn’t ignore.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ’sinner.’ “

Shocked.  Disgusted.  Turned off.  That would best describe the crowd’s impression of Jesus at this point.  To many of them, this might have felt like a dagger.  There must have been quiet as this thief carefully made his way down the tree.  Gazes were exchanged along with some rolling eyes.

But the Lord was on a mission for the soul of one solitary individual.  It mattered not in the least what others thought. Sometimes we have this idea that certain people are simply beyond the reach of God, but this is not the case.  He went to Zacchaeus’ house that day, and whatever passed between them, this man repented.  Truly repented:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

They could have just had a meal.  Zacchaeus could have waved Jesus good-bye after their meeting, feeling pretty good that such a well-known person had dined with him.  He could have lived on the fumes of this experience for a long time, and even justified his continued theft, thinking that Jesus had effectively excused him.  But no.  He repented.  Here and now. He was ready for a life change.  He didn’t wait to seize on what the Lord was extending him.

He wasn’t looking to do just enough to clear his history.  He demonstrated the depth of his repentance and thankfulness by volunteering to repay his wrongs fourfold.  What the Lord says following Zacchaeus’ pledge is:

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Notice something very critical: it was when Zacchaeus repented that Jesus declared that salvation had come.  There was no declaration of salvation because a meal was shared or because of Zaccheus’ hospitality.  It comes through genuine, heartfelt repentance which results in a changed life going forward.

What is repentance? It is an inner change of mind and heart that occurs when a person is exposed to the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins offered through the Lord Jesus.  It is the door through which we must pass to embark on the path of salvation.  It is realizing that through Christ, you can put down your sins at the foot of the cross and begin to follow the Master.  It is something that happens within your heart, granted by God, that is supernatural.  It is real and it results in life change and a desire to draw closer to God.

And isn’t this precisely why Jesus came?  Look how he concludes his lunch that day: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”