A repentant tax collector

“Today salvation has come to this house” Luke 19:9

Zacchaeus was the most hated man in the Jewish town of Jericho. He had managed to steal from most and take from all. He provided the Romans with a bounty of wealth and property. He was of course the tax collector.

This hated tax collector had become aware of the arrival of the great prophet, some believed to be the messiah that was promised to Israel long ago. Zacchaeus was curious, perhaps even hopeful that this great man may be able to help him in some way. It is typical for those of us in need to see Jesus as an answer. But Zacchaeus most likely did not lack for anything. This seemingly materialistic man, who had cheated the poor people of Jericho, must have realized a spiritual need, a sign that he was ready for repentance.

Jesus upon seeing the tax collector hiding in a tree, immediately informs him that he would be visiting him in his house that day and that he must come down from the tree. However Jesus never makes mention of Zacchaeus’ sins until Zacchaeus does something truly wonderful.

He admits to his wrong doings and humbly tries his best to make up for all he has done wrong. He tells 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 fourfold.” (Luke 19:8) He is filled with guilt and understands the pain and suffering he must have caused others. This is why he does more than just offer to pay back what is rightfully owed; he offers to give them 4 times the amount. This extra amount is punishment he is placing on himself. Zacchaeus is truly repentant.

True repentance comes with a sincere recognition of wrong doings. It is absent anger, the type of anger that can follow being caught. Anger is also absent because we do not seek to blame anyone else but ourselves, and we wish to make amends as quickly as possible. We do not believe ourselves worthy of forgiveness, instead we are grateful to be forgiven. Unlike a judging crowd or a group of Pharisees, Jesus saw his heart and recognizes true repentance in Zacchaeus. He says “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9)

Zacchaeus provides us all with a mirror to reflect ourselves in and check to see if we are truly repentant of our sins. It is wise for us to take a long look and be sure. Our salvation depends on true repentance that is absent anger and excuses. Most importantly we will receive forgiveness gratefully, knowing we never deserved it.

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