Luke 19:4-6 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchae'us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully.
There is a story, the children sing about Zacchaeus, and it can help us to consider the story. Are the words: "Zacchaeus, You come down" good news or bad news? If Jesus told you, He was coming to your house today – how would you feel? Worthy? Prepared? Righteous? Or would you feel unworthy, unprepared and a guilty sinner. Would we say, wait a minute until I tidy things up?
There are a couple of clues in the text we must not miss – if all tax collectors are sinners, then what kind of a sinner is a chief tax collector? The second thing we need to note is that he was rich, and Luke has just said something important about the rich: Luke 18:25 "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
If you are worthy, prepared, righteous - you don’t need a savior, you can save yourself, and you probably don’t have time for Jesus anyway. If you are a sinner, you know you can’t save yourself, and you know that you are not worthy to have Jesus come under your roof. If you are a sinner, there is one thing you know about Jesus. Jesus forgives sins – so if Jesus comes to you, he is bringing for you forgiveness of sins – and that is why Zacchaeus joyfully receives his savior.
How good is the news of the forgiveness of sins? Well, lets consider the 7th commandment, Thou shalt not steal – if you do steal, not only are you to return what you stole, but you are to pay a penalty, from between 1/5 the value to double the value, depending on circumstances. Zacchaeus is so overjoyed he volunteers to repay double the max. And that’s not all, he also volunteers to give away half of his wealth.
There are many people who believe they never steal, they don’t even get things in a dishonest way, or even in a way that only seems right – but how many are willing to help their neighbor improve and protect his property and income? And even if it isn’t things, how often is time stolen? If the 3rd commandment – honor the Sabbath and keep it holy – refers not just to an hour, but a whole day, how often do we steal from God? How often do we fail to keep the whole day holy?
And how much would we owe God in time, if we had to repay double of what we’ve stolen?
We need the law to show us our sins – but we rejoice in the gospel which shows us our Savior. We rejoice that Jesus comes to us, and brings to us forgiveness of sins. And that is chiefly what the story of Zacchaeus is all about.