Zacchaeus Knew What to do – And so Will a Truly Repentant Person
This post is credited to one of our readers who brought Zacchaeus to my attention recently. Many thanks to her!
Luke 19:1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus is one of my favorite Bible characters, in spite of the fact that his name is notoriously hard to spell. Let’s call him Zack in this article and take that pressure off.
The account of Zack’s salvation is glorious because it is real. His faith was real. And his repentance was real. That moment on that day he met Jesus was foreordained. Jesus came to “the place.” That exact piece of geography where the Lamb of God would intersect with this, well, wicked man. Zack was short. Remember the Sunday School song from the old days? “Zacchaeus was a little old man, a little old man was he…”. I don’t know why the “old” adjective. Maybe just to match the tune. The Bible doesn’t say that he was old. He could still run and he could still climb a tree!
Jesus came to “the place,” paused, and “looked up.” Then he calls Zack by name and says “I’m coming to your place.” Jesus uses the word “must.” God had set His redeeming love on Zack in eternity past. The thing must happen.
Now, as our reader kindly observed to me, Zack knew just what to do. As a sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd’s flock, Zack knows the Shepherd’s voice when he hears it. He comes down hurriedly. No hesitation. And then really I think the most remarkable part of the account happens:
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it four-fold.”
Jesus pronounced salvation upon that house.
And here is our point. This and nothing short of this is true repentance. Rarer than a precious gem and far more wonderful, genuine repentance is a really remarkable thing. Remarkable because no one told Zack what to do! The thing sprang from his heart. Real conviction of his many sins, and a real turning from those sins accompanied by a resolve to set them all right to whatever degree he could. And not to just right his past wrongs, but to start actively practicing righteousness as a way of life – the half of my goods I give to the poor.” It wasn’t just empty talk spouted off in the moment either. He did it.
And no one told him what to do.
Every Christian has been and is being taught by the Spirit of Jesus. They have been granted true repentance and faith as gifts from the Lord. They understand and talk the language of repentance. And they do it.
Abusers take note. Zack’s example exposes your fake repentance. You are exposed when you insist that you don’t know what to do and if “only” your victim would tell you again (make you a list, you know). Do you see anyone making Zack a list? But he knew. He knew how to love others. He knew how to see sin as sin and right as right. And he delighted in it.
Want to see real repentance? Find a story of an abuser who, coming to faith and repentance, marches into court, grants his victim a totally uncontested divorce, gives her a check for at least half of the assets, and resolves to pay her support four times over the amount the court requires.
If you ever do see such a man, ask him if his name is Zack. Tell him I would like to meet him.