A second word that comes from the story of Zacchaeus, if we’re willing to listen, is one of “salvation”. Toward the close of this passage, we hear Jesus announce something pretty important. Verse 9 says “Jesus said to him…” but he speaks in a way that suggests even though his face was turned toward Zacchaeus, he was saying it to the benefit of everyone around him.
This moment contrasts the first few verses completely. Yesterday we talked about how Zacchaeus saw himself. The identity that he claimed as he ran, and climbed a sycamore tree. Today we hear the identity Jesus announces over him.
“Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Here we have Jesus, actually talking specifically about this thing we often get confused and grapple with, “salvation”. He talks about salvation, and doesn’t say anything about “from hell”, or “going to heaven”. What has happened here?
We see Zacchaeus offering to give half of his possession to the poor, and paying back those he stole from, 4 times as much as he’d taken. But Jesus doesn’t say, “salvation has come to this house because this man is giving back a whole lot of stuff, and experiencing a healed relationship to the poor and those he’d previously taken advantage of.”
What reason does Jesus give for the salvation that is being experienced? “..because he too is a son of Abraham.” It has to do with being claimed as a child of God. An identity that is offered not just to those who have grown up in church, or have never made mistakes…but to all. An identity, that when embraced, transforms who we are and how we live in relationship to Jesus AND humanity.
Zacchaeus has been saved from a life of neglecting God, and taking advantage of his fellow man. A life focused on self, that treats others with little value, and aims to please Rome (a power/principality…remember, “our struggle is not with flesh and blood”), only leads to death and brokenness. Jesus announces freedom from these things, and finishes the entire section in verse 10 by saying this is what He is all about. To find people like this, who have been pushed to the side and forgotten; who the religious world finds no value in…and announce their own True identity to and about them.
Besides “not going to hell”, and “going to heaven when you die”, it asks the question in our life…”what would my verse 8 say?” What has changed, or changes about my life that would make Jesus announce that these are the result of salvation having arrived? Am I living as the “child of Abraham” that God proclaims me to be?