It’s unfortunate but not everyone always responds to the gospel the way they should. Even as I write this my mind goes to a man found in the Bible whose name was Felix. Felix was a Roman governor before whom the Apostle Paul had to stand and give a defense for his ministry of preaching the gospel. The Bible says that Paul spoke to Felix of – “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment.” (see Acts 24:25) Paul wanted to warn Felix of what would happen if he continued to live the kind of life he had been living. “God is holy, we are sinful, and there is coming day of judgment.” Felix however wasn’t willing to receive Paul’s message. “That’s enough for now!” Felix said to Paul. “When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”
Thankfully the response of Zacchaeus was different than that of Felix. The Bible says – Luke 19:5 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.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. Not only did Zacchaeus welcome Jesus into his home, he also welcomed Jesus into his heart.
As we go on in the story, we read these words that Zacchaeus spoke –
Luke 19:8 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.”
Now we know why Zacchaeus climbed the tree. It was more than just simple curiosity. It was the conviction of sin. Apparently Zacchaeus had been struggling for quite some time about his sin. No doubt God had been speaking to him. Therefore when Zacchaeus had the opportunity to finally meet Jesus, he eagerly jumped at the opportunity.
As I read Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus I see three very important facts about him:
1. First of all, he addressed Jesus as ‘Lord’ which means – Master. Zacchaeus was ready to submit himself to the authority of Christ and to follow Him as Lord.
2. He offered to give half of his wealth to the poor which indicates that his hard heart had been softened. No longer was he someone who was totally self-centered. Suddenly he felt a sense of compassion for those in need.
3. And he admitted his guilt by offering to restore fourfold to everyone he had robbed through the collection of their taxes. Zacchaeus was willing to do everything the Law required and even more.
We should note also that Zacchaeus did all of this – publicly. It’s unclear whether Zacchaeus said these things after Jesus had entered his house, or before. I am inclined to believe that he said it as soon as he came down from the tree. Zacchaeus not only wanted the Lord to know that he was a changed man, he wanted everyone else to know it as well.
The Bible says – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Salvation not only offers us forgiveness of sin, it also offers us a new way of living.