Read: Luke 19:1-10
Zacchaeus was a wee little man who had a life changing encounter with Jesus in the city of Jericho. As the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus worked on behalf of the oppressive Roman Empire. They were notorious for demanding more than what was actually owed and lining their own pockets for selfish gain.
Now if the name Jericho sounds familiar, it’s because it was the site of a famous military victory for Joshua and the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Jericho—representing the enemies of God—was completely decimated in miraculous fashion. In terms of poetic justice, Jericho would have been the perfect place for an enemy of God like Zacchaeus to receive the judgment he was due.
But something else happens in this story instead: In Luke 19, as a sinful Zacchaeus finds grace through Jesus, the city Jericho comes to represent revival instead of retribution.
Zacchaeus wanted to see and hear Jesus, but wasn’t able to because of a large crowd that had gathered. Thinking quickly, Zacchaeus climbed up a tree to get a better view. Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and invited himself over to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. It might seem simple, but those words from Jesus changed Zachhaeus’ life forever.
I can’t imagine that people were lining up to go spend time with the guy who robbed them blind ever year, so Zacchaeus must have felt completely alone. His power and position provided him with temporary happiness, but his loss of relationship would have created a lingering hurt deep in his soul. Jesus’ simple act of inclusion transformed his bitter heart into a heart of compassion.
In an instant, Zachhaeus repented of his greed and robbery and pledged to pay back all his victims—with interest.
Jesus rebuffed the crowd that was indignant about him spending time with such a notorious sinner. “This man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Despite his sin, despite his flaws, despite his misguided priorities—he’s part of our family. He belongs too. He’s one of us.
It’s easy to feel like our sins disqualify us from being part of a church community. But Jesus has shown us that the invitation to come to Christ is an invitation that’s open to all.
Today, Jesus us offering us the same gift he offered Zacchaeus: the gift of revival. The gift of second chances!