Have you ever been in a situation where you got more than you bargained for? Have you made a promise and found that keeping it involved far more than you expected? Have you taken on a task only to find that the work required called for more time and effort than you ever imagined? Usually the ‘more’ we get is an unpleasant surprise, but it is not always so. In Luke 19 we read about a man who got far more than he bargained for, and it was the most important gift he could ever receive. We consider Luke 19:1-10 Surprised by grace.
1. Zacchaeus’ quest
Zacchaeus was a ‘chief tax collector’ (v2) – he would be a wealthy man, but was hated by the community as a traitor working for the Roman authorities. Dishonesty came with the job as he could keep whatever he raised above the assigned quota of tax. His name meant ‘pure, righteous’, yet he was anything but pure. He was no different from other men – ‘There is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Romans 3:10). For some reason ‘He wanted to see Jesus’ and he went to great lengths to do so. He must have heard about Jesus and was filled with curiosity. There is no sign that at this stage he wanted Jesus to do anything for him. Some people may come to hear about Jesus, never expecting a personal encounter.
2. Jesus’ command
Events suddenly get out of hand as Jesus addresses Zacchaeus directly (v5). It is a blunt command – ‘come down immediately’. There is no uncertainty or debate: ‘I must stay at your house today’. These are words of divine authority – the Son of God speaks, requiring a meeting with this unrighteous man. Right here we see the grace of God, his favour to those who deserve nothing good from him. While Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus, in a deeper sense Jesus was looking for him. The only thing that could change him and deal with his sin was God’s grace. He had met the only one who could transform his life (1 Timothy 1:15).
3. Zachaeus’ transformation
We are not told what took place at the tax-collector’s home, but the results show that at some point he came to faith in the Lord Jesus. Zacchaeus now understands who he is and what he came to do. Note v9 ‘Today salvation has come to this house’. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus (Acts 16:31). Zacchaeus’ sins are forgiven and his life is changed. He is a new man and the evidence is a new attitude to his possessions. If salvation has truly been received, saving faith will be seen in good works (James 2:18) which are the fruit of faith.
4. Jesus’ mission
The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world is stated in v10 – he ‘came to seek and to save what was lost’. We are all lost – all sinners (Romans 3:23), spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), ‘without hope and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12). But the good news is that a holy God loves sinners and in Christ has done all that is needed to save a vast number (Romans 5:8). Like Zacchaeus, we must repent of sin and believe on the Lord Jesus.