He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 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 down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to 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.’
Jesus, In the midst of this crowd of his admirers, refuses to stand by them. Instead, he stands by the one that society has outcast, rejected, and ignored. Jesus accepts Zacchaeus for who he is. And so he invites himself into the tax-collector’s home and life. Over the grumbling of the crowd, Zacchaeus hears that Jesus wants to spend time with him.
And in response, we hear Zacchaeus saying that he is giving half of his possessions to the poor and will repay fourfold if he has defrauded anyone. The crowd may have thought to themselves, “Here is the perfect example of a penitent tax collector. Here is one who needs to repent and has. Here is one in need of mercy.”
Last week, the tax collector we talked about experienced justification—he needed mercy and asked for it—and God showed him mercy. And this week, the crowd has confused Zacchaeus with the tax collector from Jesus’ parable.
The crowd was not listening to Zacchaeus and missed something important. Did you hear it? Zacchaeus doesn’t ask for mercy. Instead, he says, “If.”
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