Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
(Luke 19:9-10, NLT)
The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
(1 Samuel 16:7, ESV)
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you...Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
(Colossians 3:5, 12, ESV)
Today’s Reading: Luke 19
“They just don’t understand me. If they only knew what I was really like...”
How often have you heard or said these words?
Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus consistently responds to misunderstood or marginalized people with tenderness and compassion. He welcomes those with poor reputations and those who are shunned on account of something external: a disease or malformity, a heritage or line of work.
As the chief tax collector for a prosperous commercial region, Zacchaeus was very wealthy. It’s also likely that he was despised by everyone around him. Tax collectors walked a precarious line of holding a lucrative job in service to the Roman government and doing so at the expense of their fellow Jewish citizens. Many of them grew wealthy by extorting their neighbors.
But Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus shows the power of God’s transforming love. He responded with saving faith in Jesus and was transformed into a rich man who could make it “through the eye of a needle” (Luke 18:25).
There seems to be another dimension to the saving work that Jesus accomplished here. While Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham by birth, he was likely stereotyped as a criminal and ostracized from the family of Abraham by religious leaders and respectable Jews alike.
Not only did Jesus grant Zacchaeus eternal life, but He restored Zacchaeus to his community. As Zacchaeus demonstrated public generosity and hospitality and Jesus declared him a “true son of Abraham,” the reborn Zacchaeus began living out his new identity.
Jesus’ encounters with people throughout the Gospels seem to follow this pattern. When He comes on the scene, people’s true identities show. The religious elite display their true, prideful colors. And those who see their need are revealed as the heirs of God’s kingdom.
It’s the same today. When you recognize your need for spiritual healing and confess Jesus as the only one who can give it, like Zacchaeus, your past no longer defines your identity. Jesus does.
How did Jesus’ welcome change Zacchaeus’ identity? What does belonging to Jesus mean for the way you think about yourself and your identity?
Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel like Zacchaeus — eager to meet You, but treated like an outsider. Thank You for receiving me and transforming my life. Help me to be aware of others whom I may overlook because of the way they look or behave. Thank You that you don’t excuse sin, but You also look beyond behavior and appearances to the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). As I think about Your dinner with Zacchaeus, I imagine You sitting here beside me and all the others joining us at the table.
What does it mean to have your identity in Christ? Explore more about how God sees you.
Courtnee White has served with Cru® for 22 years at Jesus Film Project® and campus ministries in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. She and her husband, Dave, have three children and live in Northeast Ohio. Courtnee currently serves with Cru City Neighbors.
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