The greatest danger we all face as we grow up in dysfunctional homes and acquire harmful habits and vices is that we become enslaved. These addictions are pervasive and destructive. To name just a few: Addictions to alcohol, to drugs, to food, to gambling, to pornography, to money, to fame, to perfectionism, to co-dependencies, to people’s approval, to obsessions with one’s appearance such as body building, Anorexia and Bulimia, to hoarding, to media and to work. Jesus can set us free from these addictions, and when he does our lives are transformed. The transformation that Jesus makes in our lives when we surrender to him is freedom.
The greatest evidence of the power of the Gospel is changed lives. When a person who has been enslaved by an addiction is changed—that is indisputable evidence of the power of the Gospel. We find people like this in the gospels, and their stories are compelling. Zacchaeus is one of those people.
Although Zacchaeus was a little man, he was also the ruthless head of tax collection in Jericho. He and his band of tax collectors regularly ripped off people. For this he was despised and excluded from Jewish life. Even though wealthy, Zacchaeus like most of us probably experienced dissatisfaction with life. Most people who have wealth and don’t know the maker of all life are not really all that happy. They may be for a while, but deep down there is an unquenchable thirst for fulfillment.
Zacchaeus had a curiosity to see Jesus, so he went ahead of the crowd and climbed a large tree. He found a comfortable spot with a good view and waited. This is what Zacchaeus prided himself in doing—getting ahead of the crowd. However, it was Christ’s response that shocked Zacchaeus. When Jesus reached the spot where he was, he stopped and looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5-6). So he jumped down and welcomed him to his home.
That leap of faith from the tree into Jesus’ presence was the beginning of the transformation of Zacchaeus’ life. What delight to be on the way to his house with Jesus as his guest! It didn’t matter what the people thought, his thoughts were on Jesus. How Zacchaeus enjoyed the talks with Jesus. During the stay Zacchaeus stated: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
One of my favorite words is magnanimous, and Zacchaeus was magnanimous in his words and actions. His generosity and integrity were visible. Zacchaeus’ life had always been characterized by getting—that is all he had ever known until now. Now all he could think about was giving. The compulsion to get more was gone, and in its place, was a wonderful desire to share what he had with others. His petty heart had become a magnanimous heart. He was changed by the power of the Gospel.
Jesus followed Zacchaeus words with a powerful declaration: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). This is a powerful statement that we need to hear. We are lost, and Jesus came to save us. We live in a lost world, and Jesus came to save our world. Jesus—the Son of Man came to this earth to seek out the lost like you and me and save us.