Luke 19:1-10 describes the conversion of a soul. Like the stories of Nicodemus in John chapter 3, and the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4, the story of Zacchaeus should be studied by anyone who is seeking salvation. The Lord Jesus never changes. What He did for Zacchaeus, He is able and willing to do for you.
We learn, firstly, from the conversion of Zacchaeus, that no one is too bad to be saved, or beyond the power of Christ’s grace. In the previous chapter, Jesus declared “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). In this chapter, we find proof that with God all things are possible (Luke 18:27). We see a covetous tax collector transformed into a charitable Christian! There are no incurable cases under the Gospel; any sinner may be healed—if only he will come to Christ.
We learn, next, of Christ’s free compassion toward sinners, and Christ’s power to change hearts. Without being asked, our Lord stops and speaks to Zacchaeus. Uninvited, He offers Himself to be a guest in the house of a sinner. Unasked, He sends the renewing grace of the Spirit of God into the heart of a tax collector, and puts him that very day among the children of God! In Jesus there is an infinite readiness to receive sinners, and an infinite ability to save them.
The salvation of Zacchaeus also reminds us that salvation is not of works, but of grace. If there was ever a soul sought and saved, without having done anything to deserve it, that soul was the soul of Zacchaeus. Grace—free sovereign grace—is the only thought which gives us peace in a dying hour. We must come to Jesus Christ just as we are, and not wait in the vain hope that we can make ourselves worthy to come.
We learn, lastly, that converted sinners will always give evidence of their conversion. We are told that Zacchaeus proclaimed, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). There was reality in that speech. There was unmistakable proof that Zacchaeus was a new creature. When a wealthy Christian begins to distribute his riches, and an extortioner begins to make restitution—then we may truly believe that old things have passed away, and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Anyone who desires to give proof of being a believer should walk in the steps of Zacchaeus. Thoroughly renounce the sins which have most easily entangled you. Study God’s word, speak with Him in prayer, and pursue fellowship with His people. Faith that does not purify the heart and life is not saving faith at all. Grace that cannot be seen like light, and tasted like salt, is not saving grace—but hypocrisy. The heart that has really tasted the grace of Christ will instinctively hate sin.
Let us make sure that we truly know Jesus as Savior. Let us take heed that our souls are saved. Once saved and converted, we shall say, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me” (Psalm 116:12).
—J. C. Ryle, adapted