Faith

God Is in the Business of Saving Lives

Zacchaeus was a greedy tax collector whose time on this earth was going in the wrong direction — here's how the Lord transformed him

God designed our bodies to rejuvenate and recover from injury, aches and pains, and more. Whether it’s our bodies or our spirits, we have a God who understands the process of change. He knows how to transform hurt into healing.

Consider Zacchaeus in Luke 19. He was a greedy tax collector whose life was going in the wrong direction. But one afternoon, God completely changed his life for the better — and for eternity, too.

Do you need a real change in your life? Do you have hurts that need healing?

We all do. We can all learn from this story.

God has sufficient power, if only we will remember these three biblical truths from the story of Zacchaeus.

1.) True change is always possible. In ancient times, Rome collected taxes from conquered peoples. In Israel, Jews who collected taxes for Rome were considered traitors. In addition, tax collectors were notorious for overcharging.

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Because of all this, Zacchaeus was a hated man in Israel. People called him immoral, a cheat, a turncoat. After years in the tax trade, Zacchaeus probably believed he was a worthless nobody. He must have felt dirty, with no hopes of ever getting clean.

But when Jesus of Nazareth walked by, Zacchaeus was intrigued (Luke 19:1). Massive crowds and his own short stature conspired to keep him away, but Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a tree — hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus. The crowd grumbled at Zacchaeus, but Jesus didn’t.

Jesus spotted Zacchaeus and asked to meet him. What a powerful reminder that no one is beyond the changes that God can bring. With God, no one is an “impossible” case. Jesus Himself said, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

2.) True change happens when you meet Jesus. Americans are famous for making and breaking New Year’s resolutions. How many people desire a change at the start of each new year, but just can’t seem to break free from smoking, lying, or pornography? When we watch Zacchaeus shimmy up a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus — it’s obvious he was desperate for change.

Had Zacchaeus previously tried to “turn over a new leaf” on his own?

Are you desperate for change? You don’t need a new dose of religion; you need Jesus to renew your heart.

Jesus isn’t interested in turning over our sinful leaves: He wants to plant a new tree. Zacchaeus was shocked when Jesus asked to stay with him (Luke 19:5), but it was that joyful encounter with Jesus that transformed Zacchaeus’ life for good.

Do you long for lasting change? Humble your heart and meet Jesus in prayer. Confess all your failures to Him — and embrace the forgiveness He offers. For those who will trust Him, Jesus promises a clean slate and a fresh start. Just like Zacchaeus, you’ll receive the “abundant life” that Jesus promises (John 10:10).

3.) True change happens from the inside out. The sermons of Jesus Christ weren’t about religious rules — they were about reviving our hearts. Jesus knew that the human heart is like a compass: It sets the direction for the whole journey. Many people who read Zacchaeus’ story are shocked by his new behavior: “I will give half of my possessions to the poor … If I have cheated anybody … I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

But what prompted these actions was a true change of heart (Luke 19:9). Just like a cut on the hand heals from the inside out, so Jesus changes our hearts first — and a changed heart leads to a changed life. Are you desperate for change? You don’t need a new dose of religion; you need Jesus to renew your heart.

Related: What My Hospital Roommates Taught Me About God 

Jesus met many unique people during His ministry, but perhaps none was more memorable than the tree-climbing tax collector from Jericho. Sunday schoolchildren love to sing about this “wee little man,” but Zacchaeus will always convey adult-sized truths about Jesus’ transforming power.

What a beautiful example of how God brings lasting change, one heart at a time — one life at a time — and always from the inside out.

Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 19 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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