When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
— Luke 19:5–7
Salvation had come to Zacchaeus, and he immediately and joyously welcomed Jesus while scornful onlookers passed judgment.
In many ways, these different responses are a picture of what happens in our own lives. We are faced daily with the decision to be joyful or judgmental. We can be messengers of grace and blessing, or we can convey a contemptuous and disapproving arrogance. We can put ourselves in a position to have an encounter with Jesus and then respond to him with exuberance, or we can stand by murmuring and watch as he uses other people who choose to be about his business.
The description of Zacchaeus welcoming Jesus “gladly” (chairon) is significant. The word literally means “rejoicing”. Luke uses this word and the noun (chara) nine times in his gospel to emphasize a joyous response to faith and salvation. Zacchaeus understood the proper response to an invitation from Jesus.
But he doesn’t stop there. He pledges to repay fourfold anyone whom he had wrongly taxed as their collector, as well as giving half of what he owned to the poor. Zacchaeus pledged allegiance to a new way of living. His actions mirrored his new faith.
To the contrary, the mumbles in the crowd smacked of predisposed bias and callous judgment, and perhaps a tinge of jealousy. We must guard against the tendency to be part of the unresponsive, critical, mumbling masses.
Will you choose to be delighted today over the fact that Jesus has invited us to enjoy salvation? Will you pour grace into the lives of others, or will you stand by in dismissive judgment? Will you live “gladly” today?
Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.
— Psalm 35:9