In Luke 19:9-10, Scripture informs us of a blessed pronouncement by Jesus to a sinful man: “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” An examination of this account (19:1-10) shows a key truth concerning the genuine salvation of people.
Luke reports that Jesus, while passing through Jericho, spoke these words to a man named Zacchaeus. He was a top-level tax collector and a wealthy man. He desired to see Jesus, but was unable to because he was short. Therefore, he climbed a tree to see Him.
Seeing him, Jesus directed him, saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” Zacchaeus eagerly responded to Jesus’ directives and “received him joyfully.”
An unspecified group of onlookers denounced Jesus’ actions. We then read the only words recorded from Zacchaeus (19:8), which instruct us about the essence of salvation coming to a person’s house. Having come to Jesus, he said “unto the Lord; 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.”
Based on these statements by Zacchaeus, Jesus made the blessed pronouncement about his salvation. How do Zacchaeus’s words relate to his salvation?
By comparing them to Luke’s accounts of John the Baptist’s ministry, we discover a key truth about Zacchaeus. Luke recorded John’s demanding that certain people who came to be baptized first produce “fruits worthy of repentance” (3:8). Other people hearing John’s challenge asked, “What shall we do then?” (3:10). John responded, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise” (3:11). These statements match the essential idea of Zacchaeus’s first words to the Lord about his resolve to give of his goods to the poor (19:8b).
When publicans came to John wanting to be baptized, they also asked him what they were to do (3:12). John demanded that they “exact no more man that which is appointed [them]” (3:13). To soldiers who then asked him what they were to do, he said, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (3:14). His demands from the publicans and soldiers parallels Zacchaeus’s second statement, which expressed his intent to restore to anyone what he had taken from him by false accusation (19:8c).
This comparison of statements by Zacchaeus and John shows that what Zacchaeus said to Jesus displayed his repentance and intent to produce “fruits worthy of repentance” (3:8). Jesus’ pronouncement that salvation had come to him did not mean that his past or present giving to the poor and restoring what he had wrongfully taken from people had saved him (Although we do not have enough data to know for sure, it is likely that Zacchaeus had not done either of these things to any appreciable extent prior to his encounter with Jesus).
Nor did it mean that his future doing so would be what would save him. Rather, his acknowledging of his past actions as sinful and his resolve to make right his past wrongdoing showed that he had been saved through his contact with Jesus:
He publicly wanted the people to know that his time with Jesus had changed his life. . . . Jesus’ words, ‘Today salvation has come to this house,’ did not imply that the act of giving to the poor had saved Zacchaeus, but that his change in his lifestyle evidenced his right relationship before God (BKC: NT, 252).
The comparison above of the accounts of John the Baptist’s ministry (3:1-14) and Zacchaeus (19:1-10) underscore the centrality of repentance (along with faith, though it is not specifically mentioned in this passage) toward God as what brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus.
Paul’s comprehensive statement concerning his unchanging ministry throughout his life further stresses the same truth: “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:19-20).
Has salvation come to your house through your repenting and turning to God and doing works that display the genuineness of your repentance and faith? If there has not been a transformation of your life (2 Cor. 5:17) that has included both a resolve to do whatever you can do to make right your past wrongdoing and an acting on that resolve as circumstances allow, would Jesus say to you that salvation has come to your house?