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Lesson 3: Grace That Goes Before

No one can come to me unless drawn by Abba God, who sent me — and those I will raise up on the last day.

– John 6:44 (TIB)

Devotion: Read Luke 19:1-10. To understand the power of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, we must remember how despised first-century tax collectors are in the Jewish community. The comment “chief tax collector and was rich” means everyone believes Zacchaeus has grown rich by siding with the nation’s Roman oppressors over his own people. They would cynically assume he has bribed his way into a position of power and squeezes people for additional taxes to supplement his own wealth. What does Jesus communicate to the crowd and Zacchaeus when he calls out to him? At this point, who does Zacchaeus think Jesus is? To what teaching is he responding? What does Jesus’ statement about Zacchaeus finding “salvation” suggest about what is necessary for someone to be “saved? Does someone need to understand Jesus is God incarnate to find salvation? What does Jesus’ actions and his statement, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost,” teach us about the initiating love of God for all people?  

Personal Worship Option: Read Luke 18:9-14. Reflect on your prayer life. What do you need to learn from these two prayers? When have you trusted in your righteousness and treated others with contempt? Spend time in prayer.

Dig A Little Deeper:

19:7 To what extent should a Christian or congregation consider how its reputation in the community will be affected by a course of action? Can you think of a time when it is acceptable to not do the “righteous” thing because people will think less of you?

19:6 Jesus enters Zacchaeus’ home. The remainder of the action occurs in this setting.

19:8 Scholars disagree on the interpretation of this passage. Traditionally, Zacchaeus is seen as an unethical man who responds to Jesus by repenting and promising to provide restitution for those he has cheated. This interpretation assumes he goes beyond the requirement for such restitution (Num 5:57). If this is the case, what is the link between repentance and restitution for past sins? Are Christians expected to make restitution for their past sins when possible?

However, others note that Zacchaeus’ words in Greek are not future tense, but present tense, meaning that they could be translated “if I defraud anyone (in the future).” He is not promising to address past sins in the future but stating that his current practices are just. In this interpretation, Jesus’ vindicates his words. If this is the case, this is a story of how God sees beneath the surface to each individual’s heart. What groups of people have bad reputations in our community? What groups of people have good reputations? How should a Christian approach people in each group?  

Which interpretation appeals most to you? Read Luke 18:18-30. Does the presence of this story in such close proximity to the Zacchaeus passage affect which interpretation you favor? Should how gospel writers order their narratives affect our interpretation of passages?

19:9 “To this house” refers to the belief all those in the residence share in the salvation of the head of the house (Acts 10:1-2; 14:13-14; 16:14-15; 16:31-34; 18:8). What are the theological implications of this idea? How might this teaching change how we view ministry to families?

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