Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [Luke 19:8-10]

Luke’s account of Jesus’ encounter with this vertically-challenged, wealthy but dishonest tax collector is instructive on several fronts. At the more trivial level, a couple of posts ago I reported Jesus as saying (when translated into English) that unless you give up ALL your possessions you cannot be His disciple. As I commented at the time the Greek relayed the idea of keeping a loose hold on one’s possessions, and this account bears that out. For Zacchaeus vowed to give HALF of what he owned to the poor, no doubt leaving himself sufficient resources to meet his own material needs. More importantly he vowed “to go straight”, in the process paying back fourfold those he had defrauded when going about his business.

More importantly still, Jesus affirmed that Zacchaeus’ response was what was required for his personal salvation. I suspect the emphasis in this account may surprise many as it did me in the past, along, frankly, with quite a lot else Jesus’ taught regarding discipleship, salvation and final judgement. That was because of how I as for many years a “Reformed” Evangelical had understood Paul’s teaching regarding the human condition, grace, law, free will and justification. The new interpretations set out in my book** supported by these blogs accord more with that of the earliest (pre-Augustinian) Church Fathers. They bring the teaching of Jesus, the Apostles and Old Testament wisdom literature more into harmony. Apart, that is, from the radical new concept that Paul introduced at the risen Saviour’s command: the reconstitution of the elect people of God – the rejection of the Jews as sole inheritors of the Kingdom and the provision of fulness of salvation for people from every nation as considered in the previous post, an understanding of which opens up a vastly broader vista of benign providence.


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