In our Gospel Jesus is a guest in Zacchaeus’s house. We know how the visit began and we know how it ended. What happened in-between. Jesus summed up the encounter by saying; “Today Salvation has come to this house”. So, we know that in some way Zacchaeus had been saved in some real and practical way that had to do with his day to day life there in the city of Jericho. As, chief tax collector for the area, he was treated by the whole Jewish population as a social pariah. He was not welcome in any home. He was avoided on the streets. No one would walk with him. No one would speak to him. He was excluded from religious celebrations. All of this, doubtless, had a devastating effect on the character of Zacchaeus. Every spark of decency within him was buried beneath an avalanche of public ridicule. It is almost impossible for any person to hold a high opinion of himself or herself unless some other person shares that opinion.
Jesus became that other person in the life of Zacchaeus. While other people ignored him, Jesus acknowledged his presence and called him by name. While others regarded him contempt, Jesus treated him with respect. He was not ashamed to be seen in his presence. He was willing, even eager to be a guest in his home. For Zacchaeus, that simple act of acceptance was the beginning of his salvation. It gave him a foothold in a new kind of life. This was the method that Jesus constantly employed in his work of saving people. Nothing was more real to him than the undiscovered, undeveloped, and unused possibilities in a human life. He saw them, as a sculpture sees the hidden beauty in a block of granite. He made them known, as a good teacher brings out the abilities of a willing student.
Jesus did that for Zacchaeus. He helped him find a sense of his own self worth. Then he carried the process one step further. He gave him a sense of responsibility for other people. These two belong together. The saving work of Jesus is always individual and collective, personal and social. Firstly Jesus for ourselves. He shows us our self worth. He then saves us from ourselves. He gives us a sense of social obligation. Selfishness is broken. “ Today Salvation has come to us”.