Zacchaeus – A Change of Heart

Jesus said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”  (Mark 7:20-23)

One of the therapeutic goals of the incarnation is the healing of the human heart.  As Christ noted the heart is where all evil comes from.  Christ came to heal the heart and restore it to God – to give peace to all humans on earth.

The peace which Christ brings to us is reconciliation with God, but it is not withdrawal into oneself.  We are to share God’s peace with our fellow humans.  Olivier Clement writes:

“Nevertheless, this peace is not a withdrawal into oneself.  Man is called to share in the very life of the Trinity.”  (quoted in FOR THE PEACE FROM ABOVE, p 348)

The Gospel lesson of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) is a lesson about repentance that brings about reconciliation with God.  Thus Zacchaeus’ repentance brings him peace with God, but also reconciliation with his fellow humans/believers – he promises to restore fourfold what he has falsely taken from others and to give half his wealth to the poor.  (But note the reaction of the crowd to Zacchaeus, they show no signs of willingness to be reconciled to him, even though Christ has declared that salvation came to Zacchaeus).  Zacchaeus has found peace with God through Christ.   As a result Zacchaeus also desires peace with his neighbors and fellow believers in God – he desires to be reconciled t them whereas before he was not concerned about his relationship to them or of them to him.  Again Clement says:

“The key text here is the Beatitude about the peacemakers, those who work to make peace – who ‘shall be called sons of God,’ adopted in the Son, therefore literally ‘deified.’   Thus, the disciples of Jesus are ‘to be at peace with one another’ and with all men.”  (FOR THE PEACE FROM ABOVE, p 348)

Jesus says to all:  Today salvation has come to his house.  Zacchaeus is no longer at enmity with God, but has come to be at peace with God accepting God’s lordship and rule.

“The peace of Christ comes to birth in man’s heart, it flows forth, becomes responsible and creative love, acquires a social dimension.”  (FOR THE PEACE FROM ABOVE, p 350)

The Gospel lesson of the repentant Zacchaeus tells us that the time of Great Lent, our time of repentance, is but a few weeks away.   Great Lent is a time for us to imitate Zacchaeus, to bring about this change of heart, to come to peace with God, and to bring the peace of God to our hearts so that we become peacemakers with others.  Salvation – peace with God – is given to us so that we might learn how to live with all people.

See also Zacchaeus: A Contagious Change of Heart?