When we judge others we condemn them to the lost. In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus shows us the power of love to save the lost.
At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”
This is the story of the sinner who is lost, not because he was irreconcilable, but because others had given up on him: “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of the sinner,'” the Gospel tells us. Zacchaeus’ “neighbors” had given up on him because they judged him unworthy. He likely had also given up on himself because of the judgment of others.
But then enters Jesus, who turns this into the story of the redeemed man. Jesus knows what is in Zacchaeus’ heart. It is here that Zaccaeus’ life turns around, for now there is no one to condemn him. Zacchaeus’ heart opens and he is able to be the man he seeks to be and whom Jesus knows him to be.
Jesus seeks out Zacchaeus – “the Son of Man has come to seek” – to save him from condemnation — “and to save what was lost.”
Society, culture too often judges and condemns people, gives up on them, as the people in this story have done to Zacchaeus. The condemned become lost during that judgment. But Jesus shows us that everyone is redeemable, savable given the chance. And that surprises us.
Looking at it from Zacchaeus’ perspective, he is a tax collector and a wealthy man. He is looked down upon, seen as a scourge in society. His practices to exact taxes may well have been unscrupulous, leading to the people disliking him. But by their judging and shunning him, he likely felt unworthy and unsalvageable. Lost and lonely. Apart. Then along comes Jesus, who refuses to condemn Zacchaeus — rather, He embraces his soul. Moreover, Jesus seeks him out! And like a child, Zacchaeus is giddy at his redemption. We who feel abandoned or unworthy need that acceptance, that unconditional love, which Jesus gives.
Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor, that other person, as if they were ourselves. It is the second most important commandment, next to loving God. He also teaches us not to judge others, not to condemn them. In this story, He lives out that teaching and in doing so saves what or who was lost.
When Jesus lives in our heart, we can save what is lost by loving the condemned. Not for what they did but for who they are — a child of God. And as a child of God, we can accept that love when it is extended to us. No one is beyond the reach of redemption. That is the power of God. That is the power of God’s love.
Seek. Love. Save.