The journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel begins in 9:51 and it ends in 19:11. The last story Luke tells on that journey is the Zacchaeus episode (Luke 19:10). Its placement at the end of the journey gives Luke the occasion to summarize the ministry of Jesus in the person of Zacchaeus.
• Jesus takes the initiative to include outsiders like the tax collector Zacchaeus.
• Jesus declares his mission to seek and save the lost.
• Jesus sits at table with Zacchaeus the “sinner.”
• Zacchaeus gives half of his possessions to the poor.
• The mission of salvation is social as well as individual.
• Repentance means a lifestyle change (discipleship).
All of these themes have connections with Jesus’ ministry beginning in Luke 4. The themes of poverty (poor), discipleship, mission, social transformation, inclusion of the outsiders are integral to Luke’s portrayal of the ministry of Jesus. It stands in continuity with some stories (like the calling of Levi in Luke 5) but in contrast with other stories (like the “Rich Young Ruler” in Luke 18).
Meditating on the Zaccaheus story in the context of Luke helps us sense the undertow, meaning and significance of the ministry of Jesus…and, consequently, the mission of the church in the contemporary world.