The well known story of Zacchaeus, the diminutive tax collector, (Lk. 19:1-10) reveals to us the two movements of salvation.
Throughout the gospels, the “good news” of Jesus Christ, we find Jesus coming to meet us where we are at. This, I believe, is the lived reality of the canticle of descent found in the second chapter of the Letter to the Philippians. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, emptied himself and took the form of a slave not just in the lowliness of the incarnation nor just in the pain and suffering of the crucifixion and death but also throughout his life and ministry. Jesus’ words to the tree perched tax collector are worthy of note here. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” It is the slave, the obedient servant, who must do something. Jesus is continually obedient to the will of the Father and his direction in his life and this leads the Lord to meet us where we are at. To listen to Luke’s account, one could say that it even impels him. Jesus is led to meet us even in our sin, even in our forsakenness. This is the first movement – God seeks us out, God comes to meet us where we are at.
The second movement is our response. Yes, Jesus comes to meet us where we are at but he does not intend for us to stay there. Visited by God, we must now respond in kind (as much as a creature to its Maker can). Zacchaeus stands his ground against the criticism of the crowd. “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.” Our shall responds to Jesus’ must. There is a deep irony in this which raises the worthwhile reflection of “in what true freedom consists”. Here, I propose that the more one welcomes Jesus; the more our limited shall begins to share in the very must of Jesus (the obedient servant) and, further, the more one discovers true freedom.
Responding to this welcome of Zacchaeus and his response of shall, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house … For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
Salvation comes in two movements – God seeking and our responding, God’s must and our shall.