Jesus and Salvation

As we continue through Lent and consider how repentance and rest are connected to salvation, it could be surprising to learn that Jesus does not talk about salvation very often. He only mentions the word salvation (σωτηρία) twice. He mentions it to a woman he encounters at a well, and to a man named Zacchaeus. We’ll look together at Jesus’ interaction with Zacheaus.

At first reading of Luke 19:1-9 it could seem like Zacchaeus experienced salvation because he gave his money to the poor. This is how it reads:

“But Zacchaeus himself stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I will give half my property to the poor. And if I have swindled anybody out of anything I will pay him back four times as much,”Jesus said to him, ‘Salvation has come to this house today…!'”

It’s nice and tidy, which is how Ilike things. The formula goes like this: Zaccheaus realizes he is a sinner, makes a decision to do something about it and Jesus offers him salvation. That makes sense in my linear mind. A deeper look at the story provides another consideration on salvation.

“When Jesus came to the place (where Zaccheaeus was in the tree), He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheaus, hurry and come down, for TODAY I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him (Jesus) gladly.”

Jesus makes this statement about today before Zaccheaus commits to any sort of change in his life. Jesus mentions TODAY a second time in the story here:

“And Jesus said to him, ‘TODAY salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.'”

According to Jesus, salvation came to Zaccheaus because of who he was, not what he did. Could it be that salvation came to him TODAY because Zaccheaus was already part of God’s family, he just didn’t know it. The day he welcomed Jesus into his home, his life, more importantly, once Zaccheaus realized who he was (a child of God) salvation became a reality for him.

As I return to Isaiah’s statement about salvation through this lens, maybe repentance and rest are catalysts to us realizing our salvation. What if it’s more of an awareness than a decision?

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Is 30:15)

With this perspective on salvation, we will look at repentance during the next two weeks of Lent to see what we can learn together.

“Salvation is not a divine transaction that takes place because you are morally perfect, but much more it is an organic unfolding, a becoming who you already are. It is an inborn sympathy with and capacity for the very one who created you.” – Richard Rohr