From save the planet, to save money, to save your soul, the word ‘save’ is used in different ways. Often the word is often used to mean ‘rescue’ and it is the way Jesus used it. This is what I need to take a fresh look at and I have a big goal in view – just what in the world is ‘salvation’?
When Jesus was born in Judea, a small occupied part of the old Roman empire, an announcement from God made clear that Jesus was ‘a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). In that unique role of Saviour he had come ‘to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). The story that uses these words of Jesus is about Zacchaeus, a man of short stature, who worked collecting taxes for the Roman authorities.
For siding with the Romans he was, understandably, unpopular and despised by his own people, but as he heard that Jesus was passing by, Zac (for short) was serious about taking a close look. But in the thick of the crowd, his short stature was a big problem, so he quickly decided to run on ahead and climb a conveniently-shaped tree at the roadside, from which, in the leafy shade, he would gain his private ‘front seat’ view. What a surprise he got when Jesus stopped at the tree and called Zac down and told him he was going to pay the tax-collector a friendly social visit!
Oh, that soon had the crowd grumbling that Jesus would mix socially with such a vile traitor as a man who collected taxes from the poor for Caesar to run his empire and his luxurious lifestyle! But when wealthy Zac threw a generous meal for his friends and in Jesus’ presence announced that he would give half of his goods to the poor and payback defrauded clients fourfold, he seemed to have made a huge change of heart, for he was serious. Somehow, the teaching, the presence and the graciousness of Jesus had touched Zac’s heart deeply, and he became a true follower of Jesus.
After Zac had made his announcement, it was then that Jesus explained, ‘Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). That was a way of saying that it is exactly people like Zac who need to be saved, because they are those who are lost. They are the people who have strayed far into self-centred living, and who have banished God from their lives.
It is just these sorts of people, who, when they see how much they are lost, without a chart or compass to guide them to an eternity with God, suddenly see how much they need to be saved. That is, saved from a ruined and wasted life, saved from wrecking other people’s lives, saved from sinful unbelief in have rejected God and his own Son, the Saviour Jesus Christ.
But most of all saved in the strongest sense of receiving God’s great salvation – receiving the forgiveness of sins, receiving the Lord Jesus as one’s own Saviour, and being reconciled to God, to be at peace with him, to be brought into his family, and to be saved for time and for eternity. What about all the good-living people, even religious people, perhaps they are sufficiently good not to need salvation? No, they’re not. If their own good efforts have blinded them with false hopes, they too urgently need salvation.
What a great salvation, what grace, all completely undeserved and unmerited, freely given by the Saviour, who later in his ministry even went to the cross and there bled and died for sinners like Zac, and like you and me! Do you need to be saved? Come empty-handed, come as you are, weary, tired of sin, guilty, close to giving up – Jesus is just the one you need. Come today.
That simply is salvation.