Monday, February 23, 2015


In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to the home of the wealthy chief tax collector Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is a hated, lonely man with, comparatively, a lot of money. The result of Jesus spending time with Zacchaeus is that Zacchaeus emerges from his house to publicly announce two things: 1) he's giving half of his money to help the poor; and 2) he's paying back four times of what he's stolen from people.

At that moment Jesus declares, "Today salvation has come to this house."

Zacchaeus got saved. In Matthew chapter 1 Joseph is informed that Mary will give birth to a child, the child's name will be called "Jesus." Why "Jesus?" Because "he will save his people from their sins."

The Greek word for "save" is sozo. The word "Jesus" means "he will save." Jesus is the soter (the Greek word for "Savior"), the one who sozos things, to include people.

"Sozo" is a big, holistic word. Some people think it's a fire escape out of hell. While it is that, it is far more than that. See Zacchaeus, for example. The sign that Zacchaeus got "sozo-ed" is that the poor get rescued. Salvation has socio-economic consequences. The heart of Zacchaeus gets transformed, and through him the heart of God gets demonstrated and people get blessed.

Michael Brown et. al. write that the New Testament usage of sozo means "to rescue, save, deliver, preserve from danger, etc." (212) "James 5:15 in particular provides an excellent example of the holistic usage of sozo." (213) The sick person will be "raised up," forgiven, and "made well" (sozo).

Zacchaeus's sozo-ing results in economic benefits for the poor. Prayers offered in faith can sozo a sick person. A more exhaustive word study of sozo, soter, and soteria would result in seeing how deep and wide and high and long is the love of Jesus the Savior. It is too simplistic to interpret sozo as "getting saved." This narrow approach undergirds discussions about people "getting saved" and getting into heaven but having lives that produce no Zacchaeus-like results. Sozo includes being healed, made whole, and delivered, and is applied not simply to individuals but to people groups and cultures.