By Caleb Kelly
Zacchaeus was sitting in his home, enjoying a cool glass of water when a loud banging erupted from the front door.
“Alright, alright,” Zacchaeus grumbled, standing up and walking to the door, picking up his keys along the way, “No need to break the door down.”
He unlocked the door and opened it. Outside stood one of his servants, gasping for breath.
“Yes?” Zacchaeus asked gruffly, trying to seem taller than his servant. It wasn’t good for respect if you’re shorter than your servants.
“There’s. . . A man,” the servant panted, “who they say. . . Can do miracles, such as. .-“
“Spit it out, boy!” Zacchaeus was a man who quickly became impatient.
The servant, realizing this, was quick with finishing his sentence.
“Such as raising people from the dead,” he finished, facing the ground.
Inwardly, Zacchaeus’ spirits lifted. This man, though he may be a Prophet sent from God, was just another opportunity to show off Zacchaeus’ vast wealth.
Outwardly, however, he kept his expression blank.
“You may go.” He said absentmindedly to the servant, and as the servant went around the house to the servants quarter, Zacchaeus was thinking through all that he could do to show his many riches to the prophet. The first, of course, would be to invite the “Prophet.”
Stepping back inside, Zacchaeus slipped on his sandals, before going back through the open ornate door onto the street, closing and locking it behind him.
Zacchaeus ran his hand along the decorated door.
“Just one of the many things that gold can buy,” Zacchaeus said softly, “and even better that I used other people’s money.”
Taking a step back from his expensive door into the alleyway, Zacchaeus heaved a deep breath before immediately regretting it due to the smell of some animals in a nearby pen.
All of a sudden, two people ran past Zacchaeus, coming a little too close for his liking.
“Hey!” He yelled at their departing backs, “Watch where you’re going!”
“Sorry!” One of them said, slowing to a halt, “We’re trying to see Jesus, the One who raises people from the dead, as He passes through the town.” Then she realized whom she was speaking with, and within a second, her attitude changed.
“I’m sorry we bothered you, sir, I hope you have a nice day,” she said with fake kindness before spitting at his feet.
Zacchaeus shook his head, by now used to this treatment. Jews did not like tax collectors, because they believed that the tax collectors had betrayed them. He muttered something about how improper it was to run and that no one would ever catch him running as he began to walk in the other direction of the people when he realized what the woman said: “We’re trying to see Jesus. . . as He passes through town.”
Abruptly, Zacchaeus stopped walking. ‘Oh no,’ he thought ‘is the Prophet coming now?’
Thinking how absurd this was, but Zacchaeus was out of options, so he grasped the edge of his long flowing robe. Then, tucking the end into his belt so it would be out of the way, Zacchaeus himself began to run. He didn’t care if anyone saw him now, but why, he did not know.
As Zacchaeus rounded a corner, he could see where the two people were going. In fact, Zacchaeus thought grumpily, slowing to a walk, it seems that’s where everyone is going.
And it indeed seemed as though that was true. Ahead of Zacchaeus, a large group of people were flanking the main road that led in from the eastern gate.
Zacchaeus scanned the crowd, searching for an opening for him to fit through, finding none, though he did see a large tree hanging over the path a little ways ahead.
For the second time that day, Zacchaeus started running again, this time towards the tree. Upon reaching it, Zacchaeus discovered that it was taller than he had previously guessed, but seeing no other trees that would offer a good view of the people below, Zacchaeus gritted his teeth and began to climb.
The rough bark of the tree tore at Zacchaeus’ expensive robe, but, to his surprise, he wasn’t worried about his clothes.
Once in the tree, Zacchaeus could see the people down below him, the opposite than normal, where everyone else would look down on him.
In the middle of the path, a man was walking. Apparently, this was the “Jesus” that everyone was talking about. Zacchaeus was disappointed. Had he humiliated himself by running and climbing for this man? He didn’t look anything special.
Zacchaeus was about to climb out of the tree and head home when he heard his name being called.
Zacchaeus looked around frantically to see who had spotted him.
“Yes, you, in the tree.” The voice said again, but this time, since Zacchaeus was listening more closely, he discovered that it was the man walking on the path.
“Yes?” Zacchaeus said, adding a note of impatience in his voice.
“Would you come down?” The man asked, looking up into the tree, attracting the gaze of the onlookers. “I must stay at your house today.”
Zacchaeus didn’t know what to say, other than maybe “Find your own place to stay!” but even as Zacchaeus decided that’s what he was going to say, one look at the man caused the words to die unspoken.
Rather than just sit in the tree while more and more people stared at him, Zacchaeus slid down the tree in front of the man.
“My name is Jesus of Nazareth,” the man said kindly to Zacchaeus, “Would you lead the way to your house?”
Words still not working with Zacchaeus, he just nodded and gestured ahead of him.
Meanwhile, the news had spread that Jesus was to stay at Zacchaeus’ house, and as they were walking towards the alleyway that would lead to Zacchaeus’ house, the crowds followed the duo, whispering to one another.
“Why would Jesus even want to go near that filth Zacchaeus, much less stay at his house?”
And as they passed an animal stall, someone else said “I agree, Jesus would be better off staying in that animal stall than with Zacchaeus.”
Zacchaeus quickly glanced back at the people. There were more than he thought. As his gaze swept past Jesus, he noticed that he was looking back at Zacchaeus. He looked disappointed and shook his head very slightly at him. Not wanting to displease Jesus, Zacchaeus had a sudden inspiration.
Zacchaeus turned to face the crowd.
“Look, Lord!” Zacchaeus said, “I will give half of all my things to the poor,”
And as Zacchaeus looked out over the surprised faces of those in the crowd, he continued “And I’ll give back all the extra money that I stole, and up to four times as much.”
Zacchaeus smiled at Jesus while the crowd looked on, trying to get over the shock of what Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, was saying.
In the moments of silence, Jesus said to Zacchaeus and the crowd,
“This day, this son of Abraham has earned his faith, for once he was lost, but now he is found; he once was drowning, but now is rescued.”