The day started out as any normal day. I had to work. I was the Chief Tax Collector in Jericho. Sounds like an impressive title, doesn’t it? My job was to oversee other tax collectors. They basically would charge the tax payers (our countrymen) a tax, take a fee and give me a percentage. So, if the actual tax to the Romans was $100, we could charge them $150, they would take some and I would take some. This was incredibly lucrative and because of it, I was extremely wealthy. It is true I didn’t have many (okay, any) friends. The Jews despised me because I worked for the Romans and they saw me as taking advantage of (okay, stealing from) them.
As I said, the day started out as any normal day but then I heard it. I heard the rumor that Jesus was coming into town. I followed up and sure enough, he was going to walk right through Jericho. I’d heard about him. Gossip was that he was a healer. He would touch people and make them whole. Rumor also had it that he was compassionate and when you were around him, there was an inexplicable feeling of peace. I wanted to see him. Maybe if I just got a glimpse of him, I could figure out the pull.
The crowd started to gather. It was getting very crowded on the street. I was trying to get a good spot but I had two disadvantages. First, I was vertically challenged. Being much shorter than my countrymen, no matter where I stood I couldn’t see. Second, people didn’t like me so no one – and I mean no one – would allow me to be near them. They continually pushed me to the back of the crowd. Well, I am not exceedingly rich because I couldn’t think my way out of these situations. I found a sycamore tree and climbed it. Okay, it looked a little ridiculous to be climbing a tree in a long tunic and mantle. But, they didn’t like me anyway, what did I care. Ha! I made it. I was above the crowd and had a clear view so I could see Jesus when he walked by. Finally, I could see a small crowd coming toward me. I waited. While their progress was incredibly slow, they were getting closer by the minute. Closer. Closer. I could see him. He looked rather ordinary really. Nothing special about him. I couldn’t see anything that would justify all I’d heard.
All of a sudden, the crowd stopped right next to the tree I was in. Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, I want to come to your house. Hurry up, let’s go!” What? Was he talking to me? I looked around the crowd to see if there was another Zacchaeus he was talking to but there wasn’t. He was looking straight at me. I couldn’t believe it! Here was this man, whom many adored and followed, wanting to come to my house to eat. My heart was overwhelmed. If truth be told, I was lonely. In spite of all my wealth, I usually ate alone. Not many people wanted to be seen with me unless they were after my money. I jumped from the tree and led the way.
You should have heard the murmurings (okay, downright nasty comments) coming from the crowd. They started chastising Jesus for hanging out with a sinner. But he came anyway. We went inside, alone. We sat down and ate together. We talked. There was not one hurtful word, not one suggestive glance, only warmth and acceptance and love. This is what I had been missing for so much of my life. It was here, in my house. I could not wrap my mind around the unlikelihood that I could feel this accepted and loved.
It changed who I was. I vowed to give half of my wealth to the poor. I vowed that if I ever took dishonestly from anyone again I would pay back 4 times what I had taken. And Jesus, do you know what he said after I told him of my plan? He said, “Salvation has come to this home today because this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.” Do you know what that means? It means that I had experienced a moment with Jesus and it changed me. It changed me into a man whose faith was similar to Abraham’s. It meant that all of my previous (and future) wrongs had been righted because my focus was now Jesus and not myself. Jesus said that he was here to help people like me. He didn’t come here to help perfect looking people. He came to help the rest of us who are trying to figure it out. I’m so glad I climbed that sycamore tree. I’m so glad I spent some time with him. My life is different. Better. I am a new man.
Taken from Luke 19