I didn’t know how I was going to get a close look at him, this teacher, who was drawing such a following. I had heard the rumour that he was coming to my home town, so I hatched a plan.
I got up very early in the morning and made my way, in the dark, to the main street of our town, all travellers to our town go down this street. At the narrowest part of the street, there was a huge fig tree and I had decided that old tree would make a perfect vantage point for a short bloke like me to get a decent look.
Therefore, still in the predawn dark I climbed up into that tree and shimmied out onto the lowest and longest branch I could find. I sat there and made myself as comfortable as possible. I had no real idea of how long my wait would be, but I didn’t care I just wanted to see him for myself.
Well, the sun came up, and there I sat. People started about their business, and there I sat. Children began playing under the tree pointing and laughing at me, but there I sat. Waiting, just waiting for my opportunity. I was determined not to allow my personal discomfort to hinder my efforts.
As the morning wore on I thought my legs would fall off, but still I sat there waiting. The smell of lunch being prepared nearby was very difficult to ignore, but I was determined, so still I sat there and waited. Sometime after lunch I heard the unmistakable noise of a crowd of people approaching from the lower end of town, the direction I happened to be facing. I strained my eyes to attempt to make out what was happening, but the curve of the street prevented me, so I sat and waited.
It didn’t take all that long I suppose, it just felt like a long time, before the crowd rounded the curve and were heading directly towards my vantage point. My heart was pounding and I didn’t even know why, I didn’t believe that he was anything more than a popular teacher, yet here I was acting like a young girl around her first love.
When suddenly he stopped walking, he was standing directly under my hiding spot, naturally the crowd stopped as well. He slowly raised his head and looked at me straight in the eye in quite an unnerving way I had a sense this man knew me even though we had never seen each other before. I felt that I should look away as there was a level of purity about his eyes that I found redoubtable.
After a long pause, I turned my gaze away. He immediately spoke to me calling my name “Zacchaeus.” I turned quickly to look into his eyes again. “Come down Zacchaeus, I’m going to eat my dinner with you, today.” Well, I was utterly astounded and very nearly fell out of my elevated position. My mind was racing every quickly as I quickly climbed down wondering if there was anyone at home capable of getting a suitable dinner together. He embraced me warmly, which left me feeling strangely transformed.
As we began to walk towards my home, I heard the murmurings of some of the more pietistic in the crowd as to my state as a sinner, which I regarded as humorous as I thought we were all sinners. In addition, in the presence of this Jesus I was very much aware of my state as a sinner, so much so when we arrived at my home, I was feeling so overwhelmed by his presence; I knew I had to turn from my scheming ways, as a tax collector I was hated, I was also known to over collect to line my own pocket. Therefore, I spoke to him and said “today I will give half of everything I own to the poor; Furthermore, if I have ever ripped anyone off, I will pay them back 4 times as much.”
Even as these words came from my mouth, I could hardly believe what I was saying. However, I meant it and it felt right and very good to be doing something to clear my conscience of my ill gotten booty. I hadn’t said this in same lame attempt to get a complement from Jesus, however, he astounded me by saying, “Zacchaeus, by your actions you have brought salvation to your home. As I came to see the chosen people return to a right relationship with the Father.”
Well, that was many years ago now, I followed any news of him I could and was horrified to learn that those religious leaders finally trapped him and manipulated Governor Pilot to have him crucified, what a disgusting travesty of justice. Regardless of how long I live I will never forget my personal encounter with Jesus. If he could bring me to salvation, then no one is beyond His help.
A modern retelling.