One curled up, slightly parted mouth corner contorted his face into a sneer of contempt. “Who cares what they think. They’re all jealous of my money.” Narrowing eyes, were aimed at him. Several patrons of the open-air market, flashed their disdain. He was accustomed to the whispers, muffled voices and pointed glares of the more conservative Jews.
The sawed-off little runt of a man was considered a turncoat, a traitor of the worst ilk. Collecting taxes from his fellow countrymen was one thing. But lining his own pockets with skimmed loot from his poor and struggling neighbors was a stench to everyone. Everyone except the Romans, under whose auspices he operated and was protected. Oh it was all legal. He could charge whatever rate he saw fit. As long as the determined minimum was handed over to the powers that be.
His short stature had embittered Zacchaeus early on in life. Convinced he’d been dealt a bad hand, Zach acted out of low self-esteem, dealing with others as if they were as worthless as he felt.
Just after the first decade, Ante Domingo, is when the opportunity for this financial boon had first presented itself. Twenty-three years later, his greedy, self-denigrating practices were public knowledge.
Achishay, a verbose vendor, made no pretense of his feelings, piously berating the tax-collector with relish at every sighting. His voice boomed down the street. “Here he comes—the greedy little lion. Devouring his own people! The fat unscrupulous alley cat—getting fatter every day!”
Several nearby vendors had difficulty stifling their snickers. The soon to retire Achishay could better afford to vent the common frustrations of them all, as he heralded Zacchaeus’ approach. Most couldn’t chance worsening whatever fragile arrangements they’d made with the tax man.
Jericho’s market was teeming with out-of-towners. It appears many folks knew that a great Prophet and healer was coming to town. Zacchaeus was no exception. Everyone had heard the scuttlebutt of this Rabbi Jesus, and the amazing miracles He performed and incredible things He said. Many were curious.
It was a shallow and outlandish thought, but Zach couldn’t help thinking it. As if it could somehow change the quality of his life. “I wonder if He could make me taller.”
Who would be healed today? How many people were to meet Jesus and never be the same again?
Zacchaeus: An unloved man who’d bought into the world’s system of valuating people, resulting in a poor assessment of his own worth—met Jesus. Lepers, demoniacs, the blind, the spiritually destitute, all met Jesus, and were forever changed.
And what of Achishay? Would his encounter with the Lord bring light to his soul, and birth spiritual eyes to view Zacchaeus differently? Maybe he would then be more sensitive to the pain in the little tax-collectors heart and mind. Perhaps he too would see beyond the results of a sin cursed world to grasp the cure, to procure the truth.
It is those who accept our Christ in faith who are healed, restored to spiritual wholeness. And, are given eyes of love to see beyond the veil that shrouds the realm of holiness, where every soul is precious in God’s sight.
As Jesus looked up into the eyes of the curious, tree hugging Zacchaeus, He saw the pain.
“Come down Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house today!”
Of all the options available, why Zacchaeus? Achishay must have thought, “Doesn’t Jesus know this man is a cheater, and a traitor to His own people? He is the least worthy among us for such an honor!”
None of us are worthy. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NIV) “No one is righteous—not even one.” (Romans 3:10 NLT)
We don’t know what words Jesus spoke to the ordinary sinner, but Zacchaeus responded in saving faith. Achishay and the others would receive four times the return of what they’d been over-charged. Zacchaeus, the former fat cat, now, a new-born kitten.
It is our response to Jesus that distinguishes between those who wear the righteous robe of Christ, and those self-righteous, who must attain perfect holiness on their own merit, or lose their soul.
Zacchaeus knew he needed a Savior. Did Achishay? Do we?
We may see ourselves in the fictional Achishay. Or we may see ourselves like the bible’s Zacchaeus. But how we must see ourselves, is in the light of Christ’s righteousness. And recognize our need for Him.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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