What were you looking for that day when you climbed so high in the sycamore’s branches?
Was it that wandering prophet, Jesus of Nazareth?
What did he mean to you? You’d probably heard the stories of miracle healings. Perhaps you’d heard some of his parables told secondhand: the one about the prodigal son, or the man who fell among thieves on the road to your hometown, Jericho. In that one, the man is saved by a Samaritan of all people. You might have known that this Jesus liked to upend people’s expectations like that.
You might have known, too, that he had a habit of eating with strangers and foreigners, outcasts and outsiders, sinners and tax collectors – not unlike yourself.
Sometimes, perhaps, you reveled in your position: the security it brought, the pleasures of wealth. At other times, perhaps, you felt it closing round you like a vise. In those hours, you hated your work; and you hated the Romans whose occupation of your land made your occupation necessary; and most of all you hated yourself. Perhaps you longed for freedom: from your addiction to avarice, from the Empire that cultivated and encouraged it, from the voice within that condemned you from sunup to sundown and back again.
Perhaps, in looking for this Jesus, you were groping after another voice’s echo.
Another voice, which spoke to you of possibility. A voice which, if you were willing to follow it into the unknown, could lead you into a life of abundance. The kind of abundance where you could face up to your failures, and make amends, and know that you were still beloved in the sight of God. The kind of abundance where you could give away half of everything you owned, and make just reparations, and still have more than enough to share. That is to say, real abundance, and not just the hoard of loud and shallow riches you stored up to keep the darkness at bay.
A far-off, close-up, secret voice that spoke your true name: Zacchaeus.
Innocent. Pure. Uncorrupted.
Is that what you were looking for? Or were you just another curious onlooker, who had the bad/good luck to get caught up in a story larger than his own?
I don’t know. All I know is what I’m told: salvation came to your house that day.
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