65 – Zaccheus
Where: Jericho, Judea
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Jesus, the disciples, and the growing crowd entered into the new city of Jericho. The way into the city was lined with trees but there was little room on the main street because of the crowd. To find trees, especially in a courtyard, was not unusual because of the heat in Jericho. One such tree was the sycamore [actually a mulberry/fig] which had a short trunk and many, big spreading branches.
Being trapped inside his tax shop by the passing crowd, was Zaccheus, a middle aged, very wealthy, tax collector who wondered who was creating such a traffic jam. ‘Who is it?’ he asked some of the gathered crowd. ‘The prophet from Galilee,’ he was told. ‘He just gave sight to the beggar, the son of Timaeus.’
At first, Zaccheus just wondered what the prophet looked like. But because Zaccheus was shorter then average, even to see what the prophet looked like would be very difficult. He dared not just go out into the crowd.
Usually a man as wealthy as Zaccheus would have no problem getting to a place of honor in the front. But since so many people, both Jew and Gentile, despised any tax collector, and virtually hated the chief tax collector, it would have been dangerous for Zaccheus. He would have opened himself to assault, and a small riot would likely occur as more and more people tried to kick him or hit him. No, it would not be a good idea to walk among the crowd.
But the way through Jericho was well known, and Zaccheus quickly decided to see the prophet anyway. He hurried down a parallel street, and arrived at the western edge of town. But people were already gathering there, and there was no place to stand and see the prophet. But Zaccheus saw a tree nearby. The tree would be easy to climb (he had done it often as a boy), and that would allow him to see over the heads of the crowd without actually coming into contact with the crowd.
‘This is crazy’, he thought. ‘A man of my position caught up in a tree would, at the least, make me a laughing stock to people who already hate me.’ ‘But I MUST see him! I MUST not miss seeing a prophet of God! If he can remove the curse of blindness that God put on the beggar, then he can forgive me for collecting taxes for the Romans. I have usually only collected what I must from the locals, and I try to follow the laws of Moses in my private life. I MUST SEE HIM!’
Thus short, rich, and despised Zaccheus climbed part way up the tree, and was able to look over the top of the crowds to watch the prophet walk by. But Jesus did not walk by. Instead he stopped right in front of the tree that Zaccheus had climbed. Jesus looked over at Zaccheus. They looked into each other’s eyes. Then Jesus smiled and said, ‘Zaccheus, I need to stay at your house tonight.’
Zaccheus was dumb founded. Everyone was starring at him. But all he saw were the eyes and smile of Jesus. ‘Zaccheus’, said Jesus, ‘come on down.’ And Zaccheus quickly climbed down, bowed, and motioned for Jesus to follow him to his home.
By the time they arrived at his home, one of the more beautiful in town, Zaccheus had overheard many of the Jews of the city complaining that this unrighteous outcast should not be granted the honor of a visit by a prophet of God.
Zaccheus looked at Jesus and said, in all sincerity, ‘If you are a prophet, you know the real me. I swear that I will immediately give half of all I possess to help the poor, and if I took more then was appropriate from any Jew, I will pay it back at the legal Roman rate of 4 to 1 which is the same rate that King David was expected to pay. I have done all I could to be a good Jew.’
‘I know’, said Jesus softly. ‘You are a true son of Abraham. Today your faith in God has brought salvation to your home.’
Jesus and the disciples stayed the afternoon at the request of Zaccheus and his family and friends in Jericho. By evening Jesus knew that it was too late to travel to Jerusalem, so he and his disciples also stayed the night in Jericho. Jesus planned to get an early start in the morning for the hot upward road to Jerusalem.
No questions have been asked yet.