My moneybag jingled loudly at my side as I hurried along. I glanced quickly over my shoulder hoping no one had heard. I loved hearing the clinking of those coins together when I counted them in the dim lamplight at home at the end of the day. But somehow out here in broad daylight I just cringed hoping no one would notice me. I’d rather be invisible to them than face their derisive looks and whispered hatred.
As I rounded the corner close to home, I noticed a large crowd walking ahead of me down the road. What was going on? Oh yes! I had overheard someone say this morning that the Rabbi Jesus was in town! Now that was an interesting character. I had even heard, though I wasn’t sure I believed it, that one of Jesus’ closest followers was a tax collector – like me! That was unheard of! Why, everyone hates us, especially those uppity religious leaders.
But they say He’s different. I wonder …
Curiosity overcame my desire to hurry home. I ran up behind the crowd trying to find a way to take a peek at this teacher.
“Excuse me, can I just squeeze through here?”
“Ah, sorry, can you let me by?”
Sharp elbows jabbed my arms and the crowd seemed to gel into a wall in front of me. One after another irritated voices hissed at me. “Get away from here!”
“Stop shoving! The Master doesn’t want to see you anyway!”
Others just laughed and mocked me. “What’s wrong short stuff? Can’t see over my shoulder?”
Oh, how I hated being teased about my height. All my life it had come back to the same hurtful jokes. Frustration boiled up within me, but with it a fierce determination took over. I will see Jesus! Nothing was going to stop me!
But what could I do? Skirting the edge of the crowd I hopped up and down. Cruel taunts followed me as I bounced along. In desperation I stood back breathing deeply. Athletics was definitely not my strong suit. My mind was racing. I just had to see him. What kind of teacher could do terrific miracles, confound those wretched priests, and supposedly still spend time with sinners?
Up ahead I saw a tree that gave me an idea. With a quick glance over my shoulder I ran to the tree. Now, if only I could reach that first branch! I jumped up lunging for the branch, which extended just out of my reach. No! If I didn’t hurry I was going to miss my chance! Looking around me I found a rock. Dragging it quickly over to the tree I was finally able to reach the branch. Just as the crowd approached my tree, I settled precariously into my perch. My eyes scanned quickly over the heads of the people. There He was! That was really He!
In my excitement I nearly slipped! Suddenly my rapidly beating heart almost jumped out of my chest as the most loving and joy filled eyes I had ever seen met mine. His smile did not mock me! That intense look which normally would have caused me to lower my eyes and shuffle off seemed to captivate me. Then I heard the most wonderful thing.
How does He know my name? Why does He want to talk to me? A momentary chill ran through my body as I felt the eyes of the townspeople stare up at me. I could see them snickering and nudging each other.
“Zacchaeus, come on down from there! I would like to come to your house for supper tonight!”
Who, me? I started to look over my shoulder in that habitual motion to see who else He could be talking to, but then, remembering where I was, I looked sheepishly back at Jesus. He grinned at me and nodded His head as if to say, “Yes! You!”
I couldn’t believe it! My house? As I scrambled down in what I’m sure was a most undignified manner, I suddenly didn’t care who was watching me. He’s coming to MY house! Somehow I knew that nothing would be the same again after this dinner party! Even the coins jangling at my side seemed to be singing. Nothing would EVER be the same!