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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)

TITLE: Two in a Tree
By Jan Ackerson


I climbed the tree to hide from my uncle. My mother’s brother wanted me to take two baskets of olives to the next village, and to return with the oil that had been pressed since my last trip there. But I hated the cantankerous old donkey; she bit my hand as I was filling the baskets a fortnight ago, and the wound had only recently healed. Far better to spend the day climbing the hills. I knew that Elihu would never find me, hidden in the ancient sycamore’s branches. Still, I climbed as high as I dared, intending to leave my hiding place once Elihu was certain to have pressed my younger brother, Isaac, into service.

So I perched on a heavy branch, eating the dates that I had stolen as I slipped out of the house. There was an unusual amount of activity in town that morning. I saw Uncle Elihu bustling from his house to the market to our house, obviously agitated and looking for me. Every time I thought it would be safe to climb down and escape into the hills, I would see him again, or my Aunt Susanna, or my dimwitted and lazy cousin. Why does he not send his precious Nathan to the village?

But in addition to the market activity, the town was bustling with some other excitement—I could not immediately determine the cause. Reluctant to miss out on any opportunity for mischief, I descended to a lower bough and listened. Crowds of people were forming, and I heard them mentioning someone named Jesus.

I strained to hear more—who was this Jesus?—when I was nearly knocked from my branch by someone else climbing my tree. I thought it was Isaac, and I raised the back of my hand to teach him a lesson. The interloper grabbed my hand and growled, “You’d better think about that, boy.”

I knew him—it was Zaccheus, the tax collector. My friends and I had spent many happy moments ridiculing this despised man. We mocked his shortness by walking on our knees, demanding taxes from our amused parents. They always laughed, and sometimes they even tossed a coin at us.

The reason for his desire to share my tree was immediately apparent. He wanted to see this Jesus—no doubt there was profit to be had, somehow—but he was too short to see above the crowd. (Indeed, even Isaac was taller than Zaccheus, and Isaac was only nine.)

So there we sat, Zaccheus and I, and watched the crowd approach. People were flocking to the man I presumed to be Jesus, and he touched many of them, speaking to both men and women in a calm voice. As he neared the tree, however, he stopped. He looked into the sycamore’s branches and called out. “Come down from there!”

I nearly fell from my branch. Jesus spoke with such authority that I felt sure he knew me. I feared that if I obeyed him, he would turn me over to Uncle Elihu for a beating, but I found myself unable to disobey his voice. My heart beating rapidly, I started down the tree. Then he spoke again.

“Zaccheus! Come down here! I desire to eat at your house today!”

He wasn’t talking to me at all! I looked over at Zaccheus. He had turned pale, but he was already scrambling down to meet this unusual man. When Zaccheus reached the ground, Jesus grasped his arms in greeting. The crowd began to murmur, and one man approached Jesus.

“Teacher, he is a tax collector!”

But already they had started down the road. After a few moments, I could neither see nor hear them.

All this happened four days ago. Since then I’ve worked for Uncle Elihu when I could not avoid it, and I’ve avoided working whenever possible. Yesterday I heard him saying that the olives in the north orchard are ripe, and would need to be harvested today. So I took early refuge in the sycamore, awaiting my chance to escape once again.

I was beginning to doze off when my branch quivered. Zaccheus was climbing up to meet me! I was caught, and I looked around for a way to elude his grasp. But he just smiled at me.

“I thought I might find you here, boy.” He settled on a branch close to mine. “I want to tell you what else happened that morning. Let me tell you…about Jesus.”

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This article has been read 1562 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Steve Clark12/12/05
Very interesting use of a third party's point of view. You grasped the realism of a boy's desire to avoid the work and the frustration of his family. Would have liked to see more of a transformation in Zacchaeus, but his return to share his testimony is a great example of what we are supposed to do.
Beth Muehlhausen12/13/05
Enjoyed the boy's point of view in this well-known story. I'm left wondering why Zaccheus would seek out the boy...specifically...but perhaps that's a God-thing! Nice storytelling that made the event come to life. :-)
Pat Guy 12/13/05
What a creative perspective! It drew me in as a good story should, and gave me chills in the end. I loved how you captured the childlike thought process - especially when he continued to try and get out of work! But I loved the ending with Zacchaeus knowing the boy would be back up there! Hey! I like these big boxes! They come in handy!
Venice Kichura12/15/05
very creative take on an old story! I loved this!
Ann Grover12/15/05
You made the story come alive for me... very creative, very well done.
Cassie Memmer12/16/05
I enjoyed this! A new perspective, and I'm glad ol' Zach went back to share with the boy. Great writing!
terri tiffany12/16/05
This was so well written and creative! You brought the story to life for me!I am always amazed at all of you who can write so realistically in that time period. Thank you!:)
Marilyn Schnepp 12/16/05
As I began to read, I saw some "little" things I was going to comment on; like an "s" that didn't belong, or some small incidental - but at the end....Wow, I forgot everything! The lump in my throat and the tear in my eye erased everything. Super! I loved this version of the Biblical account of our loving Lord and the short man in a tree! Many Kudos!
Marilyn Schnepp 12/16/05
PS: Great title, by the way.
Suzanne R12/16/05
What an interesting point of view - great work! Well done.
Jan Ackerson 12/16/05
Okay, Marilyn, you've gotten to the perfectionist in me--what "s" didn't belong, and what are the little incidentals?

Thanks for the kind review, by the way.
Crista Darr12/16/05
I love the message in this well-written piece. Although Jesus did not immediately call the boy out of the tree, He still had a plan for him. God's grace extends to all, and He uses His saints to deliver it.
Folakemi Emem-Akpan12/16/05
Whoa, am i impressed? Good writing, makes the bible story take on a whole new meaning
Debbie OConnor12/16/05
Great story. Very believable. I love the touch about him having mocked Zaccheus in the past and the end when Zaccheus came back to minister to the boy. Excellent work.
Garnet Miller 12/16/05
Interesting twist on an old story. I liked it very much.
Shari Armstrong 12/17/05
Very cute! An interesting twist on the story :)
Val Clark12/18/05
Loved the way you captured the character of the boy and his perception of Zak. Wondered, as I read, if I would be satisfied with the end as the POV character appeared not to have changed at all. Then you double whammied me with the reappearance of Zac in the tree. Well done. Yeggy