*This is a work of fiction, adapted from Luke 18 and 19 🙂 *
You see, I was a perfectionist. I lived the pristine life. I always thought that no one could find faults with me. I’m not saying I never sinned, but I was quite good in the life I led. The word “good” is relative. I was better than most people.
One day, I heard the story of a man named Jesus who preached radical wisdom. And I was drawn to wisdom like iron filings are drawn to magnets. They said that this Jesus said “when someone slaps you, turn the other cheek” and “blessed are they who are persecuted in My name for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. I was keen on what else this man had to say. For one thing, I’m sure he knew a thing or two about getting to heaven. Who doesn’t want to go to heaven? He’d probably say to me, “Okay you don’t need to do any more. Just continue what you’re doing”
So I packed my bags when I found out that He came to our town and went out to meet Him. He was standing there healing people and saying stuff that I couldn’t completely comprehend. I fought my way through the crowds and asked him the question I had earnestly rehearsed. “Good teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”. He smiled and listed out a few of the mosaic commandments. I was good at all those things he pointed out. So I replied, “Um.. I’ve already done all of this Jesus”. Then Jesus dropped a bomb, “Well, just give up all you have. Sell all your things and come follow me”
A hush fell upon the crowd. The disciples went silent. One of the disciples whispered to the other, “Jesus doesnt usually ask people to leave everything and follow Him. I think we are in the company of disciple #13”
What on God’s green earth !! I’m rich. I’m young. I’m a ruler. If I did what he said to the dot and tittle, I would be poor, grow old and of-course, I wouldn’t be a ruler.
“No”, I whispered.
It kinda hurt to say “No, Jesus”, but I said it and I slowly backed away. If I had to follow this Jesus, I would have to give up my freedom. My will, my desires, my ambitions. All of that. I looked into those eyes one more time as they longingly called out to me. I said no. Jesus didn’t bargain. He let me go and quietly let out a deep breath of disappointment and turned his eyes to a blind man and started healing him.
As I walked away, I noticed a little man climbing up a sycamore tree. That horrible guy Zacchaeus. The worst tax collector in town. Why, he even collected a huge load of cash from me. In fact, I knew I was being swindled but.. ughhh! Tax collectors are pigs!
As I watched, Zacchaeus the short, fat & overfed swindler slowly climbed with his tiny limbs onto the tree. I hoped he would just fall and his legs would break.
Jesus came walking by and looked up into the tree. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. We’re heading for lunch to your house.” What in the world is wrong with Jesus? Why would the wise Jesus go to the house of a thief and sinner?
I slowly followed the crowd as they all went along with Zacchaeus and Jesus. I hid by the corner of the house.
As I put my ear to hear what was going on, I heard a gentle sobbing voice. Who was it? Oh! It was Zacchaeus. He stood up and everyone saw him. “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
I was astonished and spellbound. Zacchaeus? Confessing? Jesus looked at him and stood up as well. He said to him as he briefly looked in my direction, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
After that day, Jesus soon gained the repute of being a friend of sinners. Oh, there’s no way I was going to be associated to a man like Jesus. No way. I went back home and lived as I always did.
Many years have passed now since that weird day. Recently I met old Zacchaeus while I was riding by in my chariot and paused to buy some bread. He lost his job when he confessed to all the people he cheated. The city council deemed him no longer fit to serve as the town’s tax collector. He paid back everyone their money and he ended up with nothing- not even a roof for his head.
“What a moron”, I thought.
“Why did you do it, Zacchaeus?” I asked. “Why did you give away all your wealth? You should have kept some of it back for emergencies- when you’d really badly need it”
Zacchaeus stared into the distance like he warping time and recalling a fond memory. “I didn’t go to Him. He came to me. Even…ME”, he said. “And He called me to freedom”, he joyfully added with a smile, and walked away.