ZACCHAEUS THE LITTLE PUBLICAN
32 AD – Guess Who’s Coming For Lunch – Jericho, Jordan River Valley
Zacchaeus was always hated. Even as a child, he was the subject to ridicule and childish abuse because he was unusually short. They would call him, the Dwarf. By his appearance, he looked normal, just shorter. He is now a man. The ways of children had past but the hatred is still there.
“Yo, Dwarf!”, came a shout from the streets. “You have cheated me again!”
Zacchaeus again peered out the curtain of the carriage he was riding. He knew the man that was shouting. He laughed out loud enough for him in the streets to hear. When he peered again, he was gratified to see that the man moved away in a huff. He savored the thought that he achieved ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ [Deuteronomy 19:21] Of course, he was pleased to take more than an eye.
“He deserved it, that big bully,” Zacchaeus said to himself remembering a childhood recollection of being tormented by him.
His satisfaction was short-lived. He sighed and looked out the carriage window to watch the people going about their business. The people were socializing and looked happy. A family came out of one of the public structures of the city. The father picked up his daughter, whispered something and the little girl was giggling happily. Zacchaeus smiled longingly. Then he noticed those that watched his carriage go by, they had utmost disdain written on their faces. He knew most of them and he remembered only too well how he cheated and profited from them over the years.
He may have been short in stature, lacking strength and skill to be any use in mostly an agrarian society, but he was quite good with numbers. He learned to keep books when he apprenticed under a shrewd merchantman and eventually became adept in the business of trading. He became rich and hoped that he would gain respect from those that treated him so badly. But the hatred was still there. So, Zacchaeus left Jericho for Jerusalem, where he befriended a man who also was ostracised by society because he was a tax collector.
Zacchaeus felt that since the people already hated him, he might as well profit from it. And there was much to profit from. He learned the ways of the publicans. This was done to take every opportunity by collecting more than required and kept the extra for themselves. The success of this practice was quite easy especially when you had a squad of Roman soldiers backing you. Zacchaeus quickly became rich and rose within the tight knit publican circle. But when he was noticed by the Romans, they made him a chief tax collector and gave him a choice for his own posting. He chose to pack up his lavish lifestyle, servants, his wife and moved back to the city that hated him. The people of Jericho were shocked to see him riding at the head of an extended wagon train that rolled through the rolling city streets. It was not long after, during tax collection that the people especially those that picked on him before felt his avenging ire. This happened year after year. He was the richest man in the district and yet, he was not happy.
Loneliness was not the problem, his money had always attracted a number of sycophants. No, Zacchaeus was unhappy because he was not liking what he had become. He had become like those who treated him badly because he was different. He had become a bully. He made some effort to change by showing some mercy to the poorest in the district, but true happiness eluded him until the Baptist came.
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