Summary: Dramatic monologue, as if Zacchaeus were telling his story. His life was "up a tree", in trouble. He went "out on a limb" to receive the welcome and the salvation offered by Jesus.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC October 30, 1988
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, the savior for to see.”
Oh ... good morning, good morning. Almost didn't see you there. In fact, I've missed a lot of things, short as I am. Most people look each other in the eye, you know? Well, I am more intimately acquainted with your shirt than I am with your face. Being short has given me fits over the years, but there was one time, one glorious time, when it became something special.
That's why I'm here. I thought I'd better set you straight about it. Didn't I hear my name called?
You, over there, didn't you just read my story? Oh, you're not sure. Oh, I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself yet. I am Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus of Jericho, but you can call me Zack or you can call me Z, whatever. You can call me whatever you want to now, because somebody special called my name one day. It used to be that people called me really bad names and hurt me deeply, but no more, no more.
Let me tell you my story.
You see, when I was little – wait a minute, I'm still little, change that. When I was even littler than I am now, I was so short the other kids made fun of me, my father called me squirt, my mother stuffed me with food to make me grow even the rabbi at our synagogue said he thought the Lord had cursed me, maybe as an example to everybody else of what might happen to you if you didn't follow the Law.
Do you have any idea what it means to be denied all that you ought to be? For me it was that I was so little that they never picked for the games kids play, but for my sister Rachel it was that she was kind of slow in school, and people would accuse her of being lazy. She wasn't lazy and she wasn't stupid, just slower, that's all. But it hurt.
And my friend Isaac; his problem was that his family didn't have any money. Isaac's father had died when he was only seven years old, and so Isaac's mother just had to get by the best way she could. Sometimes my parents would pack up some food and take it over to Isaac's mother, and one time I went along. M y father seemed to think these folks were sort of inferior, and my friend Isaac just stayed in the back room of the house, wouldn’t even come out to see me or to thank my father. Seems like when people don't have what they need, other folks make them hurt about that.
Well, enough philosophy. I came here to tell you about me. As I said, I was so short that nobody picked me for our games, none of the girls would look at me twice, and when I got old enough to work, my father said I wasn't big enough or strong enough to help harvest the date palms he grew. How was I going to pick date palms that always seemed to grow about eighteen inches beyond my best reach? And so Father said, find something else to do.
Well, I did. Believe me, I did. And I fixed them, all those folks who had made such fun of me would have to take notice of me. If you'll forgive the play on words, they'd have to look up to me, because I found a way to get somewhere. I found a way to succeed. I became a tax collector, a publican. I got a job gathering customs duties. Let me tell you how that works.
You see, several generations ago the Romans took over our homeland. They sent in their armies, they protect us from invasion, they do a great job building roads and constructing aqueducts, and all that; but there is a price to pay. Taxes. Taxes are the price we have to pay for all the public works we enjoy.
Now the Romans collect most of the taxes themselves, but there is one kind of tax they contract out to others. That's the customs tax, the tax taken from all the goods that move along the roads from one place to another. They decided that this kind of tax they would farm out, and if you want to be a customs collector, you guarantee the Romans so much money every year, and then it's up to you to get it from the business in your city. As long as you give the Romans what you promise to give them, hey, no problem. They will look the other way while you squeeze out anything you can get for yourself.