Mornin' Zacchaeus. Have you a minute? I'd like to talk to you about yesterday in front of your house."
Zacchaeus looked up from his work. "And a good mornin' to you, Ephraim. Yeah. We can talk a few moments."
He sighed, "What do you mean by 'yesterday in front of my house?'"
"Well, you as a tax collector and – uh, I as a taxpayer have known each other a long time.
"Usually I see you behind a table counting denarii and writing receipts, calm, in control of yourself. Yesterday I saw you as never before.
"All of Jericho has been talking about yesterday's bustling crowd and you too. You must have heard the crowd coming because you popped out into the street excited, jumping up, waving your arms.
'The Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost.'
"Then to my surprise, you scrambled up that sycamore tree out front. Not far up, but enough to be noticed. You're not a young man anymore. Whatever got into you? Even now you seem different. Are you OK?"
"Before yesterday, I would have told you to get lost for talking like that. But yeah! I'm ok - a few scratches on my shins. Anyway – it's not easy being a tax collector.
"Like everyone else, I have to make a living and people don't like paying taxes to the Romans, plus I have to add a charge for my own needs."
"People don't like that part either; they think I'm rich, that I take too much. Maybe I did but I'm getting ahead.
"Jericho ain't – I mean Jericho isn't a big place. And I heard that somebody, it turned out to be this same Jesus, you saw him too – this Jesus cured a blind guy, just out of town the day before.
"Like I said, Jericho isn't big and news travels fast. When I heard he was coming through town I said to myself, 'I'm gonna watch for him!'"
"But the tree. Why did you climb the tree?"
"So I could get a good look. In the tree I could see Jesus easy. As they all came near, he pointed at me.
"He turned to the person next to him as if to ask who that was in the tree. That guy must have said my name and spat 'tax collector'.
"Anyway, Jesus called my name, told me to come down and said he wanted to stay at my house. Oh man! Nobody expected that – taxes and all that stuff.
"People think I'm rich. They say bad things about me, that I'm a . . . what do you call it? – a parasite. I hate that. He treated me as if he respected me. Oh man!"
"Jesus stayed with me and we talked. I told him I would make things right. He looked into my very soul and forgave." Zacchaeus fell silent a moment, then softly as if to himself, "Zacchaeus means righteous one."
"I see. You have changed and so have I."
(Ralph Himsl: firstname.lastname@example.org)