A huge crowd gathered at Jericho’s gate. Uncle Zack (short for Zacchaeus) asked one of his friends, Eli, “Who is it?”
“It’s Jesus,” Eli said.
“You know, the Teacher. He heals the sick.”
“Oh yes! The people love him but the priests want to kill him,” said Uncle Zack.
“He’s the one!”
Frustrated because he couldn’t see, Uncle Zack climbed up into a sycamore tree. He wasn’t any taller than I was at ten years old. I climbed the same tree, and found a branch near Uncle Zack. It was a warm and sunny day. A gentle breeze carried the sweet fragrance of the balsam plantations on the Jericho road. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the heavenly aroma.
“Look!” said Uncle Zack.
Startled, I looked down and saw Jesus. I could hardly believe my eyes. Jesus stopped right under the tree where we waited. He winked at me, and then said to Uncle Zack, “Zacchaeus, come down. I’m going to your house today.”
Uncle Zack almost fell out of the tree. No one liked him and no one ever went to his house. I stepped into the crowd, right behind Jesus and all the people followed us to Uncle Zack’s house.
“I’m glad you’re here, My Lord,” said Uncle Zack and he washed Jesus’ feet. “But who am I that you want to visit me?”
“I just want to hang out with you for a while,” smiled Jesus.
You should have seen the look of surprise on my uncle’s face. Nobody visited him before except a few tax collector friends. People didn’t like tax collectors, since they often collected more taxes than people owed. This made Uncle Zack a very rich man. Yet, all the money in Jericho could not make him happy. He was lonely, and he wanted friends. Jesus’ visit made him feel special. It was evident in the way he sat near the Teacher and listened to everything He said.
“Give what is in your heart,” said Jesus, “not out of sadness or out of feeling forced to. Giving will make you happy.”
Uncle Zack wrinkled his brows. I know he wanted to believe Jesus and be his friend. He sprang to his feet so quickly he made everyone laugh. He looked straight in Jesus’ eyes and said, “I will sell half of all I have and give the money to the poor. And whoever I have cheated, I will repay four times!”
Those were strange words coming from my uncle. He was a greedy, miserly man, but something changed that night. He grabbed his moneybags and gave silver and gold to people in the room he had cheated. In a few days, he sold his house and bought a smaller one. He sold the furniture he didn’t need any more.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“Because Jesus wants to be my friend,” he said. He reminded me of Jesus’ words when He visited. He said, “Salvation has come to this house today.”
Uncle Zack gave to the poor. He helped the blind find their way on the streets. He fed the hungry. He visited prisoners and took warm clothes to them. I overheard people in town ask each other, “What happened to that rich little man? He’s got a spring in his step and a smile on his face.” I knew it was all because Jesus showed him love.
Think About It
Do you know someone who needs Jesus? Think of three ways you could be a friend and try one of them. Invite him to play a game with you or to your house for a snack. Think of three ways you could tell about Jesus' love and use one. Did this story give you some ideas? People need to know the love of God. Jesus said, "Today is the day of salvation." Remember, it is not your responsibility to save people. That is God's work. But each of us can learn to love the way Jesus does.
Pray About It
Lord Jesus, I want to love people as you do. Help me to speak honestly and boldly so my friends will know your love. Amen.