Thursday, October 25, 2012

Zack's Story--Part 2

[Please read the last posting before continuing here....]

Zack became intoxicated with power.  For him, power meant solitude on the one hand and control on the other--the high watermarks of a successful life.

An Arab once told him, "Death is power, I believe.  You kill a man, you own his brother."

"No, my friend," Zack replied, "If it is believed you will kill without remorse, then you own both brothers.  That is power."

Conversations of this type were purely academic to Zack, though.  It was one thing to cheat a man of his purse, but quite a different matter to cheat him of his life.  Even though Zack had the means to kill with impunity, he would never actually do such a thing.  But only he knew that.

This is why Zack became intrigued by reports of an itinerant Rabbi who has exhibited great power.  It was said he healed sick people--the blind, lame, even lepers.  Others made the fantastic claim this Rabbi  had raised the dead.  When news came this Rabbi would be traveling through Jericho, Zack determined to see him.

The day did arrive, and the streets of the city were pregnant with people, all vying for a peek at the living legend.  Zack pushed against the shifting wall of humanity.  At first they reluctantly accommodated him.  But when Zack's desire to see the Rabbi became apparent to them, they deliberately closed him off.  They flashed him barely disguised looks of contempt as they happily blocked his way.

Seeing a sycamore tree arching its long branches towards the narrowing of the road by which the parade was traveling, Zack ran behind the throng to the tree, and climbed it.  Out on one of its thick limbs, Zack could peek over the heads of the crowd and see the Rabbi leading a procession of his disciples.

Zack doubted the reports.  From his vantage point, the famous Rabbi seemed quite unremarkable.  Surely a man of such alleged power would show it.  But this man was ordinary and plain--far too humble to possess such prowess.

"What are you doing?" Zack muttered under his breath.  The Rabbi had stopped and was watching him.  Oh, please, please don't draw attention to me, Zack pleaded in his heart.  Too late; everyone began looking around to see what had caught the Rabbi's eye.  The Rabbi started towards Zack, keeping his gaze on him.

"Well I'll be," someone in the crowd said.  Another pointed and said, "This might be good."  A person overhearing the comment agreed and added, "Yeah, maybe Scratch will get what's comin' to him."  Suddenly, all up and down the line the people quieted to catch what the Rabbi would do to the old sinner.

Standing beneath Zack, with his eyes still fixed on him, the Rabbi said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.”

The onlookers gasped in astonishment.  "Doesn't he know who that is?" someone said.  "I don't believe it," chimed in another.  One of the Pharisees in the group said, "It's just the kind of thing I'd expect him to do."

But Zacchaeus was dumbstruck for an entirely different reason: the Rabbi had called him by name--by name!  Why would he do that?  How could he do that?  And even more perplexing, when the Rabbi had gotten close, Zacchaeus could clearly see a kindness in the Rabbi's eyes of a quality he had never experienced before, and doubted anyone had.  What power is this?  Zacchaeus thought.

Coming to his senses, Zacchaeus quickly clamored down the tree--practically falling out.  People stepped aside to let him join the Rabbi.  "Oh, please, yes, Rabbi.  I would be most honored. Please, allow me to lead you there."

Everyone watched as Zacchaeus led the Rabbi and his disciples to his house.  Zacchaeus suddenly felt angry at all the sneering, envious, derisive, and disgusted faces meeting him as he passed by.  Every so often Zacchaeus would look furtively back at the Rabbi, fearing it had all been a joke at his expense.  But the Rabbi still followed, and his face retained that inexplicable countenance of serenity and mercy.  The contrast between the Rabbi's gentle demeanor and the crowd's contempt pounded hard on the door to Zacchaeus' heart, causing the framework to crack and the hinges to loosen.

Later, the Rabbi and his disciples reclined with Zacchaeus at his table for the evening meal.  Zacchaeus had left the door to his house open so people could watch the proceedings from the sides of the room.

The Rabbi spoke of how the Kingdom of God was near--even at the threshold.  A Pharisee scoffed and said, "Why do you recline with such a sinner?  Don't you know who this man is?"

The Rabbi turned his head back towards the Pharisee and said, "It's not for the well the physician comes, but for the sick."

"You are demon possessed to pay such honor to a demon," the Pharisee snapped.

"Why are you so ready to see this man condemned?  Do you not know that when judgment comes the end comes with it?  Or is your heart like Jonah's, who feared God's mercy more than His wrath?  Know what it means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.'"

Zacchaeus listened to this exchange in disbelief; he had not seen power such as this any where at any time.  It dawned on him this would have to be the case because what he was witnessing was real power.

As that power continued to bash down the door to Zacchaeus' heart, his mind desperately tried to wrap itself around the profundity of this revelation of real power.  He knew it was true, but what did real mean?  His power was real, too, wasn't it?  People feared him; they fawned over him; wasn't that real power?  Yet here was a man who spoke with such authority, and no one in the room feared him. Why?

Zacchaeus' eyes darted from the Rabbi to his disciples to his servants to the quests and back to the Rabbi.  Suddenly, Zacchaeus realized how perilously close they all were to a precipice.  Zacchaeus had the means to push them over the edge; they all knew it, and that's why they so easily capitulated to him.  But he also knew if given a chance, they would push him over, in a heart beat.  But Zacchaeus began to suspect this Rabbi would willingly jump first if it meant keeping all of them from falling.  This was real power.  The power Zacchaeus possessed, the kind these people secretly coveted, flowed from  fear, and so could vanish in an instant.  The Rabbi's power flowed from mercy, so it would go on and on.  Yes, this was real power.  Everyone in that room should fear this power; instead, they sneered at it, not realizing how close they all were to falling into the abyss.

The door of Zacchaeus' heart could no longer bear the strain, and came crashing down.  The anger pent up behind it gushed forth.

"How dare you insult a quest in my house!" Zacchaeus screamed.

For the first time in his life, Zacchaeus had defended another person.  And for the first time in his life he experienced the mercy he had sought with wailing until his tears ran out and he shut up his heart.

“Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!” Zacchaeus declared.

Then Jesus (for this was the Rabbi's name) said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Jon Kokko said...

I was just conversing with my wife the other day on the topic of "things not said" in the scriptures but things we can speculate on or infer.

Zac has crossed my mind a few times...