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Column: Cardinal Rules – The lesser-known story of Zacchaeus

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland retells the tale of the short tax collector who climbed a fig tree to see Jesus – but wasn’t so hot on inviting Him back to the house for dinner…

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

MANY OF YOU have heard the story of Zacchaeus. But how many of you have read the extended edition? In my continuing mission to help you fully appreciate the Bible, I now present to you the complete version of the tale of Zacchaeus and his eventual salvation.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was very wealthy. So wealthy that he possessed a larger than average number of small donkeys, and a small but needlessly extravagant hat which he liked to wear on Tuesdays.

Now Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. (NOTE: as a visual aid, Zacchaeus was shorter than Danny De Vito, but taller than the late Gary Coleman).

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him, for he knew that Jesus had a thing for standing beside sycamore fig trees when a mount was not available.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and smiled and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Jesus also had a thing for inviting Himself to stay in people’s houses.)

“Eh, no. I’m fine where I am thanks.”

Now Zacchaeus looked at Jesus smiling up at him, and he did weigh his options, and finally he did say: “Eh, no. I’m fine where I am thanks.”

Now Jesus did look surprised at this, and his smile did falter a little. He spread his arms wide and said: “But Zacchaeus, I am your Lord and Saviour. Can we not break bread together under your roof?”

“Not really,” Zacchaeus did reply, “I mean what about that house in Capernaum where you cured the paralytic, and the people tore a hole in the roof to lower him down?”

And the crowd did mutter at this, for it was true. The roof had been ruined. And Jacob, who did own the house, had spent two whole days and a lot of money repairing a roof which now no longer matched the exterior.

“Granted there was a big crowd, and they couldn’t get the paralytic through the front door. But couldn’t they have waited? It’s not as if he was going anywhere.”

There was talk then of the jug Jesus had broken in Cana

And at this the crowd did mutter in agreement. And there was talk then of the jug Jesus had broken after inviting himself into a house in Cana, and a small ornament belonging to a friendly merchant which had turned up “by accident” in one of His robes.

And Jesus did say weakly, “But Zacchaeus, come down…” And Zacchaeus shook his head and said “No. You just keep talking there. I’m fine.”

And at that Jesus did decide to climb the tree, and all about gasped for he was very bad at it. And Jesus, in between grunting with the effort of climbing, did say, “Zacchaeus, please…just…listen to….hold on, I’ve lost a sandal…..Zacchae…you must…”

But by the time Jesus had reached the top, Zacchaeus had climbed down. All who were there looked up at Jesus, and Zacchaeus did say “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Just as long as you promise you won’t come around to my house without an invitation. It’s just weird.”

All the people saw and heard this and cheered. Salvation had come to Zacchaeus, the Son of Man had come to save the lost, and they did realise that going back to Zacchaeus’ house really wasn’t necessary. And so they all left that place.

Except for Jesus who was still stuck up the tree and could not climb down. And there he stayed on a tree branch for four days and four nights, until the figs ripened and a man with a ladder came to pick them.

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About the author:

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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