Zacchaeus (Zac's Tax)

Zacchaeus (Zac's Tax)

A Stage Play by Ruth Carter

A short monolog about the tax collector who met Jesus



Let’s see. Three water jugs. I can give one to that young widow woman who works so hard in the fishery. I’ve seen her trying to tote water home in that old leaky wineskin. And then there’s that stone mason who broke his leg and is unable to work just now. It’s been pretty hard for him to provide for that growing family of his. I know they could use one of my water jugs. I’ll just fill it up with bundles of flour, figs and olives and the like, so they can eat, too. That’ll be fun. I can do that for the widow, too. Both families surely deserve any help I can give them.

Now, who should I give that third jug to? (Suddenly giggles gleefully, rubbing his hands together). I know! Hadad ben Hadad! That rascally old scoundrel wouldn’t expect anything from me! Why, he and I have been trying to cheat each other for years! He’s even succeeded from time to time, too. He won’t know what hit him. (Sobers) I won’t give it to him because he deserves it. He doesn’t deserve anything from me, the old reprobate! I’ll give it to him because he doesn’t deserve it. (A quick look up) And I know all about getting what I don’t deserve, don’t I? If I got what I really deserved, I’d be swinging from a gallows somewhere.

(Checks his list)

Hmmmm. Eight cloaks. Eight! That means I own 16! What do I need with 16 cloaks? Or even eight, for that matter? I can only wear one at a time. I know I said I’d give away half of all my goods, but this is ridiculous! I can only wear one cloak, so I’ll just keep one. (Scribbles on his list) There. Fifteen cloaks to give away. I think I’ll send them to that leper colony in Judea. What fun! We’ll just add the cloaks to the barrels of grain and vegetables we’ve already got earmarked for them. Those poor souls are so used to getting cast-off old rags. They’ll enjoy having something nice to wear for a change. (Skips around a bit) I’ve never had so much fun in my life!

(Looks up as if he just suddenly notices the audience.)

Oh, hello, there! I’ll bet you’re wondering what old Shorty is doing, giving away all this stuff? Well, I’ve only just begun, let me tell you!

Now, you’ve probably all had dealings with me at some time or another. As you know, I work for the Roman government, collecting taxes. Thing is, the only way a tax collector can earn a living is if he takes a little off the top. If the real tax is 15%, I simply charge 16% and pocket the change. It’s made me a tidy bit of profit over the years. I can’t pretend I haven’t done a lot of that. As you can see, I am a man of some wealth and substance. This is just the way things get done around here and you’ve all been pretty helpless to do anything about it. It never bothered me. I figured I had a right to some of those taxes. So what if nobody liked me? I was rich. So what if nobody respected me? I was feared. And if it wasn’t for that wily old Hadad ben Hadad, I’d be sitting pretty. Somehow that ol’ hyena had a way of making off with some of my hard-earned graft. Still, I’ve managed to amass quite a fortune.

Yesterday, things were going pretty much as usual. A merchant had come by to settle his accounts. He owed 21% of his profits in taxes. It came to thousands. After I rounded the figure up to 25%, I had a nice sum for me, too. It was starting out to be a pretty profitable day. All I had to do was watch out for that scamp, Hadad!

Well, my next customer was a blind beggar. He never had much money from his begging, but it was my duty to relieve him of Rome’s share. I confess I frequently got an extra coin or two from him, but it really wasn’t worth the effort. Today he was different, however. To my astonishment, he could see! He looked me straight in the eye and told me he’d been healed by Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, I’d heard of this Jesus. A fisherman or carpenter or some such, he was now an itinerant preacher with a rather motley following. Some stories of so-called miracles had made it even here, to Jericho. I hadn’t put much credence to them. Stories have a way of being blown up beyond recognition. But here, right in front of me, was proof of a miracle. I’d seen this old guy begging at the gates for years. His eyes had been cloudy and crusty. Now they were bright and clear. He’d been such a pathetic heap of bones, too, as he’d groveled for the few coins passers-by would drop into his cup. Now he stood straight and tall, with such a glad expression on his face!

I knew I just had to see Jesus.

I quickly closed up my shop and went looking for Him. The old beggar had told me that Jesus was still here in Jericho. I ran down the streets until I found a large crowd of people. They were listening to a man I could not see. Somebody told me it was Jesus. I had to see Him!

I tried to press closer but the crowd wouldn’t budge. I craned my neck and stood on my toes to try and peer over the heads or around the shoulders of those in front of me. No good. I am just too short. Look at me! Everybody’s taller than me! Even my wife is taller than me! The only name anybody knows me by is "Shorty".

I try to see this man. I turn to the right, I turn to the left. I cannot get through the crowd and I cannot see past the people.

I do not understand, but it has become very important that I see this Man. I see that the crowd is moving on, following Jesus. I see they are heading for the central square. I think. If I can get ahead of them, I can perhaps climb on something to give me height and then I can see Him. Taking another street, I quickly run to the square. There I see a tree. A nice big sycamore, in the middle of the square. It’s perfect.

It’s a long time since I climbed a tree. Perhaps I’ve never climbed a tree. Somehow I managed to clamber up and sit on a branch just above the heads of the crowds.

Sure enough, along He came! I could see Him, this Man who could heal blind people! A warmth spread through me as I looked at His face. It was so full of gentle love as He spoke and ministered to the people. I felt a kind of fulfillment in just looking at him that I’d never felt when counting my money. It was enough that I could see Him.

Suddenly, Jesus stopped! Right under my tree! He looked up, directly into my eyes and held out His hand. "Zaccheaus," He said. This Man, whom I’d never seen before in my life, called me by name! Me! Zacchaeus! "Come down quickly from there," Jesus said, "for I want to go to your house!"

I was overcome. This great Man, this Man of God, wanted to come to my house! My house! I scrambled down as fast as I could, feeling a great joy sweep over me. I could barely talk, I was so happy. Nobody had ever wanted to come to my house! They all hated me! They feared me! But this Man, who could heal blind beggars, he wanted to come to my house, to visit with me. Me! Zacchaeus!

As I led Jesus to my home, I could hear the grumbles of the crowd. "Jesus is going to the home of a notorious sinner," they said. And it was true. I am a notorious sinner!

I do not know why Jesus chose to come to my house. I just know that He did, and somehow, I don’t understand this either, I felt like I needed nothing else but Him. My wealth, which I had worked so hard to gather became an obscenity to me. I longed to rid myself of the suffering I had caused people in my greed and pride. I wanted to be cleansed of the great wrongs I had committed. I knew I was, indeed, a sinner. As the joy Jesus gave me grew inside, I wanted to respond somehow, out of the fullness of my heart.

"Lord," I blurted. "I am going to give half of my wealth to the poor." Even as I said this, my joy expanded. It felt so right. And then I thought, but what about the people I have wronged? Oh, I must do something for them, too! So I said, "And I’m going to pay back everybody I cheated! I’m going to pay them back four times as much as what I took!"

As I said this, it was like a great weight had been lifted from me. Without growing an inch, I felt taller, lighter, somehow more full of vibrant life. Jesus smiled as He hugged me close.

"Today," He said, "you and your family are saved, for you are a son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save all who, like you, are lost."

I don’t deserve this! Not one little bit!

And now I must get on with my task. This is so much fun. (Looks at his list) There. I’ve now given away half of my wealth. Now I must pay back all those whom I’ve cheated. (Turns a page of his note pad and chuckles) And I think I’ll start with poor old Hadad ben Hadad! I’m going to return everything I’ve ever cheated out of the old goat. Four-fold! I can hardly wait to see his face.

(He looks up in an attitude of prayer)

You did it for me, God. You gave me Jesus when I had done nothing to deserve Him. Thank you, God. Thank you for coming into my home. Thank you for saving me while I was still a sinner.


© 2009 Ruth Carter

Author's Note

Ruth Carter
One of these days I'm going to write the Zacchaeus story using Dickens' Christmas Carol as a template.

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Added on January 10, 2009


Ruth Carter
Ruth Carter

Cottage Country, Ontario, Canada

Always a storyteller, whether it's writing, singing or acting! And, to quote Fanny Crosby, "I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love"! more..

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