THE BALLAD OF ZACHEUS

 

Zacheus was a little man but he did not think small:

If you could measure stamina, he towered above the tall.

When huge Goliaths blocked his view, he fixed his eyes on slits

Between one body and the next; he saw the world in bits.

He stood on tiptoe by the hour and hopped up many a height:

He cocked his head and craned his neck to catch each passing sight.

To add one cubit to his growth, he bought a peddler’s brew:

Zacheus gladly gulped it down, but not an inch he grew.

And witty friends who chanced on him when he had time to sit,

Looked down and called, “Zacheus friend, are you down in a pit?”

Pretending not to notice him, their hands they used to cup

And summon him most urgently, “Come up, Zacheus! Come up!”

 

The Romans who ruled Palestine employed a trusty band

Of publicans to levy tax upon the conquered land.

The little man, who sought in vain a more respected place,

Collected tax in Jericho, reviled by his own race.

Zacheus prowled the warehouse shelves where merchants hid their wool---

No trick of theirs unknown to him? They paid their tax in full!

The thresher could not hide his corn, nor the shepherd half his sheep:

Zacheus ranged the countryside when farmers were asleep.

In tax-collecting, toil attained what only hard work can:

Zacheus rose to topmost rank --- a wealthy, little man.

But still they jeered him in the street; it cut him to the soul.

“Make haste!” they cried. “Come up, Zacheus!  come up from your dark hole!

 

Within the Temple’s holy walls, he prayed for peace of heart.

Though many Jews were gathered there, he humbly stood apart.

He bowed his head and struck his breast and begged the Lord with tears:

“O God, show mercy unto me --- a sinner, lo, these years!”

Then spoke a Pharisee up front: “Praise God that I am just,

Unlike that public sinner there! In my good deeds I trust!”

 

But God had blessed Zacheus’ prayer, for news to him was brought

Of a wonder-working Nazarene who healed and preached and taught.

They quizzed the Teacher on the point that troubled all the Jews:

“Should Israel pay the Roman tax, or should our State refuse?”

The answer of the Nazarene Zacheus learned with joy;

It meant no man had lost his soul whom Romans did employ.

“O harken to His words! He cried. “My happy heart applauds;

‘Give Caesar what is Caesar’s due; to God give what is God’s!’”

And many other things he heard of Jesus, Nazarene,

And travelers made Zacheus gasp with marvels they had seen.

And oh! His blessed words of peace, so other-worldly wise!

Zacheus longed to go unknown or sit in some disguise

At Jesus’ feet, and learn such lore as how to cope with strife

And lonely pain and lack of love and all the ills of life.

 

One day, a distant murmur rose that swelled into a roar’

A crowd had surged through city-gates and now approached his door.

He ran to meet the milling throng; he scurried round the edge

But could not see what lay beyond that solid, human hedge.

“Wherefore this crowd in Jericho? I pray you tell me true!”

A boy replied: “The Nazarene! He is but passing through.”

 

“O day of days!” Zacheus thought. “If I could climb a height

His Blessed Face with my own eyes to catch the briefest sight!”

And running on before the crowd, a sycamore he spied.

One flying leap and on a branch Zacheus sat astride.

His leafy lookout sagged and swayed; the crowd moved quickly by;

But Jesus, halting, saw a man outlined against the sky!

He smiled and called, “Zacheus friend, come down! make haste! come down!

Today I’ll sup within your house before I leave this town!”

Above Zacheus long had hung, like banner of disgrace,

The jeering words, “Come up, Zacheus!” --- sweet music to his ears!

Then grumbling people told the Lord: “your host is but a knave!”

But Jesus said, “It is the lost that I have come to save.”

 

By Mrs. Mary McCormack

 

 

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Epilogue

 

Sometimes in Life my soul is small and ‘Zacheus’ is my name.

I fear that all creation mocks my littleness and shame.

God, grant me strength to climb some tree where You are passing by.

O, look up, Lord, among the leaves where waiting You I lie.

Then call my name: “Zacheus friend! Make haste come down I say,

For I must rest within your house and sup with you today!”

 

By Mrs. Mary McCormack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Copyright; 2009 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved