*a note from the editor
Sometimes we need to hear afresh the ancient stories of Jesus interacting with the people who he came across. The story from Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) is one of those stories. If you’ve grown up in Sunday school you’ve probably heard the story so many times that the true impact of what is going on has lost it’s power. In the tradition of Jesus, Fiona tells a story that oozes with truth. It made me cry when I read it (and I’d heard it before!) Enjoy.
Zach was bad. He was bad through and through. By the time he’d reached the age of 10 he was notorious in his school. When he was a little P1 nobody had liked him because he smelled bad and his nose was always running, but now he was 10 nobody liked him because he was horrible. He bullied people, he stole their things, he spat at the teachers and he swore in class. Everybody hated him.
One day in class 6, Zach’s class, Mrs McWinklebottom called the children over to her to hear something very exciting. They could tell she was excited because small beads of perspiration had started to form on her wrinkly brow. Zach, elbowing a few children out of the way, thought to himself he’d better go and hear what the old hag was going to say.
“Boys and girls!” she began. “We are extremely lucky. The best, most famous footballer in the world is coming to our school, and actually coming to our classroom!” Zach stopped putting chewing gum in Holly’s pigtails and looked up. “Oh yes,” Mrs McWinklebottom went on, “Christos Hesus is actually coming to see us. Now what kind of children do you think he’s going to want to see?”
Ernest Pimpleton put up his hand. “Good children like me” he scoffed.
“That’s right, Ernest. Good children who try hard and do lovely work all the time.”
Ernest looked round the room proudly at his admiring classmates. The teacher’s eyes narrowed. “Now what kind of children is Christos not going to want to see?” she said.
All eyes in the room turned accusingly on Zach.
“Yes, boy and girls, He’ll not want to see horrible boys who do horrible things!”
Zach shrugged. “Don’t care. Don’t want tae see him anyway.” But that was a lie. In his heart of hearts, Zach idolised Christos and was desperate to see him; the most famous footballer in the world.
As the time drew near, the classroom was in utter chaos. All the children were in a frenzy of excitement, making welcome signs and posters in preparation for the big day. Mrs McWinklebottom pulled Zach aside and hissed in his ear: “I don’t want Christos Hesus thinking badly of me because you’re in my class. Just keep yourself hidden and don’t make a sound.” Then she tottered off in her heels to admire a welcome banner Ernest had spent all week making. His father had bought him the most expensive sequins and paint and Ernest was very proud of his work.
Finally the day arrived, and the class waited with bated breath for the arrival of Christos Hesus. As the thud of a football being kicked along the corridor signified Hesus’ arrival, an awed hush fell on the class. As the celebrity drew closer, Zach felt the strangest sensation: shame seemed to creep all over him. Memories of all the bad things he’d done, all the people he’d hurt, all the things he’d stolen came back to him in one horrible flashback. He slunk beneath the table and prayed that the visit he’d so desperately longed for would soon be over.
As Christos entered the room and the class drew a collective uptake of breath, Zach watched the footballer’s golden boots walk about the room. Christos chatted to people here and there, but he seemed to be looking for something. All of a sudden, the golden boots stopped right beside Zach. He trembled. Don’t find me! Don’t find me! He hissed under his breath. Nevertheless, the owner of the golden boots had every intention of finding the boy who did not wish to be seen. Looking up shyly, Zach saw the smiling face of Chistos Hesus, the most famous footballer in the world.
“Hello!” said Christos. “You must be Zach. I’ve heard all about you. Come out from under the table and I’ll teach you some of my football skills.”
Zach did not know what to say. He simply stared at Christos in disbelief. The self-righteous little souls of the rest of class 6 smarted at the injustice. Ernest Pimpleton howled indignantly, “It should have been me you chose! I’m a good boy!” Mrs McWinklebottom backed him up. “Em, Mr Hesus, Sir, I think there’s been a wee mistake. You see, Zach is a very bad boy and he doesn’t deserve to go with you.”
Christos looked at her in wonder. “Dear lady,” he explained. “Do any of your children deserve this? Are any of them perfect? I didn’t come for the children who thought they were good enough – I came for the one who had no hope. This boy, who everyone had written off as a hopeless case; who nobody believed could achieve anything. I came to show him he is valuable.” With that, he helped Zach up and took him into the playground.
The children of class six pressed their noses up to the window up to see Zach and the celebrity, some still outraged, some curious, and some with a sneaking sense that perhaps they weren’t so deserving as they had previously thought.
There was nothing startling to be seen. Christos and Zach talked as they kicked the football. They talked and kicked and talked and kicked. And although nobody ever found out the content of those conversations, and nobody ever saw Christos again, from that day on, Zach was a changed boy. He gave back everything he’d ever stolen, and more. He apologised to all the people he’d hurt, he even said sorry to all the teachers. He did make a few mistakes as he grew older - as we all do - but whenever he did, he apologised and tried to make up for it. As he went through his life, wherever Zach saw someone that society had marginalised and judged, he went out of his way to give them acceptance and a second chance. And so the grace he had been given passed on and on and on.
This blog post was brought to you by....Fiona Shaw
Fiona is from a teaching background and is passionate about using story as a teaching tool. She plans to write more stories in the future.