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4

Coming Clean

Zaccheus

“What are you doing here? We paid your abusive fees just two weeks back. You can’t possibly want more already.”

This is not the first time I received this reception. I may be the most hated man in all Jericho—maybe all Israel.

“Please let me in. I’m not here to take, I’m here to give—no—to return what is rightfully yours.”

Finally, the door cracks open.

“May—may I come in?” I ask.

Slowly the door swings a bit wider and Ethan, a well-to-do businessman, allows me to step inside his home. We stand in his foyer. He invites me no farther.

I understand. I’ve been collecting his taxes since he moved here from Jerusalem eight years ago. Truthfully, it’s men like Ethan who have made me the rich man I am today—or should I say, I was yesterday. The tax Rome requires of Jewish businessmen like Ethan is high to begin with, but I didn’t become rich taking just what Rome demands. I am allowed to take as much as I can get, and that’s what I’ve done—for years.

Ethan, and others like him, filled my accounts.

He broke the awkward silence. “What do you have to give me, Zaccheus, next month’s tax bill? Why not send one of your lackeys with it, like every other time?”

“Ethan,” I began, “It’s not like that. Today, I’m here to make things right.”

Ethan chuckled, “How could you possibly do that?”

I’ve found, in the past week, the best way to fix all these broken relationships in my life, is to come right out with it. It’s on me, so best to just get it off. Since the day Jesus came through Jericho, I’ve spoken with a dozen local businessmen. It’s always the same.

“I’ve been stealing from you,” I said.

“What?” he replied.

“I’ve been taking far more from you than Rome requires,” I continued.

“You’ve been what? You’ve been robbing me? And now you stand right here in my home, for what? Are you here to mock me?”

As his anger mounted, he yanked open the door and motioned for me to leave.

“Get out!” He was shouting now. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that his wife sidling up to hear what was happening. I stood my ground. This was not the first angry man I faced recently.

“I’m here to make it right,” I repeated.

He stopped pushing but did not close the door.

“I’m here to return what I’ve stolen, and to ask you to forgive me. I’ve grown rich through over taxing men like you, honest hard-working businessmen, who have earned their wealth through hours and days of planning and hard work. I’ve slithered in and taken every penny I could manage.”

As I spoke the truth He seemed to be softening.

“So how can you make this right?” he asked.

“I keep meticulous records,” I said. “I know exactly what I’ve taken, and today, I’m returning four times as much as I have over taxed you.”

I handed him the bag of coins.

“It’s all there,” I said, “6,400 denarii. Eight years worth of my dishonesty in a bag. I pray you’ll forgive me.” I said. He opened the bag and ran his hand through the coins.

“I-I don’t understand,” Ethan said, quietly now. His wife approached. He showed her the bag.

She looked at me, head shaking.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked.

I answered with a question of my own.

“Have you heard of Jesus the Nazarene?”

“I’ve heard the name, one of those Messiah pretenders, isn’t he?” Ethan replied.

“I saw him the day He came through town,” Ethan’s wife said. “I needed a few things and went down to the market. As I shopped the square filled with people, and a procession flooded the streets. The man you mentioned, Jesus, walked in the center of it all. Crowds of His followers filled the streets in every direction. People pressed toward him, calling out. People all around me told the most unbelievable stories. Healings. Miracles. I heard one person say He raises the dead. I didn’t know what to think about all of it.”

I say, “He picked me out of the crowd, or should I say, out of a tree.” I stifle a laugh as I remembered how strange it all seemed at the time. “The day He came through town, I too wanted to see Him. The crowds, as you say, were such that I couldn’t see anything past the second or third row. I looked farther down the path He was walking and noticed a sycamore tree, and had an idea. I ran ahead and climbed the tree to gain a vantage point.

“I thought I was hidden there, but as He approached my perch our eyes locked. He saw me. And this was no glance. His eyes seemed to be calling me, and not just down from the tree. His eyes were calling me out of my past, out of all the lies and cheating, out of my very identity. It unnerved me.

“The next thing I knew, He was actually calling me.

“Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house,” Jesus said.

“At the sound of His voice, I scrambled down the tree, and we headed off to my home. Once inside, away from the eyes and ears of the crowd, He sat with us. He had me call my whole family in. He asked if we had any bread and wine. He broke the bread and we shared the wine. It felt like the Passover festivities of my youth. We have not celebrated Passover since we have been here in Jericho.

“My childhood rushed back to me as I ate the bread He offered. In my father’s house, we always celebrated Passover and every other feast and fast of our people. I can remember hearing the story of the slaughtered lamb and the night our people ate in haste and fled Egypt before Pharoh’s army. My love for the Almighty grew in those years.

“As I took the cup from His hands and touched it to my lips, I heard my own voice, forty years earlier, calling out to the Almighty, and promising to walk in His ways all the days of my life.

“With this memory came a flood of shame for all that I’ve become. I sat there, surrounded by all the things my lying and thievery had won me and began to weep. It was then our eyes met once more.

“Drink,” He said. “Drink and be clean. This cup is redemption for you and your household. You can be pure again. That’s what my name means—pure—Zaccheus and that’s when I broke down.

“I wept there for what seemed like an hour, and He gathered Himself, and started to leave. We walked out the door together, and the crowd was still there. I gripped His arm and looked up into his eyes one more time.

“I said, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.

“His face seemed to say He knew I would. Then He turned to the crowd and said, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’

“Since that day I’ve been making things right. It seems I owe almost everyone in Jericho something. At first, I was afraid to approach those I had cheated. I thought I would find hostility. But it has been the most freeing thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t know the strength of money’s hold on my heart. The more money I had, the more fear surrounded me, and the more greed grasped at my heart. Once I broke the hold riches had on my heart, it changed everything.

“Now these visits fill me with life. Giving back what I have taken from folks like you brings joy and freedom. I never would have imagined giving could be so fulfilling.”

As I finish my story, I can see that Ethan and his wife are both on the edge of tears. I turn to leave and Ethan approaches and embraces me. “We do forgive you, Zaccheus, and I will be looking into this Jesus. If He can change you, He might just be the Messiah.”

His wife touches my hand and says “Thank you,” and the door closes behind me.

There is nothing more satisfying that walking in His ways.

~~~
To read the original story, see Luke 19:1-10.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2017 all rights reserved.

Encounters With JesusIf you enjoyed this brand new Encounter With the Jesus, you might enjoy my book, Encounters with Jesus. It is a collection of forty stories told in similar fashion, from the conception of Jesus through His resurrection. It's available now in paperback or kindle versions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by

See you again soon.

Ben

12

Healing the royal official's son by Joseph-Marie Vien, 1752.

A Royal Official

“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” my wife said when she realized Jesus was our only hope.

My son was sick—dying really—and the doctors gave us no hope. They couldn’t even give a name to his malady. He couldn’t keep his food down, and breathing caused such pain it made him shudder. For the last week, he’d had no more than a few cups of milk. He was dying. My little Marcus would leave this life as a twelve-year-old, and leave his mother and me broken.

It came on him suddenly, just three months ago. At first, we thought he had the flu. There were times we thought he would melt from the heat his body produced. Food was harder and harder for him to hold down. The doctors tried everything. I called in doctors from all the neighboring towns. Each one had the same advice. “Try to keep him comfortable.”

I’m a Roman, noble by birth. I’m part of Rome’s occupying force here in Galilee. I’m not military. There are many of Rome’s military forces spread over the region, but I’m here to create Roman culture. My counterparts and I come to these satellite conquests and live Roman lives. This way the people of our new territories can see what Roman life looks like. We live in relative luxury when compared to the rest of Capernaum. This luxury includes the servants we brought with us from Rome. I miss my homeland, though, and have wondered more than once if Roman doctors could heal my son.

My butler brought his family with him from Rome when we moved here four years back. They lived together in a suite of rooms in the servants quarters, off the main house. He is my most trusted confidant. I speak with him about things I would not even share with my wife.

Three days back, my butler mentioned that Jesus, the healer, was back in Galilee—in Cana. We had talked about taking my son to him a few weeks ago, but the reports had him in Jerusalem and around Judea. My son was too sick to travel that far. But Cana—Cana is only a few hours from here.

We first heard of this healer a few months back, when my butler took his wife to find him. It was one Saturday night after the Jew’s Sabbath was over, right here in Capernaum. He told me, the next day, there had been dozens of people waiting outside the home where Jesus spent his Sabbath. When He emerged He healed every one of them. Not one person went home without a touch from this healer, including my butler’s wife. She had been suffering from vision loss since he came into my service. In any practical sense, she was blind. But when he came back in that night, there was a ruckus in the servants quarters. I went to see what was going on and found a full-blown party going on. When he saw me, he didn’t even apologize for the noise or seem concerned. He ran over and gave me a hug. His eyes were wet with tears.

“She can see,” he said through his tears.

I looked at her across the room and our eyes met, and she was nodding. It was true. She was completely healed. She could see.

So when he told me Jesus was back in the area, I told him to get my horse and carriage ready. Then I ran to my son’s bedside. I found my wife holding him, tears running down her cheeks.

“What is it?” I asked.

“He’s gone,” she said.

“Dead?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, “but close. He’s not responding to anything anymore.”

“I want to take him to see the healer—up in Cana,” I said.

“He can’t travel. He’ll be dead before you get him in the carriage.” She said.

“But the healer is back in Cana. He can save him, I’m sure of it.” I urged.

“No. I won’t let you take him,” she insisted.

“Well, I’m going anyway,” I told her.

I threw on my cloak and rushed for the door.

“You’re leaving now?” she asked. “It will be nightfall by the time you reach Cana.”

“Look at him,” I said. “He’s at death’s door. I must see this man as soon as possible.”

“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” she finally agreed.

I ran out the door and found the horse and carriage ready for me in front of the house. I briefly explained I was going alone. We separated horse and carriage and saddled him. I was off for Cana.

My last look at my son panicked me. His body seemed limp, his color, gray. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I had to find this healer and all I knew of his whereabouts was Cana.

When I got to the town, I headed toward the magistrates building near the town center. But before I got there, I saw a crowd gathered in the square. In the center was a man who seemed to have everyone’s attention. As I approached I began to understand why. His words drew me like a bee to a blossom. The sound of His voice seemed to exude peace if that’s even possible. After two hours riding in panic, a calm from without began to press its way into my soul.

When the crowd saw the royal insignia on my horse, they made room for me. I dismounted and walked through the assembly to Jesus.

He stood before me in silence.

“My son is at the point of death,” I began. “He may be dead already, but I’m sure if you will come with me to Capernaum, you can make him well.”

Jesus turned from me to address the crowd.

Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.

Sir,” I almost barked, feeling the panic rising again. I gathered myself and started again, this time with a forced calm. “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus said, “Go; your son lives.

The confidence in His tone—in His words—banished my fear and I believed Him. Three words turned my fear—panic—into peace. I turned and headed back toward my horse. I stopped. I realized I hadn't thanked Him. I turned to go back but He had His back facing me, holding another man in the crowd who knelt before Him.

As the evening hurried toward night, I found an inn at the side of the road. I slept well all night long, and that surprised me. I hadn’t slept that well since before my son fell ill.

I started awake, disoriented, forgetting where I was. For a split second, worry pressed upward from the depths. Then I saw my cloak and gear and remembered everything.

Only minutes after I left the inn, my butler and I met in the way.

“Master, master, your son lives!” he was calling as he ran to meet me.

We rejoiced for no short time, and then I asked, “When? When did things change?”

Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him,” came his answer.

“It was Jesus!” I said with confidence. "That’s when He spoke the words."

“Words?” he asked.

Your son lives,” I answered. “Those three words saved Marcus’ life. Three little words. Your son lives.”

We would be a few more hours on the road, but there was no gap in our talk of this fellow, Jesus. My servant told me of the things he had seen in Capernaum, and I told him my story again, and again, and once more.

Your son lives.” His words resound in my mind.

When we arrived at home, my son greeted me at the end of the walk. He started telling me what happened at home, while I tried to tell him what Jesus had done. In the end, I told my story to everyone in the household. I told my son, my wife, my other children. I called all the servants together and told them to bring their families. I then recounted the miracle for them as well. 

All who heard believed in this Healer from Nazareth.

~~~

To read the original story, see John 4:46-54.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2017

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

If you enjoyed this story you can find forty more like it in my book Encounters With Jesus. It takes you, as you read, from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon.

If this story encouraged you, would you do me a favor? Would you share it? It would be a great honor to me and would get the word out about the book.

Thanks so much for taking the time to spend here with me.

Walk with Jesus,

Ben

4

It's here - it's finally here!

I'm so excited to announce the release of my new book:

Encounters With Jesus.

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

This book was birthed right here at Another Red Letter Day. My interaction with this wonderful community of faith has encouraged me to write, and keep writing. So I want to say a huge thank you to all of you.

It is available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

I'm hoping that you'll share it with your friends.

If you have not been following my blog, let me bring you up to speed.

Encounters is a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus. What is striking about these stories is the way they look through the eyes of the people He touched.

What would it have been like to be on the boat when Jesus calmed the sea?
How would it feel to see your son raised from the dead?
How would you react if Jesus asked you to sell all that you have?
Can you imagine standing at the foot of the cross?

I walk through the life of Jesus from before His conception to His resurrection speaking in dozens of voices.

To those of you who have shared life with me the last few years as a blogger, I hope you will join me in praying that this simple approach to the life of Jesus will draw men and women to Him. Will you pray with me for the impact of this book?

If you’re on the fence, here are some reviews and such:

A Must Read! by Debby Maciorowski

Encounters with Jesus by Felecia Clarke

Encounters With Jesus  by Kristyn Mogler

Encounters With Jesus | Book Review by Steve Bremner

An Interview with Benjamin Nelson by Felecia Clarke

Ben NelsonThanks so much.

Remember: Shine where you're plugged in.

Ben

7

I'm just one short week away from the release of my new book

Encounters With Jesus

Encounters With Jesus Full Cover

The current plan is to have the kindle version will be available for purchase NEXT MONDAY!!

I can't tell you how excited I am about the book's release.

Here is an excerpt from one of the stories...

Crumbs for a Dog

---

He spoke again.

“It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.”

If anyone else had said that to me, it would have hurt. Another slap in the face. But coming from Him, I knew I had no right, no entitlement, to special treatment. And yet there was compassion in the air, drawing me in, bidding me come and ask again.

“You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.”

All was silent for a moment, and then He laughed. He wasn’t mocking me. It was more like my words found their way through a crack in a wall. Not a wall of His making or mine, but a wall that separated us nonetheless. My humility mingled with His compassion dissolved the boundary that seconds ago stood as a roadblock to my salvation.

His laughter was infectious. Soon I was laughing, too, as were all the men who stood with Him.

“Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!”

There was a glee in His voice, a delight, as though granting my deepest need gave Him His deepest joy.

---

Thanks for poking your head in

See you again soon

Ben

a Roman Legion

Yesterday in my narrative stemming from the encounter Jesus had with the centurion actually focuses more on Luke's account of the meeting in Luke 7 starting in verse 2 than from the Matthew 8 account.

The big difference in the accounts is that in Matthew’s telling Jesus meets the centurion, and in Luke, He meets the centurions friends.

You know what – I really don’t let that kind of stuff bug me. I don’t try to hide it, but by the same token it just does not bug me. I guess it could, but it doesn’t. So, blatantly ignoring that fact, I move on.

Let’s take a little time contrasting these three types of relationships the centurion is maintaining.

He has soldiers under his command.

He has servants or slaves (at least one) at his beck and call.

He has friends who will drop their agenda and help when he is in need.

It is interesting to me that these are all types of the Christian in relation to Christ as well.

I know I get over on this a bunch, but our identity in Christ is really important. If we see ourselves in an unhealthy light, we can not help but get our signals crossed in how we relate to our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Some believe it can only be one way – for example, there are many in Christ who believe the only way we can ever relate to Jesus is as slave to master. If you have followed me for any length of time, you may have picked up the fact that I endorse the idea of walking as the servant of Christ. This is an identity carried by almost every writer in the New Testament. I have written extensively about this, so I won’t take the time to elaborate further today – though you might like to check out one of these articles:

Servanthood

Jesus, What Are You Doing?

By the same token there are those who demand that we leave the life of the servant behind and live the life of friend, or better bride! I take up, on a weekly basis, in my Song of Songs teaching series this part.

I don't believe that we must leave one to have the other.

I believe Jesus chooses to reveal our identity to us line upon line, precept upon precept.

We enter the kingdom as servants, but we are not supposed to stay there. The life of the growing Christian is one that progresses from the fundamentals of servant hood, becoming a soldier of the cross, to friend, then son, and even bride. But these are not total transformations like caterpillar to butterfly, but rather greater levels of intimacy and proficiency.

Think of any sport, or any activity you might apprentice for. You start with the most basic practices. In baseball for example, it is throwing and catching. Long before you learn strategy, you learn how to throw with accuracy and catch anything close.

You progress to the basic rules of the game. Next, how to react in situations so as to best use the rules to your advantage. The rules protect you from unfair play, and limit you from taking unfair advantage.

Soon you’re learning “plays.” These plays combine the fundamentals of throwing and catching with logical application of the rules.

You learn to throw a double play because 1) you know how to throw and catch,  2) you know the rules and what must happen in case of a hit with a runner on first base.

Later in your career you may come to a time when you can coach or manage a team. You begin to use strategy to choose which players should play which positions. You are having a huge impact on the game with out even stepping on the field.

This does not mean you no longer can throw or catch.

So it is with us. We never leave off servant hood, but we grow in trust and intimacy.

Back to our centurion. I love that he is so devoted to his servant that he involves his friends to rescue this one.

In this encounter, I find the centurion is actually acting as a type of Christ. Christ leaving his 99 soldiers who are safe and warm in the barracks and recruiting His friends to help Him save the one slave that is in trouble.

Great picture isn’t it?

BenSee you tomorrow

Ben

 

Oh yeah, don't forget to leave your questions about the Bible or Christian life here:

Another Red Letter Day Q&A

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