Greetings, Friend Eleazar:
My wife Rhoda and I extend salutations to you and your household. Since you were last here in Jericho, much has taken place which I feel will be of interest to you.
I am sending, by the hand of my messenger who brings you this letter, the 180 shekels which you so generously lent me last year at tax time. As you know, I had no hope of being able to repay you at so early a date, but remarkable circumstances have taken place which make it possible for me to fulfill my obligation to you now.
Surely you remember the chief tax collector here in Jericho, Zacchaeus. Of course you would! He was the cause of my having to borrow these 180 shekels. He plays an important part in the story I am about to tell you.
In the ninth hour of the second day of this past week, as I was preparing to close up my shop, I noticed a great throng of people moving along the main street about five hundred paces from my doorway. I was curious to see what was attracting so much attention, so I hastily secured the door and moved to join the crowd.
The first thing I heard, as I neared the throng, was excited talk about a miracle that had just taken place. They were saying that Jesus, the Man we have heard so much about in past weeks, had just healed a blind beggar who had been sitting outside the gates to the city. Even as I listened, trying to hear more of the story, I realized that Jesus himself was in the middle of the crowd. I followed along for a way, trying to get in closer to Him, but the press was great.
All of a sudden, Jesus stopped and looked up into a nearby sycamore tree. For a moment a kind of hush fell over the multitude, and I clearly heard His words, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”
Imagine my amazement when the tax collector himself came down from that sycamore tree, and rushed to Jesus’ side. What could he have been doing up there? And how had Jesus known he was there, or even known his name?
Then I heard Zacchaeus say, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” I thought my ears were deceiving me. Of all the tax gatherers in the area of Jericho, Zacchaeus had to be the most underhanded, greedy one among them. But Jesus responded in a gentle tone, “This day is salvation come to this house.”
As they moved off together, I caught a glimpse of Zacchaeus’ face. He looked like a different person! There was a kind of glow about him, a peace that had never been there before.
I went home and told Rhoda all about what I had seen. We talked about it several times in the days that followed. What could have caused Zacchaeus to make a statement like that? Did he really intend to pay back all that he had wrongfully gained over the years? I could scarcely believe that.
Then, three days ago, Zacchaeus appeared in the doorway of my shop. Though the thought of what I had witnessed a few days earlier was still in my mind, I couldn’t control the feeling of distrust that came over me. Back came the memory of that day last year when he had appeared and handed me that outrageous tax bill. What did he want now?
I greeted him civilly, though I’m sure my apprehension was obvious. But from his first words, it was apparent that this man was changed. “Friend Achim, I have come to pay back the money which I wrongfully took from you. My tax assessment last year was much too large, as, of course, you realized. But I have received salvation from the Lord. I ask your forgiveness, and I wish to restore that wrongful amount to you fourfold.” He placed a pouch in my hand and walked out. To my amazement, when I opened it I found it did contain exactly four times the amount he had overtaxed me!
In the last three days I’ve heard report after report of others who have had the same experience with Zacchaeus. I can tell you, the whole town is talking about it. What miraculous power this Man, Jesus, must have to make such a change in a person’s life! Of all people, Zacchaeus! For my own self, it is sure I will never be able to doubt that Jesus really is who He says. Only God’s Son could have done this! Well, that is the explanation of how it is I am able to return your loan so quickly. I hope this letter finds you and your household well. On your next trip to Jericho, we must talk further of this Man, Jesus.
CONSIDER THIS: If Zacchaeus had not paid back the money he had wrongfully taken, would the people in Jericho ever have believed his claim to salvation? Making right the things a person has done wrong is called restitution. It is one of the first outward evidences of a heart that has been reconciled to God. When a person seeks forgiveness for his sins, God often brings before him the lies he has told, the things he has stolen, and the times he has cheated. God will forgive the person who promises to straighten out all these things, and will help him make them right.