The story of Jacob reimagined.
I want to tell you a story about a guy who came to faith late in life.
When I met him he’d been in a fight. His clothes were ripped. He was limping. A graze on his cheek and a black eye.
It was early in the morning. And he’d come into McDonalds for a coffee. At first I thought perhaps he was on his way home from a night in the pub. Perhaps he’d slept rough in a door way. That might explain his appearance.
We got talking. And slowly he opened up about his life.
He had a patchy family history. He’d been in trouble from his childhood. He came from a pretty dysfunctional family. There was a lot of tension between his parents, whose marriage seemed to have gone sour. This had affected the relationships between the kids.
I don’t know if there was an addiction problem, but in his teens he’d stolen from his brother and ended up leaving home. He’d run off to Glasgow, and ended up moving in with a relative.
He’d never been a particularly religious person, but some of his experiences had made him wonder about God.
He’d ended up working for his relative in Glasgow, I think it was some kind of food wholesale business. It seemed like done well for himself and had built up a fair amount of wealth. Although you would not have thought that given his appearance that morning.
Given his upbringing I wasn’t surprised to hear that family troubles had followed him into adult life. He’d been married twice and had children with two other women too. His kids did not get on at all. There was a lot of jealously and fighting. It all sounded very messy.
I asked if he still lived in Glasgow and why he was back in Perth. Turns out he’d only just arrived back late the night before. His wife and kids had come up earlier in the week. And they were back for a family party.
It was his brother’s sixtieth and he was hoping they could finally reconcile. He’d bought him an amazing gift; a new Merc car which his wife and kids had brought up.
So what about this fight then, I asked. He seemed reluctant to talk about it. He said I’d never believe what had happened.
He asked about what I did. And when I explained, he told me he’d been wrestling with God his whole life. And now as an older man, he’d finally given in.
The Sunday school image of little Zacchaeus perhaps doesn’t do justice to to the type of person that would extort and enforce taxes upon the people of Jericho. I can’t claim in-depth research into 1st Century Jericho, so there’s a great deal of artistic license.
Tuesday evening, as usual the guys started arriving at the office around 6pm. Benny was first. And dressed for the occasion. He swaggered through the front office and into the dim, lit, back room. Next was Pauly. He stooped to get through the door, removing his cap as he did so. Lefty Joe was next, dagger on his left side, as if that needed explaining.
The rest of them came in slowly, some in groups of two or three. And then just before 6.30pm, Barnabas arrived. He had a serious look and scanned the room quietly. Barnabas welcomed everyone, “The Boss will be along shortly, but he told me just to start”.
“Joe, how’s it going on the south side?”
“Good thanks, Barnabas”. Up a 8 grand this month”.
“Any more problems with the Ben Isaac clan?”
“None; they got the message”. Isaac’s youngest had been missing for 3 weeks now. They’d never find him.
“Good. And the Eastend Pauly?
“Fine too Barnabas. No worries. Everything’s under control”.
The door burst open, cracking off the wall.
The Boss. Four feet Nine inches of aggression, bile and back hair. No time for greetings, the Boss scurried across the room, knocking Benny aside and grabbing Pauly by throat. He pinned him against the back room wall, cracking his head on the brick.
“You liar” he screamed. Or words to that effect; I’ve cleaned it up.
“You were 5k light last month and nothing more to show me this month either”.
“And now I hear you’ve got yourself a nice new place in the hills”.
The boss released Pauly back into his chair.
“Barnabas”, he shouted, “get him out of my sight, you know what to do”. With great speed for such a heavy man, Barnabas darted across the room, grabbed Pauly and dragged him out through the back door.
And that was the last I ever saw of Pauly ben Joseph of East Jericho.
Zacchaeus, chief tax collector, underworld King and scourge of Jericho, wiped his hands as if removing Pauly from his skin, and sat down.
“Right gentlemen, where were we?”
“Benny, how’s the northern quarter?”…