Theme: The Story of Zacchaeus and the power of love and forgiveness.
Scripture Reading: Luke 19: 1-10
Teacher’s introduction to the story:
Today’s story is taken from the book of Luke in the New Testament part of the Bible.
It’s the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a very short man and he was very rich. Zacchaeus was a tax collector.
Who knows what taxes are? Some of the money your parents make when they work has to be given to our government to help pay for the roads we drive on and the police persons and fire persons that help protect us.
Nobody likes paying taxes (even when they are used for good purposes). So the fact that Zacchaeus was a tax collector made him unpopular.
But Zacchaeus also kept some of the money he collected from the people for himself and that is how he became very rich. So, while collecting taxes isn’t a sin, cheating people is a sin.
Zacchaeus was a very selfish man.
(Two puppets, Zacchaeus and Jesus, and a narrator)
Zacchaeus lived in a town called Jericho.
One day Zacchaeus saw a crowd of people coming down the street towards him. And he overheard that a man named Jesus was among the people.
All around him, people were taking about this Jesus. They said that Jesus performed miracles, making sick people better. They said that Jesus was able to make blind people see again. They said Jesus was an amazing guy!
Wow, this guy Jesus must be someone very special. The people love him. I have to see this guy called Jesus.
But there was one problem.
[Position Zacchaeus in back of a group of children. Have the children in front of Zacchaeus chant “Welcome Jesus, welcome Jesus, welcome Jesus.”]
But I am too short to see Jesus. I can’t see over the heads of all of these people in front of me.
[Ask the children, “What could Zacchaeus do?]
But Zacchaeus figured out a way to see Jesus.
I know, I will climb up that Sycamore tree next to the road.
[Position Zacchaeus puppet and handler at the tree prop, with Zacchaeus peeking over or around the tree.]
As Jesus walked by the Sycamore tree, he stopped right near the tree and looked up at Zacchaeus. Jesus said to Zacchaeus,
Zacchaeus, come down from the tree, I must stay at your house today.
Zacchaeus (to himself)
Jesus, how do you know my name? And why do you want to stay at my house?
Zacchaeus, come down quickly.
So, Zacchaeus came down from the tree and he and Jesus walked together towards Zacchaeus’ home.
But the people in the crowd were not very happy.
One man said, “This man steals from his own people!”
Another person said, “He is a sinner, he cheats people!”
And another person said, “Why is Jesus staying with such a bad man?”
Zacchaeus heard what the people were saying and he said,
Listen people. Please forgive me. I will give half of all the money I have to the poor. And to those that I cheated, I will repay them four times as much as I took from them.
Jesus (to Zacchaeus)
Today, salvation has come to your house.
Jesus told Zacchaeus that because he had welcomed him into his home and into his heart — and because he had asked the people to forgive him — Zacchaeus’ sins had been forgiven.
Why did the people not like Zacchaeus? [Rich people are not automatically bad people. Zacchaeus cheated people to gain his wealth.]
Why did Zacchaeus offer to give back to the people all that he had stolen?
What might Jesus have said to Zacchaeus or done to make Zacchaeus turn so quickly from a sinner to a humble man asking for forgiveness?
This writer’s personal opinion: Zacchaeus knew about wealth and power. But all of his power couldn’t buy the love and admiration that the people had for Jesus. Jesus, an honest, humble and by economic standards, a poor man. Zacchaeus knew he was a sinner, but like most addicts, consider his situation hopeless or too far gone. For a man like Jesus to single out Zacchaeus to befriend – even against the wishes of his followers – Zacchaeus was shaken to his core and probably relieved, like a great burden was removed from his shoulders. He immediately felt the love that Jesus radiated and he humbled himself. This is the power of Jesus’ love and love in general. This is also the power of forgiveness.