Many people in Jericho knew Zacchaeus, but not many liked him. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He collected money from Jews for the Roman government. The Bible says Zacchaeus was rich. Tax collectors often collected more money than necessary and kept the surplus for themselves. His greed and dishonesty led Zacchaeus to being looked down upon as a “sinner,” but Zacchaeus didn’t seem to mind. He treasured his wealth more than his reputation. He wanted money more than he wanted friends.
Zacchaeus probably never imagined that his entire life would change in a single day. When Jesus came through Jericho, Zacchaeus wanted to see him. He couldn’t see over the crowds, so he climbed a sycamore tree and watched Jesus from a distance.
Imagine the crowd’s surprise when Jesus approached the tree and called out to Zacchaeus, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house.”
Of all the people in Jericho, Jesus chose to visit Zacchaeus! The other people complained. What was Jesus thinking, going to stay with a sinner like Zacchaeus?
The story reveals that Zacchaeus’s encounter with Jesus changed him. He offered to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times what he had cheated from others. Zacchaeus no longer treasured his wealth. He realized that Jesus offered something so much better. Jesus confirmed this evidence of a changed heart: “Today salvation has come to this house.
People who encounter Jesus do not walk away unchanged. Pray that the kids you teach would encounter the real Jesus, the One who came into the world because we needed Him. Jesus came to seek and save the lost—people like Zacchaeus and people like us. “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). When we repent and trust in Jesus, He changes us
You can tell kids about Jesus, and they’ll walk away knowing about Jesus. But being a Christian isn’t about knowing facts about a person; it’s about knowing and loving a Person. As Christian teachers, we desire kids to see Jesus in a personal way. Think of Jesus like a multi-faceted diamond. Hold Him up each week and explore a different part of Him. Lead kids to behold His beauty.
What do you treasure most? What kinds of things do kids treasure? Why? Leave a comment below. Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the May 28, 2017 session (Unit 21, Session 5) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Alyssa Jones has been a content editor for The Gospel Project for Kids since 2011. She lives with her husband, Nate, and their two kids in Nashville, TN. Alyssa volunteers with the kids’ ministry at Refuge Church, a church plant in Franklin, TN.