A Little Man–and a Big Change!

sycamore treeby Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International

Most children who grow up in Sunday School learn to sing about this man.  Teachers and kids alike enjoy the hand motions absorbing the good fun and amazing change of heart his story presents.  It’s found in Luke 19:1-9, and, you guessed it!  It’s how Zacchaeus climbed a tree out of curiosity and then hosted a meal for Jesus who changed his heart.  If you’re watching the film version you’ll be impressed with the way humor is woven into the story.  It’s one of my favorite scenes because of the delight Jesus exhibits in Zacchaeus’ antics.

ENGAGE the passage.  Even though the story is child friendly and familiar, take the time to read the nine verses several times, and if possible watch this section of the film.  If you pretend you’re one of Jesus’ disciples, you’ll probably own up to being dusty and sweaty from the afternoon’s walk, maybe a little irritated at the once-blind beggar’s following with his joyful shouting and the increasing numbers who joined this journey hoping to get a glimpse of the Master and find out what is going on.  Can it be that God wanted a crowd to press in on the courtyard and witness this unusual meal time drama?  I wonder…

EXPLORE the meaning.  Let a scribe for your family keep notes as you name the groups of people who are present in this story. Starting with Jesus and His disciples as one, I count three other possibilities.  How about you?

  • Of course, it’s obvious who the ‘star’ of the show is, right?   You might poll everyone to see how many think he had a ‘small man mentality.’  Hopefully discussion will be lively here as you give reasons for your opinions. Does Jesus mind that He is being upstaged?
  • I like to think that Jesus was expecting this encounter and wanted a crowd to be there. It’s as if the miracle with the blind beggar while blessing the beggar, also fulfilled Jesus’ purposes down the road.  What do you think?
  • Would you call Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus a miracle? Why or why not?
  • Some who were present ‘muttered’ and criticized Jesus. Be sure everyone understands what is behind this.

The key point to this story is found in verses nine and ten.  Jesus has a relaxed and responsive audience as He states very clearly His purpose in life.  It’s found in verse ten.  If He came to seek and to save the lost, Zacchaeus was probably as lost as anyone could get.  Talk about this, putting forward your reasons to agree or disagree.

Jesus has a ‘captive audience’ for the next parable (vs.11-27) that he presents before leaving Zacchaeus’ home.  Clearly we can see just Who is really in charge, here, but we also rejoice that a funny, little man – hated by most for the job he performed – could be saved.

Talk with one another, record answers in your Family Time Journal, as you share ways this account impacts your lives today.  Where are you in this story?  In what way has ‘salvation come’ to your house? What are ways you can demonstrate this?  A time to pray would be fitting here, right? 

EXPERIENCE the story.  A wide variety of ways to put yourselves into the account are open to you.  You’re only restricted by the time it takes to get involved according to the interests and talents that exist in your family.  I  encourage you to have fun, but also to be ready to exhibit joy and gratitude for being in a household to which ‘salvation has come.’  Remember to exhibit anything done by a family member by way of art…a drawing, diorama, or the like…for everyone to enjoy.

Perhaps God will lead you to think of households that you know personally where His salvation has not yet reached and to intercede for these families.  You might consider getting a disc presentation of the Story of Jesus for Children and giving it to this family to watch…or invite them over to watch it with you.

EMBRACE the Savior.  The underlying humor in this account does not erase the serious nature of Jesus’ life purpose.  It is clear that He knew where He was going.  He knew that He was the willing ‘Gift’ that God gave out of love for this world.  (John 3:16)  He undoubtedly was aware of the plotting that had already begun by those who hated Him.  READ John 3:16 and 17 aloud and rejoice that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through Him.  Take time to be silent and ponder what God would have you do in response to this awesome revelation.  Those who wish can record their thoughts in your Family Time Journal.


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