This is a well-known and short Bible story. It can be easily read straight from the Bible. Here are some highlights to cover with the students for background:
The setting of this story is in Jericho. Help your students remember when they have learned about Jericho in the past.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Back in those days, people didn't like tax collectors any more than we like people who work for the IRS or your government's tax-collecting agency today. In addition to collecting legitimate taxes, tax collectors back in those days had mostly free reign to collect whatever they could. They would many times steal and manipulate people for their own gains. So he wasn't just a tax collector, he was also a thief.
Can you think of another person who was prominent in the Bible who was a tax collector? That's right, Matthew, one of Jesus' disciples, was a tax collector.
Once again, Jesus wanted to hang out with this man that the religious people of his day thought was a "sinner" (well, they were right!). But Jesus didn't let that get in the way of showing him love. In that time (much like today), going to someone's home to eat is a sign of respect to that person.
We don't know exactly what Jesus said or did at dinner, but apparently it had a huge impact on Zacchaues. He decided that he was going to be done with his stealing ways. Here are the things he did in response to Jesus that day:
Zacchaeus was a very rich man!
Jesus concludes by telling him that salvation has come to his house today. We know that just giving away money to poor people and stopping cheating ways doesn't save us. But Jesus clearly told Zacchaeus that it was evident he had been saved that day. (see Matthew 7:16-20)
Have you ever heard your mom or dad talking about taxes? Do they like paying taxes?
(For those with sales taxes) How about you? Have you ever been to a store and thought you had enough money to buy something, but you got to the register and they added in the tax, and you couldn't pay?
We don't like to pay taxes, do we? What if you found out that not only did you have to pay taxes, but the person collecting your money at the checkout line at the store was making you pay more than you should have and they were stealing your money? You wouldn't be very happy with that person, would you?
Today, we're going to learn about a man in the Bible who was doing just that - he was cheating people out of their tax money. And Jesus decided he was going to go to his house and eat dinner!
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Luke 19:1-10
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?