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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Luke 19:1-10

Story Summary

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:

  1. He gave half of what he owned to the poor.
  2. He gave back everything he cheated from people, but four times the amount!

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)

What You Will Need

Supplies
Middle eastern map, or computer where you can show them where Jericho is in comparison to Jerusalem, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, etc.
Snack Suggestion
Fig Newtons (Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore-fig tree)

Resource Sheet

Zacchaeus Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Jesus calling Zacchaeus down from the sycamore-fig tree.

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

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!

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

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.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Luke 19:1-10

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • What city was Jesus in when he met Zacchaeus? (Jericho)
  • What did Zacchaeus do for a job? (tax collector)
  • Why did people dislike him so much? (he cheated people and stole money from them)
  • Why did Zacchaeus have to climb a tree to see Jesus (because he was short!)
  • What kind of tree did he climb? (sycamore fig tree)
  • What did Jesus say to him when he saw him up in the tree? (to come down, that he wanted to eat dinner with him that night)
  • What did all the people around Jesus say when Jesus went to eat dinner with him? (they mumbled to themselves that Jesus was eating with a sinner)
  • What did Zacchaeus promise to do after he ate with Jesus? (to give half of what he had to the poor, and repay those he had cheated by giving back 4 times as much as he stole from them)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • Zacchaeus gave money back to those who he cheated in response to Jesus.
  • How has your life changed since you received salvation from Jesus?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Scripture says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

Reinforcement Activities

Money Bags

Heads up! Cut the felt circles and holes prior to class.

Scripture A man named Zacchaeus lived there. He was a chief tax collector and was very rich. Luke 19:2 But Zacchaeus stood up. He said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of what I own to those who are poor. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay it back. I will pay back four times the amount I took.” Luke 19:8

Supplies felt, string, scissors, coins, food items

  • Cut 6 inch circles out of felt.
  • Cut small holes around the edges of the felt.
  • Gather the edges of the circle together.
  • Weave the string through the holes, so it will tie shut.
  • Give each student several coins to put into their money bags.
  • Have small food items (canned fruit, vegetables, spaghetti noodles, etc) set up in the classroom.
  • Allow your students to "buy" the food with their coins to help someone in need.
  • Donate all of the food to a family in need or to a local food bank.

What Can You See?

Heads up! This activity needs to be done with caution. Make sure your students are mature enough to handle this activity so no one gets hurt.

Scripture Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. But he was a short man. He could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. He wanted to see Jesus, who was coming that way. Luke 19:3-4

Supplies trees, hills or ladder

  • If you have good climbing trees, allow students to climb. If no trees are available, provide a ladder for the students to climb.
  • Ask them to observe what they can see from being higher up.

Let's Eat Together!

Scripture Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus was. He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay at your house today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this. They began to whisper among themselves. They said, “Jesus has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” Luke 19:5-7

Supplies snack, table with extra chairs

  • Have a snack prepared for the students, or allow them to help prepare the snack.
  • If possible, leave an empty chair beside each student at the table. If that is not possible, leave one empty chair at the table.
  • Who would you like to sit with you to eat? (It has to be someone not in the room.)
  • Think about who you would not like to sit next to you.
  • Jesus went to be the guest of someone that the other people did not like.

Zacchaeus Climbs a Tree Craft

Scripture Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. But he was a short man. He could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. He wanted to see Jesus, who was coming that way. Luke 19:3-4

Supplies card stock, Zacchaeus tree printout, man outline print out, pieces of string, sticky velcro, tape

  • Print the sheets on card stock.
  • Stick a small piece of velcro onto one of the tree branches.
  • Stick the other velcro piece to the back of the Zacchaeus cut out.
  • Tape a piece of string to the Zacchaeus cut out.
  • Tape the other end of the string to the picture, near the velcro.
  • Students can make Zacchaeus sit in the tree and come down to be with Jesus.

Money Bag Snack

Scripture But Zacchaeus stood up. He said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of what I own to those who are poor. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay it back. I will pay back four times the amount I took.” Luke 19:8

  • Use wonton wrappers to make a dessert snack. Coat in cinnamon sugar, put small amount of filling in side. Fold in half, then gather edges together.
  • Put into muffin tins and bake until light golden.

Zaccheaus Song

Scripture Luke 19:1-10

  • sing Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man
  • Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
  • (Hold your hands out to show the height of somone small)
  • He climbed up in the sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. (climb up a tree, hand above eyes to see)
  • And as the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree,
  • (march, hand above eyes to see)
  • And he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down;
  • (point and say)
  • For I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.”
  • (clap on the beat)

Sycamore Tree

Scripture Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. But he was a short man. He could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. Luke 19:3-4

Supplies Computer or mobile device

  • Show students pictures of a sycamore tree from Israel
  • You can find pictures by searching Google Images for "Israel sycamore tree"
  • Sycamore trees in the middle east are different than American or other sycamore trees

Big and Small

Heads up! This would be a good intro to the story

Scripture Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. But he was a short man. He could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. He wanted to see Jesus, who was coming that way. Luke 19:3-4

Supplies pictures of the tallest and smallest men, objects of different sizes

  • Show pictures to students and discuss that God made us in all different sizes.
  • Show the students the objects and have them compare the objects. Which one is bigger, smaller, etc