Buildup to Easter, The Week of Sunday, March 17: Zacchaeus
We’re continuing The Sunday School Zone Buildup To Easter with the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) during the week beginning on Sunday, March 17, 2019. While on His way to Jerusalem in order to be crucified, Jesus traveled through Jericho shortly before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It was on this final journey to Jerusalem that Jesus encountered Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is typically remembered because he was a man of short stature and climbed into a tree in order to be able to see Jesus as He passed by. But as entertaining and relatable as the story might be, the account is more than merely an enjoyable story.
The Reason Jesus Came
Luke records the event, in part, because it underscores the real point of Jesus’ life and ministry. Luke had made it clear just a few chapters earlier that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance” (Luke 15:7). Zacchaeus was a good example of the “one sinner who repents.” Luke then drove the point home with Jesus’ own words here in Luke 19:10… “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). People like Zacchaeus were the reason Jesus had come!
One Sinner Who Repents
Zacchaeus was a good example of the kind of person who had pursued wealth and self-gratification at the expense of his fellow Jews. Everybody knew he was profiting by collecting more taxes than required and this effectively excluded Zacchaeus from the fellowship of God’s people. In the Jewish culture of that day, being ostracized from the community of faith would be the same as being separated from God Himself. Consequently, Zacchaeus was experiencing the kind of “death” that comes from social and spiritual isolation even while enjoying the comforts of a lavish lifestyle.
“Who Gave You The Right?”
After Zacchaeus announced his changed lifestyle, Jesus declared, “Today salvation has come to this house… because he too is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). Such a declaration would have angered the religious leaders. “What right does Jesus have to declare who has salvation and who is a son of Abraham?” Soon after that Jesus would enter and cleanse the temple. The religious leaders confronted Him and asked, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority” (Luke 20:2)?
Declaring salvation. Restoring fellowship with God. Cleansing the temple. Jesus was doing things that only God had the right to do. The story of Zacchaeus demonstrates that Jesus has God’s authority and He is using it to restore the lives of broken people like Zacchaeus. Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus and other things He did as He approached His crucifixion made it clear that Jesus is God!
We Are All Like Zacchaeus
Luke is careful to make the point that Zacchaeus was “a sinful man” (Luke 19:7). He was not the kind of man that good Jews or a prophet like Jesus should be hanging out with. But, we’ve seen in the story of Cain and Abel that sin is not something “in them but not in us.” We are all sinners and we all need Jesus. We are all broken like Zacchaeus. We may not be tax collectors getting rich at the expense of our neighbors, but we stand condemned as sinful before God and we need an encounter with Jesus just as much as Zacchaeus did. The story of Zacchaeus reminds us that we are the reason Jesus came. We, like Zacchaeus, are the reason Jesus died. We as individuals and humanity as a whole are “the lost” that Jesus came to “seek and to save.”
Jesus, thank You for being able to declare and bestow salvation. Thank You for restoring us. Thank You for wanting to come to our “house.” We confess that we are just like Zacchaeus. And like Zacchaeus did, we commit ourselves to following You and living for others rather than ourselves. You are the “Son of Man” and we praise You for coming to “seek and to save the lost.” We praise You for coming to seek and to save US! – Amen
For Your Kids
You can find a number of free, printable activities related to when Zacchaeus Met Jesus on the site. Encouraging kids to study this story during the Easter season can help them place the crucifixion and resurrection in its larger biblical context. Other activities and resources related to Easter can also be found on the site.