Zacchaeus and Jesus
Who is Zacchaeus?
How to help children understand Bible characters.
Was Zacchaeus trying to see Jesus or was he hiding?
Jesus sees us when we hide and finds us when we seek him.
In this activity we look at how Bible characters can be likened to animals and how when we meet Jesus he changes our hearts and behaviour. This activity can help our cubs understand themselves and other people a little better through the imagery of animals. Asking to know Jesus' heart for people, and understand his thoughts about their situations, emotions or character, sometimes we can do this by asking the Lord what animals people are like. It also helps distinguish between behaviour and the heart. Someone may behave like a hedgehog but inside their heart is gentle like a lamb.
God often uses animals as imagery for describing his people, and himself.
See more in God is an Eagle
The Bible story of Zacchaeus and Jesus appears in Luke 19.
1) Read the story together first.
We love Sally Lloyd-Jones' Jesus Storybook Bible and Desmond Tutu's Children of God Storybook Bible as our family favourites. But you could watch it on youtube here.
(For a moment of extra funny with a cuppa, or for your older ones, watch this Skit Guys version)
2) Think about Zacchaeus
We learn that Zacchaeus has been sneaky and stealing people's money, he's been rude and unkind to a lot of people, and now people, perhaps even a whole village, don't like him! He hears Jesus is coming and wants to see him but can't because he's too short and the crowds are big. And it's likely people are pushing him out of the way. So he climbs up a tree.
Which animal is Zacchaeus acting like in the story, and why?
Use these question prompts if they aren’t sure:
- Which animals do you think are sneaky? (Example...Sly fox)
- Which animals do you think steal things? (Squirrels)
- Which do you think don't want to be seen and like to hide?
(Hedgehogs, but they can't climb trees!)
- Which animals might run and hide up in a tree? (Cats, squirrels again..)
- Which animals do you think are rather rude? (Racoons)
You might think Zacchaeus is being like lots of different animals, a hiding hedgehog, a stealing squirrel, a rude racoon, but what do you think Jesus thought of him?
What does Jesus think of people?
This is the most important question.
3) Think about Jesus
Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, he wasn't afraid of him and saw him even when he was hiding. In Matthew 7, Jesus says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus, he wasn't running away from Jesus but climbing up to get a better look at him. Jesus knew Zacchaeus' heart and knew he was seeking him. He would've known all his behaviour and the way he had treated other people. Jesus knew how other people thought of him, but he stopped and spoke to him. And when he spoke to him, he didn't confront him and humiliate him in front of the crowd. He didn't tell him off in front of everyone, but invited himself into his home. He asked to come and be his friend when no one else wanted to be.
How do you think he felt about Zacchaeus?
Jesus doesn't want us to hide from him or be rude to others. At the end of the story, Zac is sorry and kind and gives the money back to people. He realises Jesus loves him and he wants to show his love for others too.
What animal is Jesus being like in the story?
4) Think about you.
We can change our hearts and our actions.
Like a chameleon can change his colour!
Did you notice how Zacchaeus changed in the story?
Remind yourself - which animal was Zac behaving like at the beginning before he met Jesus?
What animal is Zac like after he meets Jesus? A kind kitten perhaps?
How does his heart change his behaviour?
When we meet Jesus we change!
Deeper discussion questions.
Discuss how Jesus sees us - how does he change our heart and behaviours?
- How can you relate to Zacchaeus in this story?
- Are there things you do that can be like a slimy snake?
- When do you act like a rude raccoon?
- What makes you a hiding hedgehog?
- And when are you a kind kitten or a loving lamb?
Let’s pray and thank God for making us.
Ask Holy Spirit to help us be more gentle like a ... strong like a ..., wise like ... so that we can become more like Jesus - the lion and the lamb.