What did the businessman think? – Zacchaeus

Bible base:

Luke 19:1-10

Teaching objectives:

To show that the Bible says Jesus cared about people whom no one else liked.

You will need:

  • A newspaper listing ‘executive’ jobs which offer nice perks.
  • Posters of the words ‘What did the businessman think?’ and ‘What do you think?’
  • A large card with the word ‘WINNER’ on it, plus a ‘D’ and an ‘S’ to go over the ‘W’ to spell DINNER and SINNER.
  • A few pieces of broadsheet newspaper, cut into two along the middle and taped together to make a long strip of newspaper. Fold this strip concertina-style so that each section is roughly A4 in size.

Introductory activity:

Show the assembly some advertisements for executive jobs. What sort of special extras are they offering? Read out some examples. Ask the pupils to raise their hand if these would encourage them to apply for the job.

The things we read about in the advertisements would all be very nice in a job, but would they be enough to make someone happy?

Take the folded piece of newspaper and begin to cut it into the shape of a person, being sure to go right out to the edges with the arms and legs. (Practise this activity in advance to be sure that you end up with a paper chain of people!) As you do so, ask the following question:

What would be the most important thing that you would look for in a job? Take some suggestions, eg a good salary, good holidays. When you have finished cutting out the shape of a person, ask two volunteers to come out and hold either end of the chain of people.

All of us need friends, and no matter how good a job might be, it is no substitude for knowing people who care for us.

Display poster, ‘What did the businessman think?’

Today’s story from the Bible is about a man who was a very successful businessman with a very important job. He worked for the government, collecting the money that people owed it: their taxes. The man’s name was Zacchaeus, and he lived a long time before there were cars or foreign holidays, but one of the benefits he did enjoy was that he could take as much money as he liked from the people. So, if I owed the government £1, he could ask me for £2 and pocket the difference. Or if I owed £5, he could ask me for £10. As you can imagine, Zacchaeus was soon a very rich man!

In terms of business success, Zacchaeus was definitely a WINNER.

Ask a pupil to come to the front to hold up the WINNER card.

In other ways, however, Zacchaeus was not doing so well. Let’s imagine that our chain of newspaper people represents the people who he collected money from. What do you think they thought of him? Take some suggestions, eg he was greedy, he was selfish.

People hated him because he had become rich from taking their money. In their opinion, he did things wrong, he was not a WINNER, he was a SINNER (stick ‘S’ over ‘W’ of WINNER). ‘Sinner’ is a word that the Bible uses to describe someone who is not perfect and has done things that are wrong.

So Zacchaeus was very rich but was also very dishonest and very lonely.

One day, however, something happened to change Zacchaeus’ life forever – he met Jesus. Jesus had come to visit Jericho, the town where Zacchaeus lived, but there were so many people, and Zacchaeus was such a short man, that he could not see over people’s heads.

For fun, you could go behind the chain of newspaper people and crouch behind it, pretending to try to see over their heads.

As you can imagine, people were not too keen to let Zacchaeus the SINNER through, this man who took all their money. And so poor Zacchaeus was stuck at the back of the crowd.

Suddenly, he had an idea. Come around to the front of the chain again. He ran ahead of the crowds and climbed a tree at the side of the road, hiding in the branches so that no one could see him. And there he waited, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus and to hear what he was saying as he passed by.

Soon Jesus was right underneath Zacchaeus and, much to his surprise, he looked right up to where Zacchaeus was hiding and asked him to come down and take him to his house for DINNER (stick the ‘D’ over the ‘S’ of SINNER).

Zacchaeus was amazed! No one usually spoke to him and no one had ever asked to come to his house for tea!

The crowds, however, were annoyed. ‘That man is a SINNER!’ they muttered (reveal the word SINNER again).

Zacchaeus was too delighted to care about what they were saying and he rushed off to prepare the DINNER (replace the ‘D’). And after DINNER, Zacchaeus did something amazing. He gave away half of his money to the poor and paid back four times any money that he had taken unfairly.

Zacchaeus had changed by spending time with Jesus. Christians believe that when we’re sorry for what we’ve done wrong, God can change us from sinners to winners, as he did with Zacchaeus. Uncover the original word, WINNER.

Display the poster, ‘What do you think?’

What would you have thought if you were there? Would you have thought that Zacchaeus was too bad to spend time with Jesus? Or would you have been like Zacchaeus, wanting to be with Jesus?

Optional prayer time:

Give thanks that Jesus can change people not just on the surface but deep inside. He can change them from sinners into winners!

 

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