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January 2020

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Meditating on Jesus’ Dinner with Zacchaeus

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Big crowds are tough on short people. There’s no way to see the man who is coming. But this wasn’t just a man. It was The Man. The Son of Man.

Luke 19:1-10 tells a powerhouse story that reveals much about God. It’s incredibly helpful to read the Bible through the lens of the different characters in the stories. Doing so helps you see things you previously missed. Below is a guide to help you contemplate the significant encounter that Jesus had with Zacchaeus. You could do this in one sitting or three.

Read Luke 19:1-10. Then, as you move through the three parts below, read it again from the perspective of the characters in the story.

From the perspective of Zacchaeus:
The Jews despised the tax collectors. They were viewed as traitors (working for the oppressive Romans) and swindlers.

  1. Zacchaeus was wealthy, dishonest, and despised by some. In what ways do you suppose he had unsuccessfully tried to find peace?
  2. Why do you think he wanted to see Jesus?
  3. What do you think Zacchaeus was thinking when Jesus asked him if they could share a meal (which meant that he wanted to be his friend)?
  4. What brought about his change of heart?
  5. What would you guess were the results of his dramatic conversion and commitment to pay back (and more) what he had wrongfully taken?

From the perspective of Jesus:
Most people walk into a room and scan it for someone who will make them feel comfortable. Jesus walked into places and looked for people who needed him, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be. Jesus saw people. If you want some examples, see Matthew 9:36, Luke 13:12, John 5:6, John 11:33, and Mark 10:21.

  1. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with “sinners.” Did this criticism ever deter him?
  2. What do you think he experienced emotionally when this criticism came?
  3. If Jesus were walking in your town today, what kind of people would he be criticized for befriending?
  4. Read vs 5. Why did Jesus say that he “must stay” at Zacchaeus’ house? Was it demanding or playful or pastoral? What does this say about his schedule? His priorities?
  5. Jesus declared something about Zacchaeus. Read vs. 9. Saying that he was now “a son of Abraham,” meant that he was now included in God’s family. When a lost person becomes found, what happens in heaven? (I don’t know about you, but I picture Jesus with his arm around him while he said this, maybe squeezing him, maybe rubbing his head joyfully, maybe holding his hand up victoriously…) How do you think Jesus remembered this encounter?

From the perspective of Zacchaeus’ community.

  1. What kind of people were his friends?
  2. If you were one of his friends, what thoughts would be going through your head when all of this was happening? What might you be motivated to do?
  3. If Zacchaeus had scammed you, what would you think when he paid you back, plus extra?
  4. Why was the financial restitution, and not just an apology, so important?
  5. What sort of changes could one decision by a single person make in a community?
  6. The Gospel is Good News. Name the ways that Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus was good?

Application

  1. What is Jesus’ simple mission statement in vs. 10?
  2. What is the mission statement he gives us in Matthew 28:18-20?
  3. When we obey our mission, we care about helping people find peace – peace with God and peace with others. Whom can you help see Jesus? Are you praying for this person? Are you caring for this person? Are you spending time with this person? Are you telling the Good News to this person?

One last word: I want you to know that Jesus sees you too. He loves you. And I’d be glad to tell you more about that.

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