Crossroads: More than ‘I’m Sorry’ – Zacchaeus

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Luke 19:1-10

Stats about Zacchaeus

• Zacchaeus means “pure one”
• Chief tax collector for Jericho—neither Romans nor Jews liked him
• Considered a notorious sinner

My Story

When I was growing up, I had two younger brothers. Sometimes my brothers and I would get into arguments with each other and occasionally these arguments would turn into mild scuffles. These scuffles were never very bad, but usually someone ended up getting hurt or crying. Since I was the oldest, the hurt one was usually one of my younger brothers. He would start crying and go tell my mother, and then I was in big trouble.

My mother would always make me apologize to my brother, but usually she would also do something else. She would say, “Often, just saying you’re sorry is not enough. You need to do something to show you are sorry for what you did.” And then I knew what was coming. My mother would make me give my brother a hug! UGH! I didn’t want to hug my brother! But my mother was teaching me an important lesson—sometimes just saying you are sorry isn’t enough. Many times in life we need to not only say we are sorry when we hurt someone else, but we also need to show them that we are sorry for how we hurt them.

Your Story

Tell your children about a time in your life when you had to apologize to someone you hurt and also had to do something to make up for the situation.
• Why did you need to apologize? What did you do?
• What did you say to the person? What did you do to show the person you were truly sorry for what you had done?
• Which did the person appreciate more—your spoken apology or your actions/behavior?
• Was it more difficult for you to say “I’m sorry” or to do something to show the person you were sorry? Why?
• Can you remember a time when someone did something for you to demonstrate an apology? Tell your children about the experience.
• Do you prefer a spoken apology? Some kind of action? Both?

The Bible Story

Okay, sing along with me if you know the song. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see . . .”

Many of us know the story of Zacchaeus from this song. The song is great, but it only tells part of the story. The story of Zacchaeus is ultimately about how we are to make up for wrong or bad things we do to other people. It’s about saying “I’m sorry” and then doing something about our wrongs.

Zacchaeus was not only a wee little man—he was also a very wealthy tax collector. He made his money by collecting taxes for the Roman government. The problem was that when he collected these taxes, Zacchaeus would charge the people much more than Rome required them to pay and then keep all the extra money for himself. The people of Jesus’ day considered Zacchaeus to be a thief, a cheater, and most certainly a sinner.

But Jesus cared for Zacchaeus and went to his house that day. Zacchaeus was so thankful that Jesus came to his house, and Zacchaeus began to feel terrible about his wealth and the way he had taken it from others. He could have simply looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus, I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating other people and taking their money. I’m not going to do that anymore.”

But the passage in Luke tells us that Zacchaeus realized that he needed to do more than just say he was sorry. Instead, Zacchaeus stood up before Jesus and said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Zacchaeus did more than just say he was sorry.

Discussion Questions

• What did the people think of Zacchaeus before he saw Jesus that day? Do you think their opinion of him changed? Why or why not?
• Why was it important for Zacchaeus to give money back to the people? If Zacchaeus had simply told the people he was sorry but had not given them back their money, do you think the people would have accepted his apology?
• What would you have done if you were Zacchaeus?
• What do you think God thought about Zacchaeus before and after his decision?
• Sometimes saying you are sorry is enough. Talk about a time when you told someone you were sorry, and they were satisfied with your spoken apology.
• Think about another time when you had to do something to show that you were sorry. Why are words enough sometimes but not in every situation?
• What is the most important thing you have learned from Zacchaeus?

Prayer and Action

• Thank God for the story of Zacchaeus.
• Ask God to help you when you need to apologize to someone.
• Talk as a family about how you apologize to each other. How do you as a family know when you need to say you are sorry and when you need to do something for the other person?

Jessica Asbell is currently serving as the Minister to Children at First Baptist Church of Roswell, GA. She has worked with children in various capacities at several churches, including Winter Park Baptist in Wilmington, NC, First Baptist of Decatur, GA, and Highland Hills Baptist in Macon, GA. She has a Master of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology and a BBA from Mercer University. In her spare time she loves to read, watch movies, and of course spend time with her sweet kitty, Lucy.

Kevin Head began serving as Minister to Young Families at First Baptist Roswell, Georgia, in February 2012. He has pastored three churches in Kentucky and more recently served as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lumberton, North Carolina. In 2007, Kevin and his wife, Amy, began a ministry-based counseling practice called New Perspectives for Life in East Cobb, Georgia. He is a graduate of Furman University (B.A.) and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D., M.Div.) in Louisville, Kentucky. Kevin was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Belvedere, South Carolina. His model of ministry is based on John 8 and the amazing, continual grace of Jesus Christ. Kevin and Amy have two children, Jenna and Joshua.

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