Reflections on Zacchaeus from Luke 18:31-19:10.
The Four Sentence Story on Zacchaeus
The Four Sentence Story is a memory pattern that can be used for preaching, teaching, and storytelling without notes. Every story can be broken down into four parts. The setting, tension, resolution, and through line. Memorize these four parts, add your own creativity into the mix, and then watch the story unfold.
(setting) Jesus was passing through Jericho, followed by a crowd that had come to love everything about Jesus, his humility, his servant nature, the miracles he had performed, the way he handled the religious elite.
(tension) And this is why the crowd grumbled when he asked the worst sinner that day, Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, the man who had turned his back against his own people to side with the Romans who promised him financial gain, if he could spend the day at his house, because how could the Jesus they know, enjoy the company of the worst of the worst?
(resolution) But no one saw what was coming next, that Zacchaeus would see Jesus’ act of compassion that no one else had seen, that even Zacchaeus the outcast was worthy of Jesus time and attention and this would prompt Zacchaeus to undo his wrongs in life, even giving away his own money to take care of the poor.
(through line) Jesus has come to seek and save the lost and we don’t get to determine who is worth saving.
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting Jesus is passing through Jericho as he is followed by a crowd that know of all the good he is.
- Jesus, the son of David, the one who is good, and who performs miracles, who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Jesus is the real deal and is elevated in the eyes of the people.
- Zacchaeus who is a CHIEF tax collector, short both in stature and status, a man who the people despise because he has sided with the Romans.
- The Crowd who grumble because Jesus is willing to sit down at the table with one who has become like an enemy to them, the sort of enemy that’s supposed to be on your side but they go to work for the actual enemy instead and become wealthy because of it. The sort of enemy who has risen in the ranks.
The Tension Jesus is sitting down with someone who has turned their back on the crowd. Questions the crowd might be considering: Is Jesus now joining the system? How could Jesus sit with a sinner, that might stain the work he’s done?
The Resolution Jesus initiated invitation with Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus changes heart because Jesus pays attention to him, willing to right his wrongs and to take care of the poor which he has wronged.
The Through Line Popular crowd opinion about someone isn’t always the Jesus opinion about someone.
Why has this story endured? This story shows us that the love of Jesus has no bounds. It has endured because it’s a story that flips our understanding of what love is on its head.
What does this story tell us about God? It reveals that God extends grace equally. No one is more deserving or less deserving of grace than another. That’s not God’s measurement.
What does this story tell us about humanity? All of us are fallen from the richest to the rich to the poorest of the poor.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? We all tend to measure people and our treatment of them based on their actions and this really isn’t the right measurement or action.
Where is the Gospel/Good News in this story? Jesus responds with grace and hospitality towards Zacchaeus before Zacchaeus responds with repentance.
How does this story help us love God? It’s a reminder that God extends grace to us not based on how good or bad we are but because of how good God is.
How does this story help us love people? We’re called to love even our enemies as Christians. Jesus models this by being the one who initiates grace and hospitality towards Zacchaeus.