Tea with Me?
People who influence our lives
by Laurence Chilcott
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To consider the influence that other people have on our lives (SEAL theme: Change).
Preparation and materials
- Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage Luke 19.1-10, which is about Zacchaeus changing after meeting Jesus.
Explain to the children that you are going to tell them a story.
Zac has someone to tea
Zac was not a popular guy. Well, collecting taxes for an occupying power that seemed to be aiming for world domination wouldn’t exactly make him popular would it? Add to that his bullying and overbearing manner, as well as the fact that he cheated the taxpayers to line his own pockets and you’ve got the picture. He was not a nice man to know.
Now, one day, Zac heard about a man who had been attracting great crowds and was causing quite a stir by upsetting the teachers of the law and the priests at the temples. That didn’t really bother Zac because he didn’t have much time for them anyway, but he had also heard that this man had apparently cured the sick - the blind, the lame and even a madman. You name it, he’d cured it! There was nothing wrong with Zac, he wasn’t sick, but he was very inquisitive . . . he wanted to see this man!
So it was that, on this particular day, Zac set off to see for himself. If you’d asked him why he was going, he wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Perhaps it was simple curiosity, perhaps he was afraid that he might miss a bit of excitement if he didn’t go or maybe he thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with some people who owed him money! Whatever it was, he decided to go.
As soon as Zac walked out of his house, he realized that it was not going to be easy. The town was absolutely packed! Word had got around that the man would be visiting and people from the surrounding villages had joined the locals in the street. It was obvious that the teacher had arrived, but could Zac see him? No chance. Zac was shorter than average and always felt at a disadvantage in such situations. When he was a boy, he’d been able to wheedle his way to the front and nobody seemed to mind, so he thought he’d try it again. If he’d been someone else he might have got away with it, but once the people saw who he was, they stuck out their elbows and muttered insults at him. There was no way they were going to let him through.
Zac stood on his toes, but it didn’t help at all. He looked around for something to stand on, then spotted a tree. He couldn’t understand how he’d missed it. Being short, he’d always been able to climb with ease so, in no time at all, he was up the tree and had a great view over the heads of the people in front of him. He still couldn’t hear everything, but he caught bits of conversation and was quite happy just to be able to see what was going on.
It was at that moment Zac noticed the teacher look his way. It was only a glance, but Zac knew he’d been spotted. In some strange way he wished he’d stayed on the ground at the back of the crowd for the look made him feel slightly uncomfortable. The teacher carried on talking for a while, then started walking through the crowd, walking straight towards Zac until he was standing beneath Zac’s tree! The teacher looked up at him. Zac would never forget those eyes. It was not a glance this time, it was a look that seemed to see straight to his heart and Zac wasn’t sure he liked it!
Then the teacher spoke. Zac looked behind him, thinking perhaps that someone had joined him up in the tree, but, no, the teacher was speaking directly to him. ‘Come down out of that tree,’ he said. ‘I’m going to eat at your house today.’
Zac nearly fell out of the tree! Down he came, feeling flustered, confused, yet honoured all at the same time. It was customary to offer hospitality to anyone who requested it in that country, but Zac was not used to having visitors. Nobody ever visited him. Did he have enough food, he wondered? Was the place tidy? A sudden moment of panic struck him when he realized he hadn’t made his bed! Well, it was too late now.
As they approached the house, Zac realized the crowd was following. He heard the murmuring and felt very uncomfortable. They were talking about the sort of man Zac was and how surprised they were that the teacher should choose such a rogue to eat with. Zac didn’t like what he was hearing and felt very uneasy, hoping that the teacher hadn’t heard anything. He was relieved to get to the door in one piece.
Quite what went on inside that house Zac never fully explained. He said how he felt ashamed and sorry and relieved and hopeful all at once. Not once did the teacher condemn him for his selfish, cheating ways – he didn’t have to, for Zac was suddenly all too aware of his shortcomings. The teacher spoke about love and forgiveness and Zac felt as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
When Zac and the teacher emerged from the house, the crowd was still waiting and didn’t seem to be any happier. The people were mildly surprised by the warm smile on Zac’s face as they were more used to his miserable scowl. They were even more surprised by what he had to say.
‘Listen,’ Zac said. ‘Things are going to be different from now on. I’m going to give half of my money to the poor and to anyone I’ve cheated I’ll pay them back four times what I took.’
Things certainly were different. Zac - or Zacchaeus to give him his full name - had met Jesus and he would never be the same again.
Time for reflection
The New Testament describes many people whose lives were changed when they met with Jesus. Christians believe that, even today, Jesus can change people’s lives.
All of us have influence over the lives of others. We can influence people for good and for bad. Think about your friends. How are they good and bad influences?
Think about your own life. Are you a good influence on those around you?
Thank you for the story of Zacchaeus.
Thank you that meeting Jesus changed his life.
Please help us to be positive influences on those around us.
Please help us to be more thoughtful, more patient and more considerate.