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Jesus was friends with the Tax man!

To see the effect of forgiveness on a life

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To see the effect of forgiveness on a life. This assembly, based on Luke 19 (and Burglar Bill!), is an exploration of Jesus' friendship with Zaccheus, and the effects of that relationship on Zaccheus and his lifestyle.

Preparation and materials

  • You need to arrange a chair on the stage or block, so that you can safely climb up onto the chair. If your assembly space doubles as a gym, you could use the bars to climb up high - if you're brave enough!
  • You will need a (preferably) striped T-shirt, duffle-type bag, burglar-style mask. You also need a few things to steal - cans of beans, packs of biscuits, cake, etc..
  • You may also like to have a copy of Burglar Bill by Janet and Alan Ahlberg (Puffin Books, ISBN 0 140 50370 3) to show the children.



  1. When the children are settled, put the T-shirt on over your top. Put the empty duffel bag over your shoulder, and the mask on your face, then ask them who you are now? Hopefully some will say a burglar, perhaps one will say Burglar Bill.

  2. Briefly outline the story of Burglar Bill - how Bill goes out every night (mime getting into houses through open windows, and go through the 'That's a nice tin of beans, I'll have that' ritual, as in the book). Put several things into the bag, and then 'hear' the baby crying. Explain that one night, Bill found a baby, and that changed his whole life ...

  3. Does anyone know a Bible story about a man who stole from other people? Who took extra money when he gave them their tax bills and became very rich on all the money that he stole? - Zaccheus. Explain that Zaccheus was a little man and that small people can't see in crowds - the children will know all about this!

    Zaccheus was working at his desk one day, stopping people and asking for their tax for the Romans, when a crowd started to form, all very excited. When Zaccheus asked what was going on, they wouldn't tell him as they didn't like to speak to the tax man; but he heard the crowd talking, and realized that the people were waiting to see someone called Jesus.

    Explain that Zaccheus also wanted to see Jesus, but when he tried to wriggle through to the front, the people wouldn't let him and they pushed at him with their elbows. So he climbed a tree (start to climb). He climbed to the top of a sycamore tree, and heard the noise of Jesus getting nearer and nearer. Then he could see Jesus coming; then Jesus was within sight; then Jesus was under his tree; then Jesus stopped and looked up and said, 'Zaccheus, what are you doing up there? I want to have tea with you today.'

    Zaccheus got out of the tree so fast, he almost fell out! And Jesus went home with him, and they had a good chat. We don't know what Jesus said, but Zaccheus gave all his money away - he paid everyone four times the amount he had stolen from them, and he got himself a new job, and never stole from people again.

    Rather like what happened to Burglar Bill when he met Burglar Betty.

  4. Explain that Jesus loved everyone when he lived on the earth. It didn't matter how bad people were, Jesus was always there for those who needed him. This is true for us too - no one is so bad that God doesn't love them. And the more time we spend with God - praying, thinking about him, finding out about him, the more we want to be like Jesus; kind, helpful and good.

  5. At the end of the assembly, let the children know that they must never climb on top of chairs on top of tables; this was just for today's assembly.

Time for reflection

Let's be quiet, and think about the worst things we have ever done. Tell God what those things are, and say we are sorry. We know that God is still our friend, and we can start again, today, as better people.


'Zaccheus was a very little man' (Come and Praise Beginning, 42)

Publication date: November 2000   (Vol.2 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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