Sunday School Lesson

May 29

Lesson 13

Joyous Faith

Devotional Reading: Isaiah 44:23-26

Background Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

Luke 19:1-10

1And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

2And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

3And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

4And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

6And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

7And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

8And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

9And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

10For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Key Verse

The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. —Luke 19:10

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Tell how Zacchaeus came to be declared “a son of Abraham.”

2. Suggest how to demonstrate the faith of Zacchaeus.

3. Commit to an extravagant act of faith to benefit another.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. The Bullied Get Revenge

B. Lesson Background

I. Two Desires (Luke 19:1-6)

A. Place and Person (vv. 1, 2)

B. Problem and Solution (vv. 3, 4)

C. Statement and Reaction (vv. 5, 6)

Always a Joyful Response?

II. Three Attitudes (Luke 19:7-10)

A. Crowd Complains (v. 7)

B. Zacchaeus Promises (v. 8)

Restitution

C. Jesus Blesses (vv. 9, 10)

Conclusion

A. Seeking the Lost

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

 

A. The Bullied Get Revenge

The past few years have seen a great deal of attention on the problem of bullying. We all remember bullies from our growing-up years: girls and boys who picked on those seen as weak or shy. Bullies sometimes did this to extort money or possessions, sometimes to gain status among peers, sometimes simply for the perverse enjoyment of tormenting others. A new twist on this in the twenty-first century is the extension of bullying via social media. One tragic result is highly publicized suicides of vulnerable adolescents.

The other side of bullying has been the payback factor, with instances of mass shootings in schools attributed to boys seeking revenge for having been bullied. But revenge for bullying can come in other, less violent ways. Sometimes an adult who was bullied as a child will use a position of influence in the business world to exact delayed revenge in various ways. For example, those who were always favored in school because of good looks or athletic ability may become the unfavored ones for career advancement and work assignments.

Perhaps that was the situation of Zacchaeus in today’s lesson. Luke 19:3 tells us that “he was little of stature.” Using our “sanctified imagination,” we might speculate that this resulted in his being teased as a child and becoming a target of bullies. So in his adult occupation as a publican (tax collector) for the hated Roman overlords, he was in a position to enforce his will on his fellow Jews. It’s easy to speculate that this little man exacted revenge over and over for his childhood traumas. The bullied boy (again, speculation) had become the oppressive tax man. But an encounter with Jesus changed that situation.

B. Lesson Background

The site of today’s lesson is Jericho, a city mentioned dozens of times in the Bible. Indeed, this locale had held a prominent place in the history of Israel back to around 1400 BC (Numbers 22:1; Joshua 2:1; etc.). At that time, Jericho was the first city to be conquered by the Israelites after crossing the Jordan River to enter the promised land of Canaan. Jericho’s downfall came about in dramatic fashion when God caused the protecting walls to collapse (Joshua 6:20). Centuries later, King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was captured by the Babylonians in “the plains of Jericho,” to which he had fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (Jeremiah 39:5).

Jericho was located less than 10 miles north-northwest of the Dead Sea, in a western fringe of the Jordan River valley. The city was an oasis settlement, having been built around a spring of fresh water in an arid region. This resulted in the settlement being known as “the city of palm trees” (Deuteronomy 34:3). Since the city had its own water supply, it did not need to be located near the Jordan River, which was four or five miles away. Archaeologists estimate that Jericho is one of the oldest sites for human settlement in the world, with remains dating back thousands of years.

At the time of Jesus, Jericho was both an agricultural hub and a resort city, features that still characterize the area today. Ancient farmers cultivated date palms and profited from the prized dates, a sweet fruit that could be dried and easily transported. Modern Jericho, sited only a mile and a half southeast of the ruins of ancient Jericho, still features date groves. Some wealthy priests of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day maintained homes in Jericho; they could make the 15-mile trip in a day or two when they were off duty from temple service.

Jericho was also the last major stop for Jews traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem for Passover and other observances. Indeed, Jesus was headed to Jerusalem for His final celebration of Passover when he encountered Zacchaeus, a publican (or tax collector) in Jericho. (See the Lesson Background for lesson 11 regarding publicans.)

I. Two Desires

                                                                    (Luke 19:1-6)

 

A. Place and Person (vv. 1, 2)

1. And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

The city of Jericho figures prominently in the pages of the Bible (see the Lesson Background). In a sense, Jesus is passing through an ancestral home, since a person in His lineage—namely Rahab—had lived there centuries before (see Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31).

Arrival in Jericho marks the beginning of the final leg of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits Him there, a journey that began in Luke 9:51. The route He is taking is the common one for Jews traveling to Jerusalem from Galilee, except for the fact that Jesus does not avoid Samaritan territory along the way as Jews normally would (Luke 9:52-56).

What Do You Think?

What reactions can we expect when Jesus “comes to town” today through a newly planted church? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

From unbelievers

From Christians

From ministers in the area

From local government

Others

2. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

In Jericho we encounter a man named Zacchaeus. We conclude that he is a Jew because, among other things, he has a Hebrew name. That name means “innocent one” or “pure,” which is ironic for the fact that he is anything but!

Being the chief among the publicans means that Zacchaeus is an achiever. Over the years, he has managed to get himself promoted to an administrative level in the tax collection function so that now he supervises several field employees. At this point in his career, Zacchaeus is likely insulated from the unpleasantness of exacting tax payments personally from the citizens of Jericho and from merchants who must pay tolls to travel through the city with commercial goods. A man in the position of Zacchaeus can let his minions do the actual collecting.

The fact that Zacchaeus is rich is no surprise, for this is the usual situation for such tax collectors. He retains a portion of the taxes collected by his underlings, passing along the necessary amount to the Roman governing officials. If Zacchaeus has set up this operation to run smoothly, it likely produces a steady personal income with little effort on his part. He may be among the richest men in the city.

B. Problem and Solution (vv. 3, 4)

3. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

The arrival of Jesus in Jericho is a major event, for by this time His reputation as a teacher and miracle worker has preceded Him. A crowd follows Him as a result (compare Luke 18:36). People have just witnessed a miraculous healing (18:43), and the excitement is palpable.

Zacchaeus is well connected with the news of his city, for his control of the tax situation requires information. He has heard of Jesus and knows that He is in town. Zacchaeus’s desire to see Jesus is more than a mere desire to gaze upon someone who is famous. Zacchaeus wants to know more about the man, perhaps even meet Him.

But Zacchaeus finds that his wealth does not yield him a choice viewing position. The presence of so many people—who likely stand shoulder to shoulder, several layers deep—serves to block his view. The fact that Zacchaeus is little of stature means that he is so short that he cannot get even a peek at the famous Jesus. Zacchaeus, despised as he is (see v. 7, below), has no friends here, and no one steps aside to give him a front-row view.

4. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

Zacchaeus is nothing if not a survivor (see the Lesson Background). One does not get to the position of being “the chief among the publicans” (v. 2, above) without being able to solve problems! Zacchaeus quickly realizes that fighting the crowd will be futile, so he runs ahead to a place where he assumes Jesus will pass within the next few moments. Zacchaeus undoubtedly is quite familiar with the layout of Jericho, so he knows of a tree suitable for climbing that borders the route.

The sycomore tree of Palestine (binomial name Ficus sycomorus) is not the same as the sycamore tree of North America (binomial name Platanus occidentalis), so we take care not to confuse them with one another. The tree familiar to Zacchaeus has branches that spread horizontally before growing vertically. Such trees are valuable for the figs that they bear (see also Amos 7:14).

For Zacchaeus to be “little of stature” does not mean he is disabled. So he is able to reach the lower limbs of the tree to have an adequate field of view. For this wealthy man to climb a tree is undignified, so we sense how eager he is to see Jesus.

C. Statement and Reaction (vv. 5, 6)

5a. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him.

We can imagine Jesus walking slowly, greeting and blessing those in the admiring crowd as He goes. He is making eye contact at street level, so what causes Him to look up and notice Zacchaeus? Is the man waving his hands to get Jesus’ attention? The text doesn’t say, but Jesus nonetheless stops, looks up, and sees the little man in the tree. It must be a bit comical, and we can almost imagine a slight smile on Jesus’ face.

5b. And said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

Luke intends us to be surprised by what comes next. First, Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name! This is a display of Jesus’ supernatural knowledge, for the text gives us no reason to think that the two have met previously.

How to Say It

Abraham Ay-bruh-ham.

Canaan Kay-nun.

Israelites Iz-ray-el-ites.

Jericho Jair-ih-co.

Judah Joo-duh.

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

Rahab Ray-hab.

Samaritan Suh-mare-uh-tun.

Zacchaeus Zack-key-us.

Zedekiah Zed-uh-kye-uh.

 

Second, Jesus tells Zacchaeus to make haste, and come down from the tree, which is an invitation for him to meet Jesus personally. Jesus eliminates the barrier of the crowd with just a few words, for the people are expected to part and let the little man through.

Third, Jesus announces that He will spend some time at Zacchaeus’s home. Jesus has already been criticized for eating with publicans (Luke 5:27-30; 15:1, 2). Sharing a meal is a strong symbol of acceptance and fellowship, and the scrupulously religious scribes and Pharisees disdain any interaction with people like Zacchaeus. And this man is not just any tax collector; he is the boss of the tax collectors, the chief of all sinners of his ilk in this city! His home is more suitable for prostitutes and drunkards, not respectable Jewish teachers.

6. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

Zacchaeus quickly realizes what a great opportunity is being presented to him. He surely has entertained no expectation that Jesus might linger in Jericho at Zacchaeus’s own home! So he quickly does as Jesus bids, receiving him joyfully in the process. This probably indicates a physical act such as an embrace. The effect is to say, “Yes, please come to my home. You are most welcome!”

What Do You Think?

What are some practical ways the church as a body can demonstrate the joy of knowing Christ? Why is it important to do so?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

To its members individually

To members of other churches

To unbelievers

Other

Always a Joyful Response?

Paying college tuition doesn’t seem like a “jump for joy” proposition, especially since the cost keeps rising year after year. Educational loans only postpone the day of reckoning when one has to start paying off, with interest, the cost of the college experience. Joy is further eroded if a tight labor market prevents one from getting a job that pays well enough to allow the borrower to make the payments on the loans.

One Christian university has developed a program it calls “Joyful Response” to encourage its students to make regular payments while still in college. The idea seems to be to foster the right attitude in fulfilling tuition payment obligations. At least one church also names its giving program “Joyful Response” as it enables church members to fulfill their donation commitments automatically via electronic transfers from congregants’ bank accounts. This is promoted as being “just like most utility bill pay programs.” Many would question whether giving to the Lord’s work should be compared with paying for water and sewer services!

Further, some may react with cynicism to the “Joyful Response” naming of the two programs above. But shouldn’t we always react with joy when offered an opportunity to support the Lord’s work? Issues of financial support aside, the Lord invites us weekly to a time of fellowship with Him in worship. Do we always respond to that invitation with “Zacchaeus joy”? If not, why?—C. R. B.

II. Three Attitudes

                                                                   (Luke 19:7-10)

 

A. Crowd Complains (v. 7)

7. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

Jesus’ fellowship with people like Zacchaeus has been the source of criticism from the scribes and Pharisees (again, Luke 5:27-30; 15:1, 2). Now it is the common folk who express concern. Zacchaeus has a reputation in Jericho, and it is not a good one. He is labeled a sinner, probably a well-deserved moniker for the city’s chief publican. His home is not a shrine to righteousness, and Zacchaeus is not one to be obsessed with keeping the Law of Moses.

Jesus knows all of this. He also knows that the angels of God rejoice over a sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Jesus can see that the seeds of faith and repentance are in Zacchaeus’s heart. The attitude of the crowd therefore has no effect on Jesus’ decision to go to the home of this man, no matter how many “sinners” He might find there.

What Do You Think?

Under what circumstances, if any, should we respond to negative reactions regarding the church’s ministry procedures? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding negativity from fellow Christians

Regarding negativity from unbelievers

Regarding negativity in the media

Other

B. Zacchaeus Promises (v. 8)

8a. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.

We have a scene change to the home of Zacchaeus, probably after a quickly arranged banquet is over. It is the time for speeches and words of blessing. Zacchaeus, as the master of the house, begins. His heart has been convicted by Jesus in ways we are not told. From his upbringing as a Jewish lad, he recalls the law’s demand to care for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11; etc.). He well knows that tax collecting for the Romans is a shady business at best, with the line between extortion and legitimate taxation often crossed. So Zacchaeus announces a new direction for his life.

That new direction includes renouncing greed. He will put his repentance into action by giving half of his goods for poverty relief. This undoubtedly involves an enormous sum of wealth! When carried through, the distribution will have a significant impact on Jericho’s poor.

8b. And if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Zacchaeus takes his repentance further by pledging fourfold restitution to those whom he has cheated (compare Luke 3:12, 13). Perhaps he is recalling the law’s demand for this level of restitution: “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exodus 22:1).

This does not seem to be an idle promise. Zacchaeus knows there are witnesses in the room who will observe whether or not he keeps his word. His two promises will significantly reduce his net worth! Publicans like Zacchaeus and Levi (Luke 5:27) are assured a comfortable living if they follow the rules and collect only the taxes that are due. Yet their positions allow for broad interpretations of tax rates, and such positions are easily and commonly abused because publicans have the authority of Rome behind them.

Greed has a tendency to be insatiable. For some people, being wealthy is never as good as being wealthier. This fact makes the vows of Zacchaeus truly remarkable! His desire to make amends for cheating people is at complete odds with what everyone has come to expect from him.

What Do You Think?

What outward, visible changes in a person’s life indicate genuine repentance?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Changes directed toward God

Changes directed toward other people

Changes in personal habits

Considering Matthew 7:1 in relation to 7:15-20

Other

Restitution

Child sexual abuse is a horrific problem that is made worse when criminals distribute pornographic images of the assaults. A 1994 U.S. federal law provides that victims of child pornography may sue for restitution from those convicted of producing, distributing, or possessing such images.

A case involving this statute came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. The assault that resulted in the pornographic images took place some 20 years earlier, and the now-grown woman was suing for restitution in the amount of $3.4 million to pay for years of therapy, lost wages, and legal fees. In extended arguments, the justices agreed on the principle that offenders should make restitution for their crimes. But they struggled with how to make the law work so that the victim was properly compensated. Upwards of 70,000 people were said to have viewed the images; should they all be made to pay? If so, how could this be accomplished?

In the case of Zacchaeus, no court of law was involved to enforce restitution. Instead, it was the presence of Jesus that resulted in that man’s vow to repay. Jesus was not interested in “playing the judge” during His time on earth (compare Luke 12:13, 14), and He did not do so in the case of Zacchaeus. That man’s decision was of his own volition. The Spirit of God working on the heart is a far more powerful force than that of any human effort at law enforcement. In which do you place the most trust?—C. R. B.

C. Jesus Blesses (vv. 9, 10)

9. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

Those gathered must be reeling from the surprising speech of Zacchaeus. But the surprises are not over yet! Jesus sends out His own shock wave by acknowledging the tax man’s change of heart. He pronounces a type of blessing on Zacchaeus’s house, saying that it is being visited by salvation right then and there. This is a roundabout way of saying that Zacchaeus’s change of heart is accepted by God, and this wayward son has been welcomed back into God’s family. This is a gripping real-life story of a prodigal who realizes his spiritual poverty. The son who had been considered as good as dead is now alive (Luke 15:24; see lesson 8).

Jesus reinforces this by reminding those gathered, especially His critics, that whatever they may think of Zacchaeus, he is a son of Abraham, an heir of the covenant (compare Luke 13:16). We are not told the reactions of those gathered. But we can expect that some, like the elder brother of the prodigal son, are furious (Luke 15:28-30).

10. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Our lesson ends with one of the most important verses in all the New Testament. In just a few words, Jesus reveals His purpose, His mission: it is to seek and to save that which was lost (compare Luke 15:4-10). Jesus is not satisfied to leave people like the despised Zacchaeus on the outside, lost in sin and without hope of salvation. Jesus’ mission is to restore even the vilest of sinners to His Father. Jesus doesn’t care that Zacchaeus is rich, short, or hated. He loves him and is unwilling to let him perish (see 2 Peter 3:9).

Visual for Lesson 13. Start a discussion by pointing to a word other than faith and asking, “How does this word relate to faith?”

Conclusion

A. Seeking the Lost

If we truly seek the lost in our communities, what will we find? What sort of sinners would we be willing to bring into the fellowship of our church? Prostitutes? Drug dealers? Addicts and drunks? Unscrupulous millionaires? All these folks need salvation, whether they live in mansions or on the street.

Jesus is no longer among us physically to seek and save the lost. He has given that task to us (Matthew 28:19, 20). We, like Simon Peter, are to fish for people (Luke 5:10), and the fisherman’s net does not discriminate. When cast broadly, the net brings in all manner of fish. We must not withhold the message of salvation from anyone. We must not block anyone’s view of Jesus. Instead, we are to see the unsaved in the unlikeliest of places and invite ourselves, as ambassadors for Jesus, into their lives. And when they respond with joyous faith, we too experience joy as do the angels in Heaven.

B. Prayer

Father, we are humbled at Your Son’s acceptance of a man such as Zacchaeus! We praise You for accepting us as You did him. We pray in the name of the Son who makes this possible. Amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Don’t overlook the Zacchaeuses of the world.


June 5

Lesson 1

The Day of the Lord

Devotional Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10

Background Scripture: Zephaniah 1:2-2:4

Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16

4 I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;

5 And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham;

6 And them that are turned back from the Lord; and those that have not sought the Lord, nor enquired for him.

14 The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

Zephaniah 2:3

3 Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.

Key Verse

Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. —Zephaniah 2:3

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. List characteristics of “the day of the Lord.”

2. Compare and contrast what Zephaniah says about the coming “day of the Lord” with what the New Testament says about “the day of the Lord,” when Christ returns.

3. Identify one hindrance in his or her life to seeking righteousness and make a plan to remove it.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Creator and Re-creator

B. Lesson Background

I. God’s Intentions (Zephaniah 1:4-6)

A. Against the Idolaters (vv. 4, 5)

B. Against the Indifferent (v. 6)

From Utopia to Dystopia and Back

II. Great Day’s Anguish (Zephaniah 1:14-16)

A. Coming Soon (v. 14)

B. Coming with Sorrow (vv. 15, 16)

III. People’s Attitude (Zephaniah 2:3)

A. Call to Repent (v. 3a)

B. Consequences of Humility (v. 3b)

Avoiding Divine Correction

Conclusion

A. Ready or Not, Here It Comes

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2015-2016 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless