A Do-it-Yourself Study

by Crossings

The Story of Zacchaeus
Luke 19:1-10
A Do-it-Yourself Study
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Mea culpa! This goes out to you 2 days late (on Oct. 28)–and it’s not even aimed at any of next Sunday’s lectionary texts. Here’s why: Friday through Sunday (Oct. 25-27) I was at Faith Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa leading an “old-fashioned” Crossings weekend workshop on “The Word of God and Daily Work.” I didn’t get something out on the cyber-lanes before I left town. So here’s my attempt at catch-up. What I pass on is a study sheet I left with the Iowa folks as I departed. It’s a Crossings matrix, but with questions rather than answers. Designed for them to try their hand at a do-it-yourself Crossings matrix with an old familiar text. So you may herewith, if you wish, join the Iowans and do-it-yourself too!
Peace & Joy! Ed

The Story of Zacchaeus: “Too short” to see Jesus A Do-it-Yourself Study of Luke 19:1-10 with Prompts


STAGE 1: Surface Symptoms – “Too short”
Suppose that Luke is using Zacchaeus’ short stature and his climbing a tree to see as word-plays. Zacchaeus is not “short” of money. But what is he “short of” in his life? To answer that question what can you deduce from his job and the results of that job (v.2)? See also last line in v.8. How might that make him too short to “see” the Messiah when he finally comes? He is a “son of Abraham,” Jesus says (v.9). How does that fact “up the ante” and makes his “shortness” such a serious shortfall?

STAGE 2: What’s going on in the heart?
Here we need to use our imagination since the text gives little direct information. Luke says the crowd prevents him from seeing Jesus. What can you imagine was the crowd’s overall attitude toward Zacchaeus, especially if he really has been defrauding them as he collects their taxes? What label does the crowd give him in v.7? Do you think he believes their verdict about him? Suppose that he does. Is that good or bad for a “son of Abraham” to do?

STAGE 3: The Root of it all: “Lost”
When “sinner” is God’s last word about people, they are “lost.” Luke uses the word “lost” often for the deepest dilemma of a sinner. Take a look at the three parables about the “lost” in Luke 15. Notice there that it is not so much that the sheep, the coin, & both sons get themselves lost, but that by their straying away the shepherd, the woman, the father (=God himself) has lost them. In what way is that true of Zacchaeus before Jesus comes along–that God has lost him?


STAGE 4: Healing at the Roots:
Christ Takes On our Sickness to Heal Us. Jesus seeks and saves the Lost: Salvation comes to Zacchaeus’ House If the sinner’s dilemma is as serious as we just saw in Stage 3, what is Jesus getting himself involved in by “going to be the guest of a sinner?” Is there Good News already in Jesus’ bidding Zacchaeus come “down” instead of climbing “up” to see Jesus? If Zacchaeus is actually as “lost” as the ones in the parables of Luke 15, what will it finally cost Jesus to go out and save him? In what way will Jesus eventully be “going all the way to the cross” in order to bring “salvation” Zacchaeus? What makes all this “Good News” for this particular sinner?

STAGE 5: Healing in the Heart:
“Seeing” Jesus and”welcoming” him gladly What is the switch going on inside Zacchaeus as he responds to Jesus’s invitation to “come down?” Would he “welcome” Jesus so gladly if he still believed the crowd’s verdict about him? By welcoming Jesus, does he accept their verdict or ignore it? How does his next action (v.8) answer this question? What has given him the courage to admit his sins and make restitution? What does he now believe about himself? Could you call this “faith?”

STAGE 6: Healing the Symptoms:
“Seeing” Jesus and living accordingly. Jesus invites himself into Zacchaeus’s life and turns it upside down. Luke calls this “salvation” (Stage 4 below). Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus gladly. Call it faith (Stage 5). How does his daily life change as a result? Do you think he gives up his tax collecting? How might a Jesus-disciple survive in such a “dicey” job? He aims to focus on the poor, he says. What was his former focus? What “fullness” now replaces his former “shortness?”


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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.


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