Man Out On a Limb

Face to Face with Jesus

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

What would it be like to encounter Jesus face to face? That’s the question this series sets out to help us answer. We can’t know, of course, but we can get a glimpse of what happened to those who did meet Jesus in the Gospel texts we examine here.

This series of children’s messages leads up to Thanksgiving, a traditional holiday in the United States. Each week, use a thank-you card to write a thank-you note to Jesus for each face-to-face encounter. Invite the children to help create the language used in the thank-you card. Write them (or pretend to write them) as children help you create the wording. Write each thank-you card as the character who encountered Jesus Face-to-Face. Throughout this series, remind families about giving thanks to God. See Gratitude of this season as a spiritual discipline. Giving thanks to God daily helps us to focus our vision and restore our joy.

The Holy Spirit is moving in the world. Allow time to take inventory of your blessings during this time. That is an amazing way to pay attention to the Spirit’s movements around you. One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to find ways to be more grateful and to continually express gratitude in your life.

In this time of Thanksgiving, remind the children during this series to make a commitment to living a thankful life. Have them make a promise to themselves or someone close to them to be intentional with the ongoing practice of gratitude. Suggest they give it a try to see how God can work in their lives.

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost – Man Out on a Limb

October 30, 2022 – Luke 19:1-10 NIRV

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man named Zacchaeus lived there. He was a chief tax collector and was very rich. 3 Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. But he was a short man. He could not see Jesus because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. He wanted to see Jesus, who was coming that way.

5 Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus was. He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So Zacchaeus came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this. They began to whisper among themselves. They said, “Jesus has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up. He said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of what I own to those who are poor. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay it back. I will pay back four times the amount I took.”

9 Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to your house. You are a member of Abraham’s family line. 10 The Son of Man came to look for the lost and save them.”

New International Reader's Version (NIRV) Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Object/visual aid:

Blank thank-you card. In advance, ask a few adults to volunteer to participate in the message. Inform them ahead of time that you will ask them for something “valuable” and when asked for it pretends to be upset about the situation. Have them be prepared to offer such items as a watch, a small purse, bracelet, or ring (if it can be removed quickly and easily). Assure them that you won’t harm the items and that they will get them back after this children’s message.


(For this message, you could have the children meet you somewhere different from the worship space where you typically gather.) Today, I thought we might take a short walk around the worship space as we talk about a man that you may have heard of. His name was Zacchaeus. By a show of hands, how many of you have heard that name? (Allow children to raise their hands in response.)

Let’s pretend that I am Zacchaeus. If you have heard of Zacchaeus, then one of the things you may already know is that he was a very short man. Perhaps he was short in height, but it could also be that he was “short” in status. This would mean that he didn’t have much power with others. (Either bend your knees to “become” smaller or kneel and “walk” on your knees if you are able.) I am a short man. I am also a tax collector. I take money from people to give to the government. (Begin moving toward your typical gathering place for the children’s message. As you do, stop, and ask your volunteers for their valuables.) “Hello, (name of person), I think you owe the government. Give me something valuable for the government. And give me a little something extra for my effort.”

Once you have collected a few things, lead the children to the space designated for the children’s message. (If you are not able to move around the worship space, one approach would be to have volunteers nearby, and you could move between them while children remain in their designated space.) Wow, I sure have a lot of great stuff here! It seemed that those people weren’t incredibly happy with me. Do you think they were happy with me taking their things? Why do you think they weren’t happy with me? (Allow children to give suggestions.) You may be right; I guess I do take more than I am supposed to take from others. To many people, I may not be a very nice person.

But I have my own problems. Look at me! I am a short person. I have heard that Jesus is coming to town, and I am so short that I won’t even be able to see him. How am I going to be able to see Jesus? (Allow children to offer ideas. One child may remember the story or suggest climbing a tree.) That’s a great idea. Zacchaeus can climb a tree to get a better view of Jesus when he arrives.

That is exactly what Zacchaeus does. (Pantomime climbing a tree to get a better view.)

Do you know what happened next to Zacchaeus? (Allow children to answer.) Zacchaeus was up in the tree, trying to get a good look from above. Jesus passed by under the tree and called up to him, “Zacchaeus, come down right away. I must go to your house today.”

While Zacchaeus climbed down out of the tree, he felt something inside of him that he had never felt before. He felt love for the first time. Jesus’ love changed Zacchaeus. His encounter with Jesus led Zacchaeus to be more grateful and generous to others. And when he became more grateful, he gave all the people their things back. (As you tell the children this, hand back all the items you took from the volunteers.)

Why do you think Zacchaeus changed? How do you feel when someone shows love to you? (Allow children to answer.)

Zacchaeus had a choice in that moment when Jesus called up into the tree to him. “Do I follow Jesus? Do I trust Jesus?” Zacchaeus chose to allow Jesus into his life. When he did, he was a changed man.

Later this month, we celebrate a holiday where we give thanks. Do you know what this holiday is called? (Allow children to answer.) That’s right. This month, we celebrate Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for all our blessings. In the next few weeks during worship, we are going to give Jesus thanks, as we learn stories from people who found themselves face-to- face with Jesus.

One way you give thanks is to write a thank-you card. I have some cards here with me, and each week together, we are going to write a thank-you card. Let’s pretend that we are Zacchaeus and write Jesus a thank-you for changing who Zacchaeus was as a person.

As we write this thank-you card from Zacchaeus to Jesus, we will also use the note as our prayer. As we decide what to write, think about those times in your life, perhaps when you were like Zacchaeus and treated others unfairly. Remember how you felt, how it resulted in you hurting the feelings of others around you. Jesus forgives you. Jesus is listening to you. Confess to him. Remember how Jesus taught forgiveness that day in Zacchaeus’ home. Listen as Jesus tells Zacchaeus, and you, that he loves you. How do you feel with the feeling of love in your heart, as you turn and walk with Jesus?

(Write the thank-you card. Have your words prepared and as you pretend to write the thank-you note; then read the note aloud.)

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for stopping under the tree that day and coming over to my house. I truly needed to be forgiven and felt loved by you. Thank you for listening to me. I feel like a totally different person, knowing that you love me.



In This Series...

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Reign of Christ, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes