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.

Note to the Teacher

The key idea from this scripture (for this lesson) is, “What would it be like to come face to face with Jesus? Is there anything funny that might happen?” One Icebreaker invites youth to dance to a song about a blue dude, which introduces Zacchaeus as being in a blue (sad) situation before he met Jesus. Another icebreaker invites students to say their names like Jesus called Zacchaeus’ name. The discussion invites students to think about why a powerful and rich man like Zacchaeus would want to see the healer and teacher, Jesus. The discussion also relates Zacchaeus’ story to that of the prodigal son. The activity allows youth to think about the bigger picture of these chapters in Luke as we continue through the Gospel of Luke for the next few weeks. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker (10 minutes):

Blue Dude Dance Break or “Say My Name, Say My Name”

If your group likes to move, choose the high-tech option 1. If you’re more of a seated group, choose the low-tech option 2. Either way, have some fun!

Option 1: High-Tech

Say: “Since this series is about things that are funny or humorous, let’s do a fun dance to ‘Blue’ (‘Da Ba Dee’) since Zacchaeus was a little blue (sad) guy caught up in a blue (sad) system before he met Jesus": See Blue (Da Ba Dee) - Just Dance 2018 (Megastar - *5).

If any students don’t want to stand up to dance, they can dance while seated or watch this video later and dance at home where it’s safe. Make sure to clap for one another after you dance no matter how it goes. You did great!

Option 2: Low Tech

“Say Your Name, Say Your Name”

Go around the circle clockwise or counterclockwise, saying your names as fast as you can. Try and get faster and faster. If you have a smaller group, use last names, too. For more of a challenge, shift the names to the right or left one person, so that the group now has to say the name of the person to their right or left as fast as they can going around the circle. Have someone be the clock watcher with their phone or watch. Add a fun challenge: make folks turn in a circle when they say their name.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

In our scripture reading today, the (by now in his life) famous rabbi, Jesus, is out in public; and someone named Zacchaeus climbs a tree to spot him because the crowd is so large. Then Jesus calls him by name and says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down!” While you read, focus on these two things in this story:(1) What’s funny in this story? (2) What would it be like to meet Jesus in person in this situation?

Read Luke 19:1-10.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • What makes something funny? Can something be funny without laughing at someone or making fun of someone? How do you usually react when you see something funny?
  • What’s funny in the story we read about Zacchaeus meeting Jesus?
  • Why do you think so many people wanted to see Jesus? (Hint: Look at the paragraph right before this chapter – Luke 18:35-43.)
  • Is there anyone alive today whom people would flock to see as they did to see Jesus? Who gets huge in-person crowds? Who would you climb a tree to see? Why?
  • Why do you think someone like Zacchaeus, a rich and powerful man, wanted to or felt that he needed to see Jesus?
  • Do you think that Zacchaeus had already been thinking of changing his life before he met Jesus in person?
  • If you were dealing with anything in your life and wanted to tell Jesus or someone important about it, what would it be? (This question may receive answers that require trust for the answers to stay within the group. If your group has a covenant of any kind, it may be worth referring to behavior expectations before inviting youth to answer this question.)

Google the word “prodigal.” Read the story of a prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.

  • What definitions did we find for “prodigal”? How does that add layers of meaning to the story beyond the son simply being “lost”?
  • If this parable were a funny movie, what could the title be?
  • In life, people experience a lot of ups and downs, joys and sadness, happiness and heartbreak, too, just as the prodigal son and his family did.
  • Have you ever heard of or experienced a situation like what happened with the prodigal son in real life or with people you know?
  • How is the prodigal son from Luke 15 like Zacchaeus in Luke 19?

For the next four weeks, we are learning about what happens toward the end of Jesus’ life. God speaks to us through our thoughts and experiences and other people’s experiences and words or thoughts too. What do you think the Spirit of God is speaking into your life through what we explored today in the Bible?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

Take this lesson to the next level by checking out an overview of the chapters we’ll discuss in the next few weeks: The Crucifixion of Jesus: Luke 19-23.

Watch the video or summarize it for students if you run out of time or don’t have a way to watch it. Discuss your feelings about the events that happen toward the later parts of Jesus’ life. Can you think of other people, like Jesus, who have angered people in power with the way they help, or stand up for others, or for how they call for change in the world?

Go to and see who this artist/painter, Kelly Latimore, considers iconic and world-changing like Jesus.

Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • YouTube clips of Luke 19-23 from the Bible Project Channel (high-tech option)
  • YouTube clip of “Blue” (“Da Ba Dee”) [high-tech option]
  • Computer w/ speakers or TV
  • A way to view images from (optional for next-level discussion)
  • Phone, computer, or prints of images prepared beforehand if needed.
  • (One of the students can look the images up if you don’t have a smartphone and the student does.)
  • A timer (on a phone or watch)

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