Influence: In the raw and the real

Read: Luke 19:1-10

‘Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”‘


I love the story of Zacchaeus. I imagine him looking a bit like Danny DeVito with a fair amount of bling around his neck. I have often re-told the story to children from various perspectives. From the viewpoint of people in the crowd, as Jesus reaches out to the despised tax collector. I have told the story from the point of view of Zacchaeus as he struggles to see over the crowd and opts to climb the tree to glimpse Jesus. And I have told the story from the viewpoint of Jesus as he stops beneath the tree and calls Zacchaeus by name. He knows his name!

But I have also told the story from the viewpoint of the tree. A seed had been sown many years earlier and the tree was now able to support a fully grown man, in his finest clobber, as he climbs up the branches to find a perch for himself.

Whichever perspective I tell the story from, the emotion in this passage is so apparent; the anger and bemusement of the crowd; the compassion of Jesus; and the embarrassment that I imagine Zacchaeus felt (fully grown men in first century Israel didn’t run, let alone climb trees!).

Stories that are rich in emotion give us a sense of the raw and the real.

A transformed life
The name Zacchaeus means ‘righteous one,’ a name that Zacchaeus had failed to live up to. As I reflect upon this story, it reminds me of the words that have been spoken over my life – the expectations from teachers and friends and family. The expectations that can, at times, become overburdening.

But it’s in these short few verses that we see the transformation of Zacchaeus from a man that is hated by the crowd for his compliance with Rome and his money grabbing success, to a man who has encountered Jesus, had his world turned upside down and has become generous to the point of bankruptcy.

In these short few verses Zacchaeus’ core identity is changed as he is defined in his new relationship with Jesus.

This story is real in the way Zacchaeus’ greed, selfishness and his failings are not edited out of the story. This story is real in the way Zacchaeus chooses to position himself to get a glimpse of Jesus, making himself vulnerable. This story is real in the way Jesus knows Zacchaeus’ name and meets him where he’s at, as a ‘sinner’ up a tree.

Salvation has come to this house
Perhaps one of the most staggering phrases in this passage is in the words of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house” (v9). Zacchaeus, who has had considerable influence in his community as a chief tax collector, also has influence in his home. His family saw the reality of the transformation in his life as he started to live generously, and they are impacted by the decision he has made to follow in the way of Jesus.

The reminder for us as parents is that we are influencers in our homes. Our history, our greed and selfishness and our failings, don’t prevent us from planting seeds of faith in our children’s lives.

Even when we still make mistakes and mess up, God can and will use us. As we share about our encounters with Jesus and as we try to follow him, we are perfectly positioned to talk about the reality of what faith looks like. It’s in the raw and the real that seeds are sown.

As a family

Read the story of Zacchaeus together. Maybe you can act it out – if you’re brave try climbing trees! Or maybe your child still fits on your shoulders! Make it fun, but chat about how God has forgiven some of the things you’ve done wrong. Share an example that you could do the opposite of. Perhaps if you were unkind to somebody, then find someone to be extra kind to. What an opportunity to grow in faith together as a family.

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Share ideas and learn from each other so we can all succeed in inspiring faith in our homes.

"It was so good to talk to other mums who are struggling with the same things as me."

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