The Man Who Didn’t Have Any Friends (None)
The story of Zacchaeus, from Luke 19

I’ve already blogged some about my love of the Jesus Storybook Bible and it’s companion devotional, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.

There’s also a combination (scaled down version) of the Jesus Storybook Bible and Jesus Calling for Kids.  While I also like this one, Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing are far and away the ones I turn to most.  Both sit on the pillow next to me and both are the only thing downloaded to my ipad so they’re with me if I unexpectedly end up hospitalized or with a chunk of time on my hands.

Linked in the title of the post about Zacchaeus – The Man Who Didn’t Have Any Friends (None) is an audio version of the full story from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  I’m only including excerpts.  This is NOT the same great audio (and obviously doesn’t have the videos that are so powerful, but it’ll allow you to hear the entire story at least.  As of last week, you can now purchase the DVDs of the videos and not have to purchase the entire curriculum set.  They are amazingly well done and incredibly moving.  The story of Zacchaeus is on disc 4.

What I love about the Jesus Storybook Bible is that Sally Lloyd-Jones emphasized the way that each story in the Bible whispers His name.  So often I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the details of a Bible story or who a passage may seem to be about, and yet miss that, even in some small way, that passage, too, is pointing to Jesus.

In the version of the story of Zacchaeus that most kids grow up knowing thanks to the very annoying catchy Sunday School/VBS song “Zacchaeus was a wee little man,” the focus seems to be on Zacchaeus being short, climbing a tree, and Jesus going to his house.

The song leaves out the fact that Zacchaeus was not a beloved member of his community.  He was the tax collector, not a popular job anyway, but more than that, Zacchaeus was considered a “notorious sinner” (Luke 19:7, NLT).  It also focuses more on Zacchaeus than Jesus, but what I love about the Jesus Storybook Bible is how it demonstrates the centrality of Jesus to the story of Zacchaeus.

After laying the groundwork and backstory of why Zacchaeus didn’t have any friends, and of him getting up in the tree so he could see over the people and see Jesus, the story continues:

…Suddenly Jesus was at the tree.  He stopped and looked up.  Zacchaeus saw Jesus.  And Jesus saw Zacchaeus.
‘Zacchaeus,’ Jesus said. ‘I’d like to come over to your house.’
Zacchaeus almost fell out of the tree!  Come over to his house? No one ever wanted to come anywhere near his house, let alone inside it.

The people saw this and, needless to say, it made them even crosser and grumpier than usual. They mumbled and murmured and muttered, ‘Why is Jesus being kind to that big sinner? Doesn’t Jesus know about him?’

Zacchaeus scrambled down and took Jesus to his house. He was in a big hurry because he didn’t want Jesus to change his mind.  Perhaps Jesus hadn’t heard about him.  Perhaps Jesus didn’t know about how he had been stealing.  And how no one liked him.  And how he didn’t have any friends.

Just as the townspeople wondered why Jesus was being kind to someone they considered a ‘big sinner’ and an outcast, I think sometimes we fall into that same way of thinking about others.   Not as far as why Jesus would be kind to them, since obviously we don’t have Him walking among us as Zacchaeus experienced, but sometimes in terms of a person of influence or even someone in our own family.

And Zacchaeus’ response is telling too.  Wondering if maybe Jesus just didn’t really know about who he really was and all the skeletons that were in his closet, nevermind his fear that Jesus might change His mind and not want to come over if he knew who he really was!

But Jesus knew – He knew all about Zacchaeus and the stealing and everything – and He still loved him.

Zacchaeus was ashamed. ‘Lord,’ he said, turning pale, ‘what I’ve done is wrong. But now I want to do the right thing. I will give the money back to everyone – four times what I stole!’ And that’s just what he did.

Jesus smiled. ‘My friend!” He said. ‘Today God has rescued you!’

Jesus loved Zacchaeus when nobody else did. He was Zacchaeus’ friend, even when no one else was.  Because Jesus was showing people what God’s love was like – His wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

What a beautiful example of the love Jesus has for each of us!  He knows everything about us and loves us anyway.

And what a wonderful ending description of God’s love: Wonderful…Never Stopping…Never Giving up…Unbreaking…Always and Forever Love!