Jesus and the Extortionist

“Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?”

Investigative Bible Discussions by Mark Ashton


  • Have you ever had a “brush with greatness”? (i.e. met or came in casual contact with someone famous?) What were the circumstances? What was he/she like? How did he/she treat you?
  • Read Luke 19:1-10.

Discussion Questions

  • List all of the facts that we learn about Zacchaeus from v1-4. Note: Tax collectors were among the most hated people in all of Israel. They were not nearly so friendly and professional the today’s IRS agents. They were Jews hired by the occupying Roman Government to collect a certain tax from each family. They were also given permission and the authority of Rome to tax any amount above the standard tax and keep the extra. They levied huge taxes and got rich off all of the people. Tax collectors were known extortionists and thiefs who were wealthy, but were also despised by the community.
  • Based upon what we know of Jesus from past weeks, what do you suppose Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus that made him so interested?
  • Describe the scene of the gathering crowd and parade of Jesus with his followers as they walked down the road and approached Zacchaeus.
  • How do you think that Zacchaeus felt when Jesus stopped, singled him out of the crowd and decided to stay the night at his place?
  • How would you feel if the person in your “brush with greatness” story wanted to stay overnight with you?
  • Why do you suppose all of the onlookers disapproved? (v. 7)
  • Why was Jesus’ attitude different from the crowd? (v. 10)
  • What is so amazing about Zacchaeus declaration in v. 8? What would this action do to his lifestyle? What does this action show about the sincerity of his newfound devotion to Jesus? Note: It was not Zacchaeus’ works of giving away money that brought salvation, but it was his faith that was demonstrated by turning from his wrongful ways that saved him. His faith was shown to be genuine by his actions.
  • Read Luke 18:9-14.

Discussion Questions

  • To whom is Jesus addressing this story? Why would this make them angry?
  • Compare and contrast the Pharisee and the tax collector.
  • Why was the tax collector justified?
  • What would the Pharisee’s actions and prayer need to look like in order to be saved?

Reflection Question

  • What universal principles do we learn from Zacchaeus and the tax collector about coming to God for forgiveness and salvation?