An EasyEnglish Drama Unit (Accessible Easy English) on Luke 19:1-10
In Jesus’s time, Jews hated tax collectors. There were three big reasons for this.
1. Tax collectors over-charged the taxes. Then they kept the extra money. This was the way they got paid. Most tax collectors got very rich by over-charging taxes. Zacchaeus was one of these rich tax collectors.
2. Taxes were too high. Some people had to sell their children into slavery to pay their taxes. High taxes made the Jews poor and kept them poor.
3. Tax collectors worked for the Romans. The taxes went to pay Roman soldiers and Roman governors. The Jews hated the Romans in their land, and they hated paying taxes for them.
Jericho was a large city at a crossing on the Jordan River. It was on a main road to Jerusalem. So Jericho was a rich city. A lot of tax money came from there. And Zacchaeus was the head tax collector in Jericho.
The Bible does not tell us much about Zacchaeus. It does say Zacchaeus was a short man. It says he climbed a tree to see Jesus. And it says Zacchaeus was glad to have Jesus stay at his house.
The Bible tells us more about the crowd. It says the crowd didn’t like it when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’s house.
The Old Testament has some rules about what is stolen. Exodus 22:1-4 says if a man steals cattle (wealth) and sells it or uses it up, he will pay back four times what he took.
If he keeps the wealth, he will give it back double.
If the man is sorry before anyone asks, and wants to give the wealth back, then he will give it back and add 20%.
Zacchaeus promised to give back four times anything he stole.
There are a lot of questions about Zacchaeus. How did Zacchaeus feel about his job?
Did he hope to talk to Jesus? Or did he just want to see him?
Did he know that Matthew was a tax collector, and that Matthew was one of Jesus’s followers?
What did Jesus say to Zacchaeus in his house?
We do not know the answers to the questions.
The important part of Zacchaeus’s story is about Jesus. The real story tells that Jesus can come to any person. Jesus can save any person who listens to him and wants to change.
Luke 19 New English Bible; Living Bible; Contemporary English Bible
The Gospel of Luke, William Barclay, 1975
Kraybill Luke Commentary
“Jesus Walk”, Ralph F. Wilson, Internet Bible Study Lesson 78
Halley’s Bible Handbook
Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible
Taxes, taxes, I love taxes!
I steal from the rich,
And I steal from the poor.
When anything’s left
I take some more.
I steal from the Romans,
And I steal from the Jews.
Talents and shekels¾
I win, you lose.
Robber and traitor
I hear all day long.
And all men hate me
They say, ‘Scum-bag, be gone’!
I love taxes…
by Frances Jones
Zacchaeus’s rich clothing
Tree in front of a stepladder
Bags of gold
A box to hold the coins and gold
Paper and pencil
Stage directions are on the actor’s right and left.
Zacchaeus sits at a table centre left of the stage. He is counting coins and weighing gold. He wears rich clothes and jewels. He sings “Zacchaeus’s Song”. (Or the song is sung off stage to show what Zacchaeus is thinking).
ZACCHAEUS: (Putting a bag of gold in the box, and marking the paper) One thousand shekels from Daniel in the north part of Jericho. (Putting the other bag and the coins in the box, and marking the paper. He closes the box) And eight hundred from Simon in the south of Jericho. I wonder how much they stole from me. Fifty shekels? Well, I can hold back two hundred from the Romans if I want to.
Noise of a crowd off stage left. People say, ‘Here he comes!’ ‘It is Jesus!’ ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ ‘Jesus is coming!’ ‘Get out of my way, I want to see Jesus.’
ZACCHAEUS: What is that? (He listens) Oh, it’s Jesus. I have heard of him. One of his followers is a man named Matthew.
Zacchaeus repeats the last verse of ‘Zacchaeus’s Song’, sighs, gets up and walks off stage to the left.
Crowd noise behind curtain while the table and chair are taken off stage. When curtains open, Jesus is right centre stage. A crowd faces him. A tree is at the back of centre stage.
JESUS: I am going to Jerusalem. Then all that the prophets said will come true.
PEOPLE IN THE CROWD: What did he say? (To each other) What does that mean? Did you hear?
(Two men walk quickly on stage from the left.)
JOSHUA: There he is. Let’s hear what he says.
(They stand at the back of the crowd, trying to see.)
THAD: Can you get closer? It’s hard to see. Can you hear anything?
(Zacchaeus comes on stage from the left and hurries up to the crowd. He and tries to get past the two men.)
JOSHUA: Yes, I can¾hey, you! (to THAD) That is Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Do not let him in.
THAD: (Moves so that Zacchaeus can’t pass.) Why does he want to see Jesus? To tax the sandals right off his feet? (He glares at Zacchaeus and moves again so that Zacchaeus can’t get past.)
Zacchaeus runs around the crowd and climbs the stepladder tree.
JESUS: (Looking at Zacchaeus) Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. I must stay at your home today.
The crowd talks to each other. ‘What did he say to Zacchaeus?’ ‘Stay at Zacchaeus home? Why?’
Zacchaeus gets down and hurries off stage left.
RACHEL: (walking away) I do not respect a man who stays with a tax collector. A tax collector is nothing but a robber. My brother had to sell his son to be a slave. To pay his taxes! I hate tax collectors! (She goes off stage right.)
THAD: What did Jesus say? Did you hear?
JOSHUA: He is going to stay at Zacchaeus’s home today.
Jesus follows Zacchaeus off stage left.
THAD: Stay with that scum-bag? Why does he go there? Why does he not come home with me? Or you? Zacchaeus is nothing but a robber.
Curtains open almost immediately. The crowd is sitting or leaning against the tree. They have been waiting all day.
JOSHUA: The door of Zacchaeus’s home is open. Jesus is coming.
Zacchaeus and Jesus come on stage from the left.
ZACCHAEUS: Friends, I have come¾
THAD: Shut up, Zacchaeus! We do not want to hear you! We came to hear Jesus.
JESUS: (raises his hand) Let Zacchaeus talk.
ZACCHAEUS: Here and now I give half of all I have to the poor.
Crowd talks to each other. ‘Did you hear that?’ ‘Ha, who is he kidding?’ ‘No rich man gives up what he has.’
ZACCHAEUS: (taking off his jewels and giving them to a man in the crowd.) And¾hear me¾please. And if I have over-charged anyone, I will pay it back four times over.
Crowd, to each other, ‘Four times over!’ ‘What has happened to Zacchaeus?’ ‘I do not believe him.’
JOSHUA: We do not believe you, Zacchaeus! You lie and steal!
JESUS: Hear me! Believe me! Salvation has come to Zacchaeus’s house today! This man is from the family of Abraham, too. But he was lost. It is souls like this that I have come to find and to save.
The crowd starts to leave off stage right. They talk quietly, ‘What do you think of that?’ ‘What did Jesus mean?’ ‘Zacchaeus has changed!’
THAD: (Stops.) When my father died, I did not give my brother his part. I hid it for myself. If a man like Zacchaeus can be saved, can I? (He turns and hurries back to Jesus) Jesus! Jesus…
The crowd starts to sing as they go off stage.
Jesus, Jesus, changed bad Zacchaeus
He changed him from sinner to forgiven man
When Jesus calls you, say “Jesus, here I am!”
Jesus, Jesus! He can change you
To a forgiven man.
© 1997-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in Accessible EasyEnglish.
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