Ben Folds: Not The Same

I’m preparing to give a kids talk at Church on Sunday morning. I’ve been ask to give a talk on Zacchaeus aimed at 5 year olds. I love giving kids talks. It’s a great privilege God gives to tell young kids about the God who loves them. And the great thing about kids talks is that they’re great for adults too. Everyone has different learning styles, so the very visual, simple talk with one big point can really make an impact. But sometimes, as is the case with this talk, as I prepare I find myself with great illustrations that aren’t appropriate for the audience. Usually they’re too obscure or aimed at too young an audience. This time though, the illustration I thought of was too old for my audience. I doubt many 5 year olds have heard of Ben Folds.

You can find the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. If you think the tax man is unpopular today, you should have seen them 2000 years ago. Firstly, they were collecting taxes in Israel for an empire that had conquered them. The tax collector was a constant reminder that Israel was under the heel of the Roman Empire. Secondly, they were glorified thieves. They would take more money than they were required to in order to line their own coffers. So they were a bunch of greedy, selfish sell-outs who took all your money. Yeah, they were pretty much hated.

Now one day, Zacchaeus heard that this bloke called Jesus was coming into town. Word had been spreading that Jesus was pretty special. That he’d been casting out demons, healing people, performing miracles. Zacchaeus wanted to meet Jesus, so he went to go find him. When he did, he couldn’t see Jesus. There was such a big crowd that he couldn’t see him. No one liked him, so know one would let him squeeze through. And he was a short man, so he couldn’t see over the top of everyone. So he climbed a tree. He climbed a tree and saw Jesus. And Jesus saw him. Jesus invited himself around to Zacchaeus’ place for lunch.

This caused a stir. Here was this respected teacher having a meal with a notorious sinner. It would be like the Dalai Lama sitting down with a group of prostitutes and drug dealers in Kings Cross for lunch. It wouldn’t happen. Yet Jesus did it. Jesus said that he had come to save those who were lost. Guys like Zacchaeus. Jesus showed that he loved people like Zacchaeus, even if no one else thought they were worthy of love. Zacchaeus was not the same after that.

On Ben Folds album Rockin’ the Suburbs, there’s a song called Not The Same. It’s the story of a guy who took too much acid at a party, climbed a tree, and became a Christian.

You took a trip and climbed a tree
At Robert Sledge’s party
And there you stayed ’till morning came
And you were not the same after that
You gave your life to Jesus Christ
And after all your friends went home
You came down, you looked around
And you were not the same after that

When we meet Jesus, when we come to know who he is and what he has done, we can never be the same. Once the Holy Spirit enters you, you are a new person, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Zacchaeus, like the guy in Not The Same, climbed a tree and met Jesus. He came to realise that he was a sinner and that he needed to be saved. That he needed Jesus. And when we accept Jesus as our saviour, when we recognise that he is the only means by which we are saved, then we will be changed. We will no longer want to live the sinful way, but live God’s way. When you become a Christian, you will not be the same.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

2 responses to “Ben Folds: Not The Same”

  1. Filip Lund says :

    Hi, can I use the image for an article on Zacchaeus in our childrens sunday school magazine? It’s purely non profit.

    – Filip Lund, Denmark

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