The Humility Tree

February 28, 2021

David Sorn

Sometimes if you really want to see Jesus, you have to lower your pride and climb a tree.

The Humility Tree

February 28, 2021

David Sorn

Sometimes if you really want to see Jesus, you have to lower your pride and climb a tree.



All right….Question for you: Who’s the worst person you know?

Okay, don’t answer that question.

Who’s the worst type of person in society in your mind?

2,000 years ago, in Jesus’ time, it was the guys who worked for the IRS

Well, the Roman version.

They were called, Tax Collectors.

See, in Jesus’ Day, Israel had been taken over and occupied by the Roman Empire.

And so the Jews had to pay exorbitant taxes to the Romans.

However, the Romans knew that if they had one of their own people collect taxes, they wouldn’t know the city well enough to collect ALL of the taxes from ALL of the businesses and people.

So, the Romans hired local Jews to be tax collectors for them.

And they told the Jewish Tax Collectors, “This is how much we want… anything you get beyond that you can keep for yourself.”

And that local Jewish Tax Collector would also have the backing of the Roman Army if, say, people weren’t cooperating with them.

And so you can imagine, these Jewish tax collectors were considered absolute traitors…scum of the earth.

While everyone else was suffering under these oppressive taxes instituted by their conquerors, these Jewish Tax Collectors were getting rich off their own friends (well, former friends) and neighbors.

And so if someone asked the people of Jesus’ day, who’s the worst type of person?

Without hesitation, they’d all answer, “TAX COLLECTORS!”

And it’s to a tax collector, the worst of the worst, that Jesus is going to speak today in our passage

I’d love for you to follow along

(Page 717)

(Renovation app)

We are continuing in our study of the Book of Luke…

…which is 1 of 4 books in the Bible about the life, teachings, death, & resurrection of Jesus.

We’ve been watching as Jesus is journeying ever-nearer to Jerusalem for the Passover, and ultimately his death.

He’s most likely now only a few days away from beginning the very last week of his life on earth.

And he’s just entering Jericho, a city very near Jerusalem.

Let’s take a look at our passage

(Luke 19:1-10) – NIV

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


(“The Humility Tree” Title Slide)

Pretty amazing story.

We see Jesus, the Son of God, reach out to this hated tax collector.

And not just a tax collector, we’re told he’s a CHIEF Tax Collector at that!

But amazingly, Salvation comes to his house and God starts to move mightily through Him.

And my aim this morning, is to show you how God can flow mightily through your life.

This, as usual, is not an exhaustive treatment on that subject, but will show us what we can learn from this passage of God’s Word on that subject.

How to Have God Flow Mightily Through Your Life

#1: Lower your pride & climb the “Humility Tree”

I know some of you are hearing this story of Zacchaeus for the very first time, but for others of you, you’ve heard since you were a kid

And you memorized the “Zacchaeus was a wee little man” song.

The challenge sometimes with the more “famous stories” of the Bible is that the storyline becomes so “normal” to us that we don’t see the uniqueness of them anymore.

Yes, we say, “Zacchaeus was short, so he had to climb a tree to see!”

True, but I think that many of us are so familiar with the story that we fail to think about how humiliating it would have been for Zacchaeus to climb a tree

For one, it says that because he couldn’t see over the crowd, Zacchaeus RAN to get to a tree up ahead

From what we know about Jewish men in this time and culture, they didn’t “run” in public. Ever.

It was not dignified.

Certainly not in the robes they wore.

But Zacchaeus, lowers his pride, and runs.

And secondly, he climbs a tree!

Which again, sounds normal only if you’ve read the story a whole bunch of times.

Listen, grown men didn’t climb trees.

Especially grown, rich, powerful men.

Even in our time they don’t.

This would be like, if some famous Christian speaker of our day, say Timothy Keller or something, was speaking outside in Central Park in New York City…

And thousands upon thousands gathered to hear him proclaim forgiveness in Christ.

And there, in the crowd, Bill Gates and Elon Musk were both spotted climbing trees so they could see.

It’s unthinkable, right?

Because they’re grown men…and powerful…and rich.

That’s who Zacchaeus is…a powerful, wealthy, grown man.

He’s not a child.

Zacchaeus is going to pay an enormous social price for this.

I mean, he’s probably already infamous on social media by the time he gets up the tree.

People are making memes of him before Jesus even gets over to his tree.

But here’s the thing.

Zacchaeus…climbs that tree…like a young boy…but by doing so, He will see God

It’s just as Jesus said in Matthew 18

(Matthew 18:3) – NIV

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

And who is it that climbs trees without thinking about what others will think?

Little children.

That’s who we need to be to see God!

Friends, listen to me…if you really want to know Jesus…

Whether for the first time, or if it’s to deepen your relationship with Him

You’re going to need to lower your pride, and climb the “Humility Tree”

Many of us have not been allowing God to move through us because of our pride

And one of the ways you can identify your pride is to see where you are fearful.

Often, what you’ll find even deeper than a fear of failure, or fear of what other people think, is the fear of our pride getting wounded.

Some of you are afraid to become a Christian because you’re afraid of what other people (like your friends or family) might think

Others of you are afraid to be bold in your faith…

to speak out for God when someone’s challenging Him or His ways…

to invite a friend to church…

to pray in public…

And these fears…the fear of people thinking less of you because you’re climbing a tree to see Jesus more closely…

These fears are hindering your relationship with God.

You’re not having those moments where God is flowing mightily through your life…because you’re simply hanging back with the crowd…

…too afraid to climb the Humility Tree

Let me just ask you: Where you do you need to climb the Humility Tree this week?

Where do you need to lower your pride so you can get closer to Jesus?


I want to take a look at a 2nd way from this passage that you can have God flow more mightily through your life

How to Have God Flow Mightily Through Your Life

#1: Lower your pride & climb the “Humility Tree”

#2: Ignore the crowd

The crowd is in major opposition to Zacchaeus the whole way through this story.

If you think about it, normally, when you’re in a group, nobody cares if the short guy stands in front of them.

But no one’s letting Zacchaeus through.

Everywhere he tries to squeeze through, he’s most likely met with jarring shoulder bumps.

The crowd thinks that Zacchaeus is the last person who deserves to see Jesus.

And then later, when Jesus surprisingly announces that he’s coming to Zacchaeus’ house to stay…the crowd is indignant.

Look at verse 7 again:

(Luke 19:7) – NIV

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

Jesus was supposed to stay at their house…not Zacchaeus’!

They’re the good guys!

And one of the heartbreaking pattens we’ve seen over and over and over again in Luke 18 (and now 19) is that the religious people continue to be obstacles to lost people finding Jesus.

To those of you here that are thinking about turning your life over to Jesus…don’t let the hypocritical and self-righteous admirers of Jesus block your view of him…or turn you off from Him.

Maybe you’ve been hurt by a family member who claimed to follow Christ

Or maybe even by a church you used to attend.

I can tell you that many claim to be followers of Jesus, but truly aren’t…

They don’t understand his Gospel of grace at all.

But I can also tell you that ALL of Christ’s followers are imperfect sinners….they are not perfect like the Savior.

The best thing you can do, if you really want God to flow mightily through your life…is to ignore the crowd.

Focus your eyes on JESUS.

Climb up a tree to get over the crowd if you need to.

Some of you need to really re-engage JESUS in prayer.

Your mind has been locked on to someone who hurt you, instead of focusing on Jesus who loves you.

Others of you need to investigate who Jesus really is…instead of who using his imperfect followers as an excuse not to follow Him.

Take a Bible with you today when you leave…start reading…maybe start even with the Book of Luke.

Jesus is so different than many of the self-righteous people you may have met.

Do you know why these so-called religious people are angry that Jesus is going over to Zacchaeus’ house? (which in their culture was an official act of friendship)

It’s because of Zacchaeus’ sin.

In their mind, Zacchaeus hadn’t EARNED the right for someone like Jesus to come into his home.

But the way of Jesus is not like the way of the world.

Jesus calls Zacchaeus down by name…while he’s still a sinner…still a selfish, greedy, mess.

And he says, “Zacchaeus, I’m coming into your life”

And verse 6 says Zacchaeus did this:

(Luke 19:6) – NIV

6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

Jesus is coming, and Zacchaeus, welcomed him in.

He receives Jesus into his life.


And the order of this is really important if you’re going to truly understand how Christianity works.

Zacchaeus doesn’t flag Jesus down from the Sycamore Tree and say, “Hey…Jesus…up here! Listen, I promise I’ll start to be good and stop stealing and pay people back! Look I’m doing it right now…here’s some of your money back people!”

And then Jesus says, “Okay, since I see you’re being good now, why don’t I stay at your house today?”

No, that’s not the order of how this goes down…

Zacchaeus is lost…he’s in sin…he’s ruined basically all of his relationships…but now he’s trying to find Jesus.

He’s lowered his pride, climbed the humility tree…his heart wants Jesus

And it’s there, on the humility tree, that Jesus finds Him…still in his old ways…but in need of Jesus.

And it’s that grace from Jesus…that deep forgiveness…that changes Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus didn’t change himself first and then Jesus accepted him…that’s not the order here.

Trying, on your own, to be a better person…doesn’t really change anyone.

But it’s grace, which just means undeserved favor, that truly changes someone…not our own effort to be good.

Zacchaeus is so in awe that Jesus would look at his life, and his massive amount of sin, evil, selfishness, and greed…and yet would come into HIS life….

…that amount of grace, and forgiveness, and love, changes Zacchaeus to the core.

And this is the 3rd way to allow God flow mightily through your life.

How to Have God Flow Mightily Through Your Life

#1: Lower your pride & climb the “Humility Tree”

#2: Ignore the crowd

#3: Walk in grace and change will come

It’s grace that brings change…not your own effort.

Trying to change your life through your own effort is like trying to drive a car that’s still in park merely by turning the steering wheel.

God’s grace is the engine that will bring you to new places.

Zacchaeus is so in awe, so deeply affected by God’s grace, that he says he’s going to give 50% of all of his money to the poor!

He says if he’s cheated anybody, he’ll pay them back 4 times the amount!

In the Old Testament law, if you were caught stealing, you were supposed to repay someone and then add 20%

The only situation where you paid back someone 4 times the amount was if you stole someone’s cow. – Ex 22.

Because, well, if you stole someone’s cow that would cause ‘udder’ financial ruin J

So Zacchaeus is going above and beyond in paying people back because the grace of God…the forgiveness of Jesus…has deeply changed Him.

And if you truly let God into your life…and you walk in grace…it will change you.

Some of you are not seeing change in your life because you misinterpreted Christianity to be, “Say a prayer, God will forgive me, and keep doing whatever I want”

That’s not it.

If God isn’t deeply changing you and the way you live, you haven’t understood the depth of his grace for you.

You’ve missed it.

Others of you have been Christians for quite some time, but you’re not seeing change, because you’re not walking on the road of grace.

You’re been walking on the “road of moralism”

You came to Christ by accepting His grace, but now you’ve gone back to trying to walk with God by impressing Him with your good works.

You’re yanking around the steering wheel again…in park.

Change doesn’t come that way.

Change is a fruit of the Spirit…and that comes from abiding in His grace.

Walk on the road of grace again.

When you truly understand God’s grace and forgiveness for you, it will deeply change how you live.

God invites you to come as you are, not stay as you are.

And if you truly meet Him, like Zacchaeus, you will not stay the same.


And there are probably a few of you in this room…who just need to come to Jesus in the first place.

You’ve been thinking about turning your life over to Him….welcoming Him in to your life as King…as Savior…

…but you haven’t done it yet.

Listen, don’t wait…let Him in.

You don’t need to be good enough

Look at Zacchaeus!

He was the worst of the worst!

And Jesus didn’t wait for Him to “turn his life around first”

So stop saying you’re not good enough, or you’re not ready for this.

The truth of Christianity is that you’ll never be ready.

You just need to decide if you want to let Him in.

It’s as simple as telling Him that you’re a sinner…that you cannot make it on your own.

And believing that He died for you

(Romans 5:8) – NIV

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That is…he died in your place…for your sins.

And if you would accept that, and welcome Him into your life as your Savior…

He will forgive all of your sins…

You can start a personal relationship with Him

And He will save you from an eternity in hell, and you can heave eternal life with Him in heaven!

And all you need to do is to believe…and accept Him in as Savior.

He’s Seeking you out right now….calling you by name.

He knows your sin…He knows your past…and yet He’s calling you to come to Him anyway.

Will you come to Him and be forgiven?

Will you let him in?

Here’s what we’re going to do…

For those of you who have never invited Jesus in to be your Savior…

I want you, during our final song (which we’ll start in a second) to walk to the front of the stage (not on it)…jus as a symbolic way to say, “I’m turning my life over to you, Jesus”

And then, at the end of the service, I’ll pray with you, and help you get started in this decision to follow Jesus.

Jesus is calling you…ready to forgive you…

Will you lower your pride and come to Jesus?

Some of you right now are feeling what Zacchaeus felt before he climbed The Humility Tree.

And you’re thinking:

“What will people think?”

Well, in here, they’ll be delighted!

But what about out there?

And what about my past?

Friend, it will be worth it.

Climb the humility tree…and you’ll see Jesus…and He will welcome you in.

Come to Him now.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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