The thirteenth chapter of Luke begins a section in which Luke is going to describe for us the nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus is going teach us what the kingdom of God is like and who belongs in God’s kingdom. The first verse begins with a tragic event.
Pilate was not known for his kindness or tolerance. We do not have a specific record of this event in history. Some Galileans had come to offer sacrifices. Pilate ordered his Roman soldiers to go to where these Galileans were bringing their sacrifices and slaughter them. To add insult to it all, then their blood was mixed with the blood of the animals that were to be sacrifice. Massacre and desecration all in one moment. Some people come to Jesus to tell him about this horrible event. Jesus uses this event to teach a number of important spiritual truths.
God Does Not Directly Use Tragedy to Judge Us for Our Sins
Notice how Jesus deals with what it seems the people were implying. These Galileans must have been some sort of wicked people for this awful massacre to happen to them. Jesus completely disagrees with their assessment. Jesus asks, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” Jesus’ answer is no. No, they were not worse sinners. This event did not happen because they were more sinful than other Galileans. In verse 4 Jesus uses another tragic event to prove his point. Were the people who died from a tower falling on them worse offenders than all others who lived in Jerusalem? Jesus’ answer again is no.
It was common for the Jews to attribute disaster directly to sins. When you read Job 4 you will notice that the three friends of Job declare that the reason Job is suffering is because of his sins. In John 9:1-3 even his disciples ask who sinned for this man to be born blind: himself or his parents. They believed that suffering was directly tied to sinfulness. We fall into the same trap and we even see such false declarations in the religious world. When the earthquake happened in Haiti, some people declared that it was because of the sinfulness of that country. When the hurricane hit New Orleans some people decided that it was because of the sins of the city. Do you see Jesus’ answer to this? Do you really think that these people are worse than another so that such an event happened? For anyone to suggest that a person who experiences tragedy is a worse sinner is to be completely ignorant of the scriptures. What sins did Jesus commit for his to suffer the way he did? The scriptures are clear that he did nothing to deserve that suffering. Were the apostles worse sinners such that they were systematically hunted down and killed? Was Job a worse sinner so that all his children were killed?
God is not singling people out and punishing them for their sins. These are words of comfort that I needed to hear also. When we learned that our daughter was born with a disability, I wondered if this was some kind of punishment for my sins. What did I do wrong for this to happen? The answer is that I have done all kinds of things wrong. I am a sinner before the Lord. But that is not the reason why she was born with a disability. This is not the reason why a hailstorm destroyed my car. This is not the reason why I’ve had a flat tire on the road. God is not karma. We must rid ourselves of the false notion that good things only happen to good people and bad things only happen to bad people. We see good things happen to bad people all the time. We see bad things happen to good people all the time. Now, we certainly experience consequences for our sinful decisions. If I decide to run off with another woman, then I must expect the consequence to be the destruction of my family. But calamities, sicknesses, and disasters are not from the hand of God. Think about this logically. If your children disobey you, you do not go about trying to sabotage their lives or kill them. God is our Father who is the perfect parent who perfectly loves us. It is not his desire to destroy us.
All Have Sinned
Notice how Jesus defeats this argument. We are all sinners equally. No one stands guiltless before God. All of us deserve punishment. Jesus turns the tables on these people who told him about this event. We are not any better than those who have perished under such tragedies. In fact, God’s judgment will come on each of us if we do not repent. Jesus turns the direction of the discussion. God is not going to kill you on the spot for committing sins. But understand an important truth, you will be judged if you do not repent. God does not need to bring physical death to us for our sins because all of us are worthy of spiritual death and that day of judgment is coming. God has appointed the day of judgment. All sinners face the same fate before God. Everyone must stand before him in judgment and will called into account the things we have done while we lived. If God is going to start killing people because of their sins, there would be no person left on the earth.
Parable of Grace and Repentance
In verses 6-9 Jesus tells a parable to help motivate the people toward repentance. The parable is about a man who plants a fig tree but the fig tree continues to not bear fruit. This was a common description given by the prophets concerning the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10). Israel was a fig tree that had born no fruit and was worthy of judgment. Notice this is what the parable teaches. The man with the fig tree says that the tree has not borne fruit for three years. Therefore cut it down because it is wasting the ground. The vinedresser responds to give it one more year. He will dig around it and put fertilizer on it and see if it bears fruit next year. If it does not, then cut it down.
Picture of grace.
The first message that Jesus wants us to learn is the graciousness of God. God does not want to bring judgment against the nation of Israel. In the parable one more year is given to see if the tree will now bear fruit. The point was that the tree did not deserve to continue because of its lack of fruit. The nation of Israel was deserving of immediate judgment. However, God was allowing more time for them to repent. The same gracious message is given to us today. God continues to be patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). One of God’s great graces that we must appreciate is his giving of more time. God gives more time to try to save more people.
Those who are in God’s kingdom are those who repent.
The call is for the people to repent before it is too late. Repentance is an important and rich term that I want to spend the rest of this lesson exploring. What does it mean to repent? First, repentance begins with a contrite heart. When Peter preaches his sermon on the day of Pentecost before the crowd, we read that they were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). Repentance begins with a heart that is filled with remorse and contrition. God desires the heart that comes humbly before him, broken because of the knowledge of our sins against our Lord. Second, repentance is a change of our minds. We are going to admit our sins and confess our failure to our God. We are determining in our minds to serve the Lord. We are deciding with firm resolve to follow Jesus. We are declaring our disdain for sin and our love for God. Finally, repentance is about changing our lives to conform to God’s will. With a broken heart and a determined mind, we approach our day with a life change. To use the language of our parable, repentance is about bearing fruit in our lives. There are to be visible results from a life that loves Jesus. The apostle Paul writes down what will be visible in our lives when we have a heart that is crushed by sin and loves Jesus.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:19–24 ESV)
We are to produce fruit. Christians are not consumers, but producers. We produce fruit that is useful to God, to each other, and to the world. A consumer comes to services, sits, and leaves. Consuming resources but never engaging the heart, never joining to the other Christians, and never giving one’s life to God. In God’s grace he is allowing time for each of us to repent. Time has still been provided for us to change and bear fruit for him. Do as the vinedresser says he would do in verse 8. Prepare the soil of your heart and spread fertilizer so that you can bear fruit before the judgment comes. Rip out the wickedness in your heart, remove the obstacles that keep you from him, and take steps that will help you bear fruit before your God.
Consider the two stories in this text. These people went to worship God and they did not know that day would be their last. The eighteen who died at the tower of Siloam did not know it would be the last day they would live. Repent today. Give your heart and live to Jesus today. Our God is looking for fruit that shows our repentance. Otherwise, uprooted and cast away into eternal punishment on the day of judgment.