A sermon on Luke 13:1-9 for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, March 24, 2019.
It is time for us to go back to school for a little bit. I have a science question to ask you. What is Newton’s 3rd law of motion? You probably did not think that this would ever come up in a sermon. Newton’s 3rd law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that two forces will always be at work against each other. If I push down on the pulpit, another equal force is pushing upward. The tires on a car spin creating force pushing against the road causing the car to move forward. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Do we ever think of this when it comes to sin? Maybe we know it better by another name, karma. When we do something wrong, we expect something bad to happen to us. If we treat others badly only looking out for ourselves, we can expect some kind of negative reaction against us.
Jesus had to deal with people who had this mindset. Jesus had just finished teaching the people that they need to interpret the signs. The Last Day would come upon them like a thief in the night. Since this was the case, Jesus encouraged the people to remain ever vigilant until that day would come.
Some in the crowd missed Jesus’ point. They came to Jesus asking about a situation that had happened. Pilate had mixed the blood of some Galileans with the blood of their sacrifices. No other details were told us about this account. Apparently, Pilate, the very same Pilate who would sentence Jesus to death, killed some Galileans while they were at the temple offering sacrifices. What did these Galileans do to deserve such a violent end to their life?
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? I tell you, no. But unless you repent, you will all perish too” (Luke 13:2-3). Some of the people gathered there thought these Galileans committed some heinous sin to deserve such a wretched end. One bad action deserved another. “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think that they were worse sinners than all the people living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no. But unless you repent, you will all perish too” (Luke 13:4-5). Jesus brought up another situation. Were those eighteen people that perished worse sinners than anyone else? Did they commit some great sin to deserve such a reaction? Should one bad action receive an equal and just as devastating reaction from God?
We assume God punishes us because of the sins we commit. People begin to think of God only as a vengeful God getting even with people who disobey him. We see all the bad things happening around us the shootings, natural disasters, wars, famines, and whatever else it might be. We start to wonder what bad things those people must have done to have such a sharp sentence be spoken upon them.
Those types of thoughts cannot help but pop in our mind when we face difficult situations in life. We come down with the flu. It must be because I did not go to church the previous week. Our car breaks down. I cursed last week, so God must be getting back at me for that sin. We lose our job. I did forget to pray, so I guess that bad action deserves another equally bad reaction.
God does not punish us for our sins. All of our misdeeds and disobedience have already received their punishment. Jesus took the punishment we so deserved upon his own shoulders. The punishment was great. The guilt of sin deserved only the cruelest of punishments. Suffering in hell would be the only thing to satisfy an angry God.
Jesus suffered this gruesome punishment. Upon the cross the taunts and jeers from the crowd seemed like child’s play. The weakness and dizziness from the lack of blood did not compare to the greatest suffering. The extreme suffering of being forsaken by God brought the greatest pain upon Jesus. The fires of hell unleashed their torture upon Jesus. The punishment was great. The punishment was enough, so we no longer have to fear being put in the same situation.
We no longer need to fear God’s punishment over sin. We might need to deal with consequences of living in a sinful world with our sinful actions, but the punishment has been taken way. Christ paid the ultimate price. Christ took our guilt away. This does not mean that we need to be lazy upon this earth. That brings us to the point Jesus wants to make in this lesson.
Jesus shifts the focus from what happened to the warning it gives. Jesus tells the crowds, you and me, that we need to be ready. We do not know when our end will come. Those Galileans did not wake up in the morning thinking that day’s sacrifice would be their last. Those killed by the tower had plans for the coming week. We need to make sure that we are ready. We need to make sure that our heart is prepared for that day that we meet our Savior.
Jesus warns us to repent. If we do not repent, we too will perish, except it will be to a much different outcome. We come in sorrow over our sins. We confess our unworthiness to even come before God. Our sins do deserve separation from God. Yet, God forgives us. We come trusting in him who bled on the cross for us. Our guilt has been taken away. Yes, we might perish here upon the earth, but we will not perish for an eternity in hell.
Jesus spoke a parable to give a picture of the same idea to his disciples. In the parable a man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. Fig trees would produce fruit twice a year. The master came expecting to see the fruit upon the tree. He found none. For three years he came to this same tree, but each time he left disappointed because there was no fruit.
The master told the worker of the vineyard to cut down the tree. Just get rid of it. Plant another tree in its place, plant anything there, as long as it would produce fruit. The worker pleaded with the master. Give it one more year. The worker would make this his special project. He would dig around it. He would fertilize it. If it produces fruit next year, nothing lost. If no fruit would come, well then it would be cut down.
How patient are we? Springtime will soon be coming. Some of us might be getting the itch to plant a garden or flowerbed. If those plants do not grow, will we be willing to put the work in? Will we just pull up the plant to replace it with something else? Will we give up until next year and try again?
We would have to agree with the master of the vineyard. Three years is more than fair for him to put up with the fig tree. Dig it up and replace it. Our patience would have run out a long time ago.
How patient is God? We are that tree. So often in this life we do not produce fruit. We think of the many times that we sin without giving it a second thought. Some of those sins grow into such great habits that our consciences become dulled to it. We walk away from God. We even use God’s patience to sin. We excuse our actions by thinking God will always forgive us.
God should have reached his patience with us a long time ago. However, his patience is great. God reveals his grace to us in our life. He forgives us. It does not matter the sin that we commit. It does not matter the times that we go astray. God is patient with us.
This does not mean we take advantage of God’s patience. We cannot live our life thinking that we have one more day or one more year to come back to God. We might be cut down in death before that time comes. We want to thank God for his patience with us. We praise God that he does not treat us as our sins deserve. His patience is great. His patience treats us with love and grace.
Grace is that single word we need to know. God’s love comes to us new each and every day. We pray that God will then produce fruit in our hearts in keeping with repentance. We can only do this being rooted in God’s Word. God uses the Means of Grace to offer us the forgiveness of sins. His Word fertilizes our souls to become more rooted in his wonderful love. It is only through him and his power that we will display fruits on this earth.
Our sinful actions do not produce an equal and opposite reaction from God. Our punishment has been removed through the death of Jesus on the cross. This does not mean we grow lazy in our life. We need to be ready in this life for when our end comes. We need to produce fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. He has freed us from sin. He has taken our guilt away. We come in repentance to our God. Amen.