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3-24-19 Sermon

Third Sunday of Lent Luke 13:1-9 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, please help us to grasp the true meaning of what it means to live in relationship with You. Please open our hearts to the fact that we need to turn to You daily in repentance of our sins. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, please grant us the strength to accept the truth of Your forgiveness and walk in newness of life. This we ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

While offering sacrifices at the temple several Galilean Jews were slaughtered by Pilot’s henchmen, so that their blood was mixed with the blood of their sacrifices. It was a tragic day for all Jews. And so they went to Jesus and told Him. “How long, O LORD must your people suffer at the hands of these evil Romans?”

 

They wanted Jesus to jump on their bandwagon and affirm that they were right, and Pilate and the Romans were wrong. More than anything, they wanted to know that God was on their side.

 

But Jesus tells them: Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What’s He talking about? They were the ones suffering. How dare you tell us to repent! Pilate’s the one who needs to repent! It is a wonder they didn’t attack Jesus right on the spot!

 

Repent, lest you likewise perish sounds cold and callous. If any of us would say those words to a victim we’d be verbally attacked by an unrelenting media and an indignant public would nail our hides to the wall. How dare you tell us to repent! What about the terrorists? Or the drug LORDs? Or the child molesters?

 

But Jesus was really saying: Are you so self-righteous that you think God is punishing them for their sin, and you’re good enough to be spared?

 

Jesus wants everyone to understand that we are fallen and sinful people, living in a fallen and sinful world, and that these fallen and sinful things happen to good people and bad people, to rich and poor, to young and old, and to people of all religions and nationalities.

If you’re the victim, it doesn’t mean you’re worse, and if you’re not the victim, it doesn’t mean you’re better. Whether your life is taken suddenly or slowly, from old age or tragedy, your life is still taken. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The difference being, for the unrepentant, falling short of the glory of God is eternal.

Unbelievers have the idea that some sins are worse than others. Those who are believers know, there are no such comparisons in the Bible. Sin is sin. So Jesus says, repent lest you likewise perish. Believers also know, that Jesus is the only one who can deliver us from the sin at work in each of us.

The parable of the fruitless fig tree depicts what sinners look like. Left on our own, we have no fruit at all. Zero. None. Nada. And what we deserve is to be dug up or cut down. But there is One who has come to have mercy on us-- forgiving us for our lack of good fruit--giving us another chance.

 

What does the tree do? Nothing. Does the tree even show any promise?

Only because of Jesus grace and mercy, that this tree has a prayer of a chance to survive.

You are that tree. I am that tree. It is Jesus providing for us; Jesus feeding us; Jesus caring for us. It is Jesus who was thrown out and hung on the cross on the garbage heap named Golgotha. His was the blood poured out for us. Jesus love and forgiveness transforms us to produce fruits of faith; to be trees of our Savior.

So when we face fear filled times in our lives-- including our own mortality—instead of judging, criticizing or feeling sorry for ourselves, turn to Jesus. Put your trust in Jesus, not in yourselves. All the things of this world will crumble and let us down. Jesus will never forsake us. So when disasters strike and we feel threatened, it’s a reminder that we need to repent lest we too perish. We need to heed those words of Paul: Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. And it’s not a question of if, but when.

 

The constant for all believers should be the goodness of the LORD. Whether we live or die - whether we are caught in man made destruction, or natural disasters; we know without a doubt we are the LORD’s (Romans 14:8). He alone is our only real hope.

 

And so we repent.

We turn to the LORD,

we look to the LORD,

we rely on the LORD, because we are the LORD’s.

Repentance is the very opposite of grumbling and complaining. When we repent, we confess the One who has promised to forgive. so we can say with the utmost certainty: how great is our God.

Ours is the God of the cross--the God of forgiveness.

It is our God who got down on His hands and knees in dirt with us, that we might stand with Him in His glory. Amen