Third Sunday in Lent | March 24, 2019
About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’
“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”
Luke 13:1-9 New Living Translation (NLT)
As we continue looking at the Gospel of Luke, we come upon this curious account. Last week, we looked at the Pharisee’s coming to Jesus to warn him that Herod wanted his head on a platter (so to speak.) This week, again we have people coming to Jesus – not so much to warn him – but to inform him of goings on in Jerusalem. We find out that some people from Galilee – the region in which Jesus was ministering – were killed by Pilate while they were offering sacrifices at the Temple.
Before we go on, it is important to note that we often see Pilate with compassionate eyes because of his dealings with Jesus on the day of his crucifixion. But Pilate was ruthless. He was not going to let anyone stand in his way. I believe in many ways, he was more powerful and ruthless than Herod himself.
Jesus finds out that people from Galilee had been murdered by Pilate – and then he proposes a question, “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Perhaps the people who came and told Jesus this did think that. After all, it was part of their culture. If you were following God and his commandments, you would be blessed. If you didn’t, you would suffer. Just look at the writings of Job. This philosophy is written all over in the early part of those writings.
Jesus very sternly reminds the people that all will perish! UNLESS they do to things. Interestingly enough, we have heard these words before:
Repent of your sins and turn to God (or as we said them on Ash Wednesday, “Be faithful to the Gospel (or to Christ.)Luke 13:3
Jesus goes on and gives another example and then repeats:
Unless you repent, you will perish too!Luke 13:5
Then Jesus tells the parable of the Barren Fig Tree. In this story a farmer has planted a fig tree that refuses to bear fruit – and it continues to not bear fruit for three years – and the farmer has had enough. He tells his gardener to cut it down. BUT the gardener “pleads” to save the life of the tree. He asks the owner to give the tree ONE MORE YEAR. He even tells the owner, I’ll give it special attention – I’ll feed it – I’ll water it – I’ll make sure it is fertilized – all in an effort to see it bear fruit.
Wow. That is a picture of the grace of God. Listen to what Peter writes when people are asking when the Lord will return and why it is taking so long.
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.2 Peter 3:9
This is the grace of God. God could come and wipe all who haven’t repented off the face of the earth, but he is rich in mercy – he is rich in grace and doesn’t desire that any should perish without him, but he also desires that we would repent from our sins and follow his ways – to follow after Jesus.
I think this is a reminder that we Christians should not rejoice when the unrepentant perish. We should be doing all that we can to bring them to repentance, so that they can follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.