Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13) — Part 1

If Christianity is a contest, we’ve lost already. A reading of Luke 13:1-5 suggests this.

Some who were present with him at that time told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices. In answer, Jesus said to them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans suffered such things because they were more sinful than all [other] Galileans? No, I tell you; rather, unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen [souls] who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them — were they greater debtors than all people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; rather, unless you repent, you all will likewise perish.

I was once told that, ‘All you need to do to keep God happy is live by the 10 Commandments and Sermon on the mount.’

This is easier said than done. Jesus spent a great deal of time showing how far we are from doing ‘all we need to do’. People naturally think, if they think about these matters at all, that there is a hierarchy of goodness, and if you past 50% (or just do better than others) you’ll be ok. That’s where the Galileans come in.

Galileans, in the minds of your average resident of Judea, were either country hicks or revolutionaries. They were looked down upon by respectable Judeans. A fellow called Nathaniel initially questioned Jesus’ character on this basis: ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’

These particular Galileans were either in the temple making sin-offerings when Pilate took vengeance on them for some crime he thought they had done, OR they were terrorists caught in the act of killing Romans (or Roman sympathisers) and Pilate slaughtered them over the bodies of their own victims.

Were these Galileans worse than all Galileans because this sudden death came upon them? Did they receive a special judgment from God for their evil? Jesus said, ‘No’.

The Lord Jesus says we are all in the same boat as the Galatians; unless we repent, we will all perish.  He repeats this message with an example of his own — those who seem to have been taken in an accident – a tower in Jerusalem fell on them. Were they worse than others? No, they were just like us. Unless we repent, we all will likewise perish.

Jesus did not say this because he was somehow in a bad mood that day, and it was not said because Jesus had little concern for the people he was speaking to. His aim was to use some vivid and real examples to benefit people who were in great need but didn’t know it.

What is a Sinner?

Technically, sin is not doing what God requires of us, and it is also doing what God tells us not to do. The sober reading of the law of God shows us that we don’t do what God says and we do do what he forbids.

But in a more basic way, we are born covenant breakers. Our first parent Adam was made good and could do good, but decided not to.  By this disobedience, he sinned and brought death upon himself and all of us, his children.  David in Ps. 51 says “In sin my mother conceived me.”, meaning that from conception, David was a sinner, and so are all of us.

What is Repentance?:

  •  It is not ‘turning over a new leaf.’
  • Nor is it joining a support group (Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or the local church).
  • It is not acting according to ideas of positive thinking or some pop psychology.

 So what is repentance? It is a change of mind, not a change in behaviour (though true repentance results in changes of behaviour). In particular, is it a change in our opinion about our own basic ‘goodness’ and a change in our attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ.

Continued in Part 2.

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Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13) — Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

We need to repent. That is, we need to change our thinking.

This means that we need to reconsider our own position, as Jesus had urged his hearers just before the talk about Galileans (Luke 12: 57-59).

Why is it that you do not judge yourselves rightly? As you go with your adversary to the magistrate, you should give every effort to be reconciled to him, least he drag you to the judge and the judge deliver you to the official and the official throws you into prison. I tell you that you will in no way go out from there until you have paid the last cent.

Jesus says that we don’t judge ourselves correctly. we think we can get away with our wrong doing somehow. The passage, however, implies we are in the wrong, and that our Adversary has us in his grip.

In this context, our adversary is not just a fellow we owe money. This is not just practical financial advice. In this story, our Adversary is God.  He is good and we are very wrong. We are on the way to judgment – to the Archon – the chief magistrate.  Jesus says, ‘Take pains to be reconciled,’ If we are not reconciled, we will pay last cent (1/4 of a farthing). The whole penalty will be exacted from us throughout eternity. This situation is not like modern, western courts. We need to see how bad our position really is without Christ. It is just like this: without our Judge as our Saviour, we are without hope in this life or the next.

Jesus tells that we need to see ourselves and our situation as it really is – this is part of what repentance is.

Repentance also means that we need to reconsider who Jesus is, what he has done, and what that means (Luke 12:54-56 – but see also Luke 19:42-44).

And he said to the crowds, ‘Whenever you see a cloud rising from the west, right away you say, ‘Rain is coming.’ And it does. And whenever a south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot.’ And it is. Hypocrites! You understand the face of the earth and sky, but why can’t you understand the times?

Jesus saw that his hearers were good at reading the obvious from the sky and earth.

  • clouds in the west mean rain is coming
  • wind from the south means hot weather is coming

But, those who heard Jesus could not see what was obvious about him. The Old Testament promised that God himself would come and save his people from their sin. Jesus, though obviously a real human being, was also obviously far more. He

  • healed with a word people who had incurable diseases,
  • feed huge crowds from a few scraps of food
  • commanded wind and wave and they obeyed him
  • spoke of himself as judge of the world
  • spoke of himself as the one who would die to save sinners who were otherwise un-saveable.

We too need to see the obvious, but we are reluctant to. From birth we are contrary to our Creator. We sinfully misjudge him. We make war in our minds against him. We need to repent.

Repentance is a gift of God, whereby, out of a sense and hatred of our sin, we turn from our in-born rebellion against God and see the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as our only hope.

We each have been given time to repent, but how much time? (Luke 13: 6-9)

Fig tree parable

The owner of a vineyard has a fig tree that produces no fruit after 3 years. This was the usual time for a fig trees to do so. The general wisdom was that fig trees that fail to fruit after 3 years are duds.

The owner decides to uproot the fig tree and throw it away. ‘Why should it deplete the ground of nutrients for no good reason?’

The gardener says, ‘Give me a year to fertilise it and improve its drainage. Let’s see what happens. If it produces no fruit at the end of the year, then we’ll take it out.’

We have time now to repent. Don’t waste the opportunity.

  •  We have already failed in Adam. We can’t fix the situation ourselves.
  • Repent while there is time. Christ has come, lived, died and risen again, to save sinners.
  • This message has come to us. While there is life there is hope.
  • Don’t assume that the opportunity to repent will be long-lasting.

Make every effort to be reconciled to your offended Creator. This means that we must

  • understand who Jesus Christ is, what he had done, and what that means, and then
  • trust ourselves to Jesus Christ.