Summary: Jesus teaches that all need to repent and demonstrate that repentance through their changed lives (fruit).
We have entered the season of the Christian calendar we call Lent, which is the 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter. During Lent we begin the journey to the cross with Jesus.
In Luke 9:51 it tells us
NRS Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Setting his face to go to Jerusalem meant Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem, he was determined to go. In other words, from this point forward, Jesus began his final journey to Jerusalem and to a cross. Earlier in chapter nine Jesus already told his disciples he would “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day raised to life (9:22).” Jesus knew what his future included: suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection and yet he still resolutely set his face to Jerusalem knowing what would happen to him. Why? Because of his love for his Father in heaven and his love for us. He knew there was no other way for us to experience eternal life than through his own death.
Immediately after mentioning his own suffering and death Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (9:23).” As we take this journey with Jesus through Lent we are reminded that following Jesus isn’t easy, sometimes it requires sacrifice and self-denial. I realize these two words are not very popular in our present day and age, especially in the U.S. We want to talk about all the good things Jesus will do for us, and what we get out of following Jesus. The season of Lent reminds us that the call to follow Jesus is a difficult road. Are we willing to lay aside ourselves, our ambitions, our wants, and our desires in order to follow Jesus who laid aside his own desires for us, and a cross?
Our focus as we walk with Jesus through Lent will be on Jesus’ teachings on the way to the cross in Luke’s gospel. Some of these teachings will be difficult reminders for us of the call to follow Jesus.
1. We all need to repent of our sin because we will all be judged alike
In our first teaching of Jesus on the way to the cross, Jesus is confronted with the news of a terrible tragedy. Pilate, the governor of Judea, had killed some Galileans (people from Galilee) as they were sacrificing animals to the Lord in the Temple. We don’t know the circumstances around why this incident occurred or why Pilate would do such a terrible thing, although we do know from the Jewish historian Josephus that Pilate was not a stranger to killing Jews in the Temple. Pilate had done this before with Jews who were suspected of rebelling against the Romans Empire. It is possible that these Galileans were suspected of rebelling against the Romans, stirring up trouble. Whatever the case, Jesus used the news of this tragedy as a teaching moment for his followers.
We first need to understand there was a belief in Jesus’ day that good things happened to good or righteous people, while bad things always happened to bad people. It was like a punishment from God. Therefore if Pilate murdered some Galileans while they were sacrificing in the Temple, guess what the popular opinion was? They must have deserved it for some sinful rebellious act. Likewise if a tower fell on eighteen people and killed them, guess what? It must have been some form of punishment from God because of the sin in their life. Any untimely death was thought to be God’s punishment against sinners.
Jesus confronted their self-righteous thinking, Jesus said (verse 2):
"Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?”
Or verse 4: “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”
In their minds they were probably thinking, ‘well yeah, why else would they have died tragically.’ But what was Jesus response to both circumstances? Jesus was emphatic in both cases. “I tell you, No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
How easy it is to be self-righteous and point the finger at other people for “deserving” the punishment for their sin. “They deserved it those sinners.” What Jesus was doing was pointing the finger back at his followers, trying to get them to see their own sin. Someone once told me that when you point your finger at other people you have three fingers pointing back at yourself [demonstrate].