Summary: We are a part of this world's injustice and brokenness, and need to repent, for we have too often attempted nothing or have given ourselves to pointless activity. "Only what you do for Christ will last" and that is guaranteed by His risen life.
There are just too many things that are not the way they ought to be, and I don’t like it! Are you with me? There are too many things going on that should not be going on, and when I hear about them or experience them, it disturbs me. I don’t like the brokenness I see in this world.
Earthquakes devastate Haiti and shake Chile – over 150 aftershocks in a country that, if you look at it on the map, appears to be sliding into the Pacific Ocean anyway. I wish that were not happening. I do not like that, do you?
Members of Congress, governors, City Council members, other leaders are exposed for stealing from public funds or cheating on their spouses or just plain nastiness, and I think that’s wrong. I think that’s distasteful. It’s out of order. I’m pretty sure you think that too. I do not like what is happening in our broken world.
And then there is the church, that safe haven, that place of spiritual comfort, that holy people unto the Lord; but when I read about the church I read about pedophile pastors, devious deacons, and fundamentalist phonies frothing at the mouth with mindless negativity! Even the church, sometimes, is among the things not to like in my world; even in the church injustice happens and people get hurt.
There are too many things that are not the way they ought to be, and I don’t like it, not one bit. I do not like brokenness. I do not like disasters. I do not like cheats and liars. I read somewhere that God hates and judges evil. Are you with me?
Ah, but wait. It just may be that you and I are a part of all that brokenness. It just may be that you and I are also out of order. There may be an issue with us, too. Nature is raw, leaders corrupt, the churches flawed; but Jesus, in our text this morning, will not let us go off on everybody else. He insists on our paying attention to our own hearts and reading our own motives. "Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did."
Everybody in Jerusalem knew about certain horrifying current events, every bit as distasteful as the ones we experience. There had been an egregious case of leadership lapse; Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, had mingled the blood of some Galileans with their sacrifices – in other words, he had not only executed some of Jesus’ countrymen, but had also seen to it that that human blood was mingled with the blood of sacrificial animals on the Temple altar. Not only cruelty but also blasphemy.
Now I would guess that some people thought that these Galileans deserved their punishment; others thought that it was most unjust. But Jesus went another direction altogether; Jesus said that whether these folks were better or worse than anyone else was beside the point. They perished; and so will we all, unless we repent. That makes me squirm; how about you?
And then an undeserved disaster, the collapse of the Tower of Siloam, thought to be one of the sixty or so towers in the old city wall, perhaps also a part of the water system. We know almost nothing about the incident, but it must have been fresh on people’s minds. Eighteen people killed when a wall collapsed. Did those eighteen people deserve to die? Probably some thought so; we always find ways to blame victims. But if they deserved to die, then so did the 800 Chileans caught in the earthquake! Or the more than 200,000 Haitians wiped out by that disaster! You and I want to scream out to high heaven, "No, no, no, it’s unfair." "Pat Robertson, shut your foolish mouth." They did not deserve to die, and we would like for Jesus to explain the injustice. But about the eighteen who died at Siloam Jesus only says, "Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did."
What ever does that mean? Small comfort in that word. There are just too many things that are not the way they ought to be, we don’t like it, and Jesus speaks to us only of our repentance, of our need to turn around. Are we a part of the problem? Are you and I, reasonably good, ordinary middle-of-the-road law-abiding citizens – are we out of order too?
So Jesus then moves on beyond the shock and dismay we feel about His repentance command and tells a parable, the parable of the vineyard owner who planted a fig tree. The fig tree sat there and did nothing for three years, and the owner wanted to cut it down. But the gardener asked for one more year, just one more chance, to see if it would bear fruit. Next year, no fruit, we cut it down. Unless you repent, you will also perish. A word that is hard to hear; but, in the midst of a world full of unpleasant experiences, disastrous moments, and unjust corruption, a word you and I need to hear.