Summary: In the middle of faithlessness and unrepentance, God moves graciously.
Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 “Fruitlessness”
Two teenagers were driving along a mountain road near Flagstaff. As some of us have a tendency to do, they were going rather fast—about 75 miles per hour. The driver lost control of the truck. The truck crashed through the guard rail, flipped end over end, and landed by the side of the road facing the opposite direction. The two teens, who were in the truck, escaped the accident with minor injuries.
The accident could have been a lot worse. They landed near a cliff that plunges several hundred feet. Life is fragile.
We go through life fooling ourselves that we are somewhat invulnerable. It is a justifiable survival mechanism. We’d go crazy if we thought that the source of our demise was lurking around every corner. Still, it is important for us to admit our vulnerability so that we might live our lives fully and experience the abundant life that is ours through Christ Jesus completely.
In our lesson today, Jesus shows his followers a path to walk, which will enable them to walk boldly while facing the uncertainties of life.
The text begins with Jesus with Jesus referencing two tragedies that had recently occurred. A group of Galileans had been slaughtered by the Roman authorities—Pontius Pilate. A tower, also, fell on eighteen people and killed them. In the common life view of the day, people would explain these events as the result of the people’s sinfulness and of God’s wrath.
Jesus takes God out of the picture. Cause and effect were not what these occurrences demonstrated. Pain, suffering, tragedies and tribulations are all part of life. Bad things happen to both good and bad people. Given the delicate nature of life Jesus says that we should walk in repentance.
So, how do we walk in repentance? Are we to constantly ask God for forgiveness for every inappropriate word, impatient action, or unloving thought that we think, say, or do? This certainly would be a path that would enable us to look religious, but would rob us of any joy, and paralyze us in our ability to serve others. We’d be too busy repenting.
Walking in repentance might include:
• Giving thanks for the gift of life and for the blessings that God showers upon us,
• Acknowledging our self-centeredness and our human tendency of not thinking about others,
• Confessing our distaste for doing God’s will above our own, and our hesitation in allowing God to be Lord of our lives.
• Rejoicing that through Jesus Christ we have adopted as God’s sons and daughters and that we can experience a daily, personal relationship with God.
Following the story of the unforeseen tragedies, Jesus shares a story about a fruitless fig tree. There are two sides to this story. First, there is the landowner’s disapproval or disgust that the tree isn’t bearing fruit. There is, however, also an amazing display of grace. The land owner has worked with the tree for three years, and now he gives the tree another year—with fertilizer.
Certainly, God wants us to be fruitful. God doesn’t save us solely for our benefit, but also for the benefit of others. But, what fruit are we talking about.
There are three ways that we can bear fruit according to Scripture.
1. We can bear the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.
2. We can bear the fruit of service—feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting the prisoners
3. We bear the fruit of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Bearing fruit is a natural process. The fruit of the Christian life is not something that we must force, but rather something that happens as we walk with Jesus as his disciples. At the same time, we can’t ignore our need to bear fruit. If we aren’t bearing fruit then something’s wrong. Something needs to change.
The final segment of our lesson has Jesus being warned that Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus, of course, didn’t back down. He continued to minister to those in need. There is the understanding that Herod isn’t in control of the situation, but rather God is.
By his example, Jesus encourages us to be bold in our witness trusting that God is moving in and through us and that God will be with us no matter what. Even in the face of hard hearts, stiff necks, and deaf ears, Jesus persevered. We can, too.
Life is fragile. Still, living in a relationship with God, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we can live life to its fullest. We can live life as it was meant to be lived.