Summary: Year C. Third Sunday in Lent Luke 13:1-9 March 18, 2001

Year C. Third Sunday in Lent Luke 13: 1-9 March 18, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Heavenly Father, thank you for all of the examples that show we must repent now, today, this very minute. Amen.

Title: “Repent Now”

Jesus refers to two examples of untimely death, the slaying of Galileans by Pilate and the accident at Siloam, to illustrate the inevitability of death no matter the cause. He then refers to the fig tree to teach the imminence of final judgment and the need for prompt repentance.

The common belief was that suffering was a punishment for sin. Suffering was not merely a consequence of sin in general, but a personal punishment by God for personal sin. It seems that an unspecified number of Galileans had been slaughtered by order of Pilate right in the Temple while they were offering sacrifice. According to this line of thinking people had no other recourse than to presume they died that way because they had sinned. Then, what about accidents? Like the one where those building a tower died when it collapsed? They all must have sinned and this was their punishment. Their theory was wrong and so was their application of it to specific circumstances. Their interpretation of the facts needed revision. We might even say it needed reform.

Jesus will teach that suffering and injustice, bad things happening to good people, is a consequence of sin, one’s own, someone else’s or just the sinful human condition, but not a direct punishment from God. He will also teach that we can learn a lesson from such events. Instead of trying to figure out what the victims did to deserve the tragedy, one should focus on one’s own need to change before death comes, however it comes, before it is too late.

In verse one, “At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” There is no other historical reference to this event than the one found here. It seems that Pilate ordered the slaying of Galileans, for unknown reasons, the most likely being sedition, in the Temple while they were offering sacrifice during the Passover celebration. Passover was the only time when the laity slaughtered their own animals. The expression “mingling their blood” need not be taken literally. It probably means that while they were slaying their sacrificial animals, Pilate had them killed.

In verse two, “He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?” By no means: Jesus denies that they died because God was punishing them for their sins. He does not explain why they died, just that it was not God’s punishment, but Pilate’s sin that caused it. Evil causes evil, not God. God tolerates it, but does not send it, let alone cause it.

In verse three, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” Death comes to all, whether by calamities, accidents, or natural causes. The death of others by whatever manner or means should serve as salutary reminders, even though horrible in themselves that we all will die under some set of circumstances. It is not how we die that is important, but how we live. The manner of life will be the basis for divine judgment, not the manner of death. Since the length of life is unpredictable, it is best to reform now before it is too late.

In verse four, “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” Jesus reinforces his point by adding a second example of his own: eighteen men had been killed when a tower at Siloam fell on them. Siloam was the name of a reservoir near the junction of the south and east walls of Jerusalem. The old tower was originally a part of the city’s fortifications. More recently Pilate had built an aqueduct, typically Roman, through the site to improve the water supply. It seems that during the construction the old tower collapsed and these workers died accidentally as a result.

Do you think they were more guilty: The punch-line is repeated: reform before it is too late. They may have been sinners, no better or worse than others, but they died because they were mortal. If there were such a thing as a non-sinner, that person would die nonetheless.

In verses six to nine, the parable of the fig tree may be Luke’s benevolent reinterpretation of the cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11: 12-14, 20-23 and Matthew 21: 18-21, whereby he revises a miracle story into a parable.

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