Summary: In Luke 13:1-9 Jesus teaches some powerful lessons about repentance.
The Power of Repentance Luke 13:1-9
Haddon Robinson tells the story of a young woman who talked to her minister about the sin of pride. She says, “Every Sunday I come to church and look around and think to myself that I am the prettiest girl in the church. I try to stop but I just can’t. Am I horribly sinful?” The minister looked at her and said, “No dear, not horribly sinful; just horribly mistaken.” Via Lectionary Lab
In our text today some folks come to Jesus to talk not about their own sins, but the sins of others. And Jesus tells them they are horribly mistaken. There is great power in repentance and Jesus tells the crowd here twice to repent.
Repentance - To turn away and to turn toward Christ. Word literally means “to perceive afterwards”. It means to change one’s mind or purpose, for the better. Repentance is not mere guilt, though guilt sometimes motivates repentance. Repentance is not just remorse. In this text Jesus gives a powerful teaching about repentance.
1. Repentance is Not Just For The Super Sinful! (Luke 13:1-4)
Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
The report here is that there were Jewish pilgrims from Galillee who were killed while offering sacrifice at the temple, so that the blood of holy sacrifices and Galileans. ran together as one. (mixed, mingled). We do not know of this report outside of Luke, but it is consistent with what is generally known of Pilate. Jesus detects an attempt at self-justification rooted in this report - thus his answer:
Luke 13:2-3 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Ancient Theory about suffering: When something bad happens, it is because you’ve sinned greatly. The implication of this idea is that those who suffer more than you are worse sinners than you are!
Luke 13:4 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?
“Frankly, if God was in the business of meting out judgment and curses in relation to our sins, there probably would not be anyone left on the planet.” via Michael R. Curry, Feasting on the Word
So repentance is for everyone, not just those we think are worse sinners than we are! Instead of asking if someone else sinned badly, we should ask what will we do with our own sin? Twice Jesus shifts attention from others back to YOU. Luther said the life of the Christian is a life of daily repentance, a life of constant turning from the world to God and then turning back again from God to go into the world.
2. Repentance Required for Eternal Life (Luke 13:3,5)
Luke 13:3, 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. ... I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
We are reminded that sin separates us from God, and that we all sin.
Romans 3:10, 23 “There is no one righteous, not even one; … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus came to give us eternal life but we are participants in the Kingdom now - not just later. Repentance is necessary for our being shaped into His image. Christ invites us to look at ourselves -and then turn to look to God for help and salvation.
3. Repent While There is Time
Luke 13:6-9 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
This offers up hope - the possibility of change - of living a life that pleases God. Swindoll calls the Vineyard owner “Justice” - Justice created space for a fig tree but in 3 years it had not produced fruit. We can understand his desire to cut it down. Swindoll calls the vineyard keeper “Mercy”. Justice said to Mercy, “Cut down the tree”. Mercy replied to Justice, “Let me give it a little extra nurturing this year; if it doesn’t respond, then cut it down.” Mercy has delayed justice to give all people an opportunity to repent.