Summary: Sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Lent Series C
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
If God is so good and if God is so great, then why (you fill in the blank)? If God is so powerful and if God is so loving then why (you fill in the blank)? Have you ever had someone ask you questions like that? I have— on numerous occasions. An earthquake suddenly sends people scattering, buildings shattering and hillsides sliding. Where’s the grace in that? A street party gets out of control and people end up getting hurt and even killed. Where’s the grace in that? An airplane crashes killing men, women and children. Where’s the grace in that?
Whenever someone wants to question the goodness and the greatness of the Lord our God they usually feel that they have more than enough ammunition on their side. And since our God often works in mysterious ways, since our God does not always explain to us exactly why He does certain things or exactly why He allows certain events to take place we sometimes get caught off guard and may not be sure how to answer the accusations that people bring against our Lord. Sometimes we might even be the one’s asking the question or bringing the accusation! Today’s sermon text gives us the answer to most if not all such accusations.
In the verses preceding our text for today Jesus had been somewhat critical of the crowd following Him because of their inability to “interpret this present time” (12:56). Perhaps as a response to this criticism some people tried to show Jesus that they could in fact interpret the events of their day. Luke tells us in our text, “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”
Cold-blooded murder is a terrible crime no matter where, when or how it happens. The murder of these Galileans, however, was even more shocking since it took place while they were in church bringing their sacrifices to God! Surely, this massacre must have happened as a result of some terrible sin these Galileans had committed against God, right? Surely they deserved it, right? That would be an easy explanation to such a tragedy. That would be a nice “safe” way to explain why God would allow something like this to take place. Looking at such an incident from the outside and coming to the conclusion that “they” must have done something really bad to make God so mad, thinking that “people like that deserve what they get” gives our old sinful nature the opportunity to sit back and smugly say, “At least I’m not as bad as ‘those people.’”
Have you ever thought that way, my friends? Have you ever looked at another person— perhaps even a fellow Christian— and said to yourself, “It certainly does not surprise me that they got caught doing something like that”? Have you ever looked at someone else’s family— perhaps even a family here at church— and said to yourself, “I am so glad that my children would never do anything like that”? It has oftentimes amazed me at how quickly and how easily God’s own people can get caught up in the web of self-righteousness and pride.
To help take the focus off of “them” and put it back where it belongs, that is, squarely on “us” the Lord Jesus says in our text, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 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? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Every time someone dies “unexpectedly” or “before their time,” every time a disaster strikes or an accident takes place we need to ask ourselves, “What if that had been me? Would I have been ready to stand before the Lord’s judgment throne or is there some unrepentant sin in my heart and life?”
For centuries the Christian church has referred to our life here on this planet as our “time of grace.” However much of the time the good Lord has allotted to us— whether that is one hour or one hundred years— a person’s life, a person’s time of grace is their opportunity to come into contact with the grace of God and then to grow in that grace. When a person’s time of grace is over— that’s it. They then stand before the Judge and hear where they will spend eternity. The importance of using our time of grace wisely is very clearly brought out in our text when we hear Jesus speak this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 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 tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’”