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Third Sunday in Lent

March 24, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Lent

Passage: Luke 13:1–13:9

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 13:1-9
Date: March 24th, 2019; Lent 3; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Why do bad things happen in this world?
  • Why do we see so much tragedy and heartache when we watch the news or pick up the newspaper?  
  • Why do major storms, floods, and earthquakes cause so much death and damage?  
  • Why do we see people hurting each other?  Theft.  Violence.  Wars.
  • Why is it that tragedy strikes some people while others go unharmed?
  • Why do some people end up getting seriously ill while others remain healthy? 
  • These are very difficult questions to consider - especially when we are in the midst of  something bad happening to us or someone we love.  
  • When we, or someone we love, has been diagnosed with a serious illness we can be left wondering why?  Why me?  Why him?  Why her?  Why God?  
  • One answer that some give is that we get what we deserve.  
  • If a flood takes out someone’s home and possessions, it happened because they must have done something wrong and they deserve it.
  • If I am diagnosed with a disease, it must be because of something I did wrong.  I deserve it. 
  • This is the way the world works - you get what’s coming to you. 
  • This seems fair and just, doesn’t it?
  • This might be the way it works in the world, but is this the way it works in God’s kingdom?
  • Fortunately for us, the answer is no.  
  • It does not work this way in the kingdom of God.  We do not get what we deserve.
  • Jesus was discussing the tragedy that happened to the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  The people wondered - Why them?  Why did they suffer?
  • As he often did, Jesus answers with a question , “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No…”  
  • He emphasized his point by bringing in a tragedy that happened to eighteen people in Siloam.  
  • A tower randomly fell on them and they were all killed.  
  • Jesus asks, “…do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No…”
  • Jesus teaches that when people undergo hardships it is not because they are worse sinners than everyone else. 
  • So, why do bad things happen?  What does it mean?  How are we to respond?
  • Well, Jesus doesn’t give us a direct answer to our question of “why?”
  • But he does gives us a clear answer on how we are to respond. 
  • Don’t worry about why something bad has happened, or about trying to figure out what you might have done wrong to deserve such a thing.
  • Instead, Jesus tells us to repent.
  • The response to tragedy, whether around us, or personally in our lives - is to repent.  
  • We recognize how dependent we are on God.
  • We see that our lives are truly in the hands of our Lord. 
  • Repentance removes the “why” questions.    
  • Judgment is with God, not with us.  
  • The issue is God’s justice and his mercy.  
  • “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20).  That is God’s justice.  
  • “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:23).  That is God’s mercy.  
  • God hates sin and kills the sinner - that is his justice.  
  • God forgives sin and justifies the sinner in his Son Jesus Christ - that’s his mercy.
  • My brothers and sisters in Christ, repent for your sin.
  • Receive God’s mercy.
  • Repentance means taking an honest look in the mirror of God’s law and seeing the depth of our sin.
  • Repentance is understanding the severity of our sin and the punishment it deserves.
  • Repentance is being filled with shame and sorrow over our sin and having a strong desire to turn from it and go and sin no more.
  • Repentance is desperately desiring God’s forgiveness and mercy – and by faith, trusting that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – we have received it.
  • According to the world, we should be punished and rewarded based on how we live our lives.  
  • But, do you really want God to dish out this worldly kind of justice to you?  
  • We might think that we are pretty good people compared to those around us.  
  • We might think that we have done enough to escape from God’s punishment.  
  • We do our best to be good citizens, to be loving members of our families.  We try our best to follow God’s Commandments.
  • But the truth is we can never be good enough or do enough.  
  • All have fallen short of the glory of God.  
  • If we were punished or rewarded based on how we live our lives - we all would spend eternity separated from God.  
  • But, in God’s mercy, Christ Jesus got what we deserve, “He was made sin for us who knew no sin” so that in him “we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 
  • In repentance, our minds are changed - our viewpoint is changed.   We see God as our Savior and ourselves as sinners seeking mercy.  
  • And we trust the promise of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that by the blood of Jesus - sinners are forgiven and are made holy.
  • Jesus drives the point home with a parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none.  Cut it down.  Why should it use up ground?’” (Luke 13:6-7).
  • And that’s how it is with God’s Law - produce or die. 
  • For those who stumble at just one point, the axe is coming down on the root.  That is how the Law works.  The good are rewarded, the bad are punished.  
  • That’s fair, isn’t it?  
  • It’s fair, until you are the fruitless fig tree - and the axe is about to be swung at your root.
  • The gardener, who is a spokesman for God’s mercy, has a different plan. “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure” (Luke 13:8-9).  
  • It’s interesting to note that the Greek word here for “let it alone” is actually the word “forgive”.
  • “Let’s forgive the tree.  Instead of chopping it down, I’ll dig around its roots and put on some fertilizer and we’ll see what happens.”  
  • That’s how it goes with the mercy of God - forgive and feed.
  • God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy.  
  • But there is both warning and promise here, both Law and Gospel, as you would expect from Jesus.  
  • Don’t presume on God’s mercy, and don’t let his kindness serve as an excuse for fruitless lives of sin.  
  • The axe will fall when our Lord returns and we are to be ready.
  • The time of forgiveness and feeding is now.  Now is the time of your salvation.  
  • Don’t squander it, don’t let it pass thinking there’s always next week or next month or next year.  
  • The blood of the Galileans, the tower of Siloam falling causing death, earthquakes and other natural disasters, our illnesses and death - they all point to one thing: a cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem on a dark Friday afternoon when God did justice to our sins.  
  • When in his mercy he reconciled the whole world to himself.  
  • The tower of Siloam fell on people, killing them.  But the cross of Jesus lifts up the world to eternal life.
  • When you see tragedy in the news, when tragedy strikes personally in your life, don’t worry about the “why” question.  
  • Instead, repent.  Confess your sin.  Seek the Lord’s mercy.  Be forgiven.  Be fed.  
  • And know that God is with you each step of the way giving you the strength to carry on.  
  • Hear the Good News that in Jesus we will not perish, but will rise as fruitful trees planted forever in the Lord’s vineyard.  This is God’s promise to you.  Amen.
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The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

More in Lent

April 19, 2019

Good Friday

April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

April 7, 2019

The Fifth Sunday in Lent