Bible Passage: Luke 13: 1 - 17
Big Idea: God has given us time for Repentance, Fruit & Action
Intro: Well morning friends, visitors and those joining us for church online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue our study of Lukes gospel. Now in Luke 12, 13 & 14, Jesus is talking about how we should live in the period of time between his first coming and second coming. What’s this time all about? What should be our priorities?
About 10 years ago there was movie called “IN TIME” starring JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE and AMANDA SEIFRIED (Slide 2). The movie is set in the distant future and to control population growth – people have been genetically engineered to die one year after they turn 25. So everyone lives until their 25th birthday and then on your 25th birthday a 1 year countdown begins on your arm. You can see on JUSTIN TIMBERLAKES arm a green countdown clock – which is basically counting down to zero. Everyone has a counter like this on their arm and when the clock gets to zero – you die.
Now of course, this IS JUST A MOVIE and I’d say it’s not even that good a movie. But Jesus has just explained in Luke’s gospel that everyone in this world is now on a countdown. We don’t have an endless amount of time. Jesus says he is coming back to judge the world. THE WHOLE PURPOSE of this INTERIM TIME between Jesus’ first and second coming is so that people can get themselves READY. But what do we need to do to get READY?
Most of us DON’T YET have a countdown on our wrist telling us how much longer we’ve got. Perhaps that will be a new feature on the Apple series 8 watch. You know, you look up the health section on your trendy watch and it tells you you’ve got 37days, 9 hours and 27 minutes left until heart attack, or car crash or overdose. Have a nice day. I suspect that if I had a countdown on my wrist saying I had 37 days, 9 hours and 27 minutes – (no 26 minutes now) – until lights out – some of my priorities in life, might be different.
Well in Luke 12, 13, 14 & 15 Jesus is encouraging us to recognize our time is limited, so use it wisely? Last week Jesus rebuked the crowd and said; (Slide 3 -Lk.12:56). How do we interpret and understand this time in which we now live? Darrell Bock (who wrote this Christrian commentary on Luke’s gospel) (Slide 4) calls Luke 12:49-14:24 – “Knowing the Time” or “knowing the nature of this time.” He writes; (READ). Bock believes Jesus’ teaching about how to live “in this time period” finishes with the WEDDING BANQUET STORY in Luke 14. A)Those who live wisely in this time – end up in Jesus’ banquet, while B) those who live foolishly in this time – end up missing out on the banquet. Bock believes this is the natural finish to Jesus’ teaching on interpreting this time aright. But I think Jesus’ teaching on how to live in this interim time probably continues through chapter 15 and into chapter 16. I think Jesus teaching on INTERPRETING THIS TIME ARIGHT actually finishes with the parable of 1) the rich man who ends up in hell versus 2) the poor man – Lazarus – who ends up in heaven. The rich man in hell discovers he’s run out of time. He left it too late to be reconciled to God and there are no more chances for repentance, no more chances for evangelism (even with his family).
So for the next few weeks we are going to examine chapters 13, 14, 15 &16 in terms of interpreting this present time aright…
Point 1: God has given us Time to Repent of our own Sin & Guilt
Show: Lk.13:1-5 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see this chapter begins with the words (in verse 1) – Now there were some present at that time… This links today’s story with last weeks story. Last week, Jesus talked about interpreting this present time correctly and making sure we are reconciled to God before it’s too late. Now against that backdrop – some in the crowd talk about a group of Galileans who were killed by Pilate. It appears to be A RECENT TRAGEDY that has taken place in their midst. So it’s a bit like the shooting in TEXAS where two teachers and 19 students have been needlessly killed. It’s a tragic loss of life, a bloodbath of sorts and people are struggling to process it. Why did it happen?
Now fact is, the TWO STORIES today about A) the Galileans killed by Pilate and B) the tower in Siloam that killed 18 people are not recorded anywhere else in history. So we don’t have any additional information about these events. Nor do we know the motive for the question. But Jesus’ response makes it clear – that people who die in tragic circumstances – are not worse sinners – than everyone else.
Jesus asks 2 questions. I’ll put them on the screen. (Slide 8). Basically, Jesus refutes the notion of KARMA. You know what I mean when I talk about KARMA? There is this default idea in many religions “that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.” This is how people often think. A really bad thing happened to these Galileans, therefore they must have been really bad people. OR a really bad thing happened to the people crushed by the tower in Siloam, therefore they must have been more guilty of evil, than everyone else. This is how many people think.
Illustrate: This concept of karma is what continues to justify the caste system in India today. IN INDIA, the poor, the disabled and the sick are often left in their suffering because karma says they somehow deserve it. Perhaps, they did something bad in a previous life.
Perhaps they did something evil in this life. But if they are suffering – then THE CONCLUSION is they must somehow deserve it. So you mustn’t help them because that would be going against karma.
Apply: But Jesus says no. KARMA says the 19 children killed in Texas last week, must have been really bad kids because something really bad happened to them. Anyone want to say that?(PAUSE) Of course not. We know the notion of karma is overly simplistic. But weoften think like this. Worse yet, karma leads us into the delusion that if 1) I have a pretty good life, then I must be 2) a pretty good person. Do you follow the logic? Jesus has just told the crowds – the whole purpose of “THIS PRESENT TIME” is so we can be reconciled to God. But some people in the crowd then seem to appeal to karma. If bad things are not happening to them (like the Galileans or the people in Siloam), how can Jesus say they need to be reconciled to God. If A) they are enjoying a good life – surely they must be good people. And B) if they are good people, surely they don’t need to be reconciled to God.
Jesus finishes by saying – Don’t be deluded. UNLESS you repent of your sins – you too will ultimately perish. Sadly, karma-type thinking (combined with western prosperity) is taking lots of church goers in America and Australia to hell. There is this idea that if you have lots of good things, then you must be a good Christian And if I am already a good Chtristian (with lots of good things) – what do I need to repent of? GOD IS OBVIOUSLY HAPPY WITH MEbecause I have lots of good things. So many church-goers today make no effort to repent of what the Bible calls sin. The Bible tells us to repent of greed, and pride and sexual immorality; the murder of babies in the womb and unforgiveness in our heart. But many church goers – make no effort to repent of sin – because they believe they are # blessed by God. But many of them are not # blessed by God. Rather they are # charmed and # deceived by Satan. Jesus says – in verse 3 and verse 5 – “unless you repent, you too will perish.” (RPT) This is not cheap grace. This is Jesus as Saviour and LORD.
(GOSPEL) The way Christians are saved is by believing Jesus died for our sin. True Christians recognize themselves to be wretched sinners who deserve to be punished by God. But true Christians also recognize that Jesus died in their place for their sin upon the cross. Jesus does the time for our crime. This is Gods grace. And when we believe Jesus died for us and we ask God for forgivenes, he freely forgives us – again and again and again. But that doesn’t mean Christians should continue in their sin and simply presume upon Gods grace and forgiveness without trying to repent. No. In love and gratitude for Jesus dying for you, you try as hard as you possibly can to turn away from what Jesus says is evil. And as we try to repent (sometimes with many prayers and tears and fierce spiritual battle), God helps us by the Holy Spirit to change in ways we never thought possible. This is the authentic Christian life.
But are we using this time between Jesus’ first and second coming to eradicate as much sin from our life as possible? I think that if Jesus was here – he’d tell many of us to get MORE SERIOUS about repenting from sin and LESS SERIOUS about having every comfort in this world. Jesus says – “unless you repent, you too will perish.”
Point 2: God has given us Time to Bear Fruit (for his kingdom)
Show: Lk.13:6-9 (READ)
Explain: Well, this parable is pretty straightforward. What good is a fruit tree that never bears fruit?A fruit tree in the middle of a vineyard is using up valuable nutrients in the soil. That’s ok, if it’s producing something. But if the tree fails to produce fruit, not only is it a waste of space itself, it’s also probably reducing the output of the other plants around it because it’s using up valuable nutrients.
Now are you like that fruitless tree? (PAUSE). That’s basically the APPLICATION. When you come to a parable, first look for the MAIN IDEA. The MAIN IDEA is that there is a tree that has been fruitless and it needs to go. It’s a waste of space.
But the owner – graciously gives the tree one more year. He also gets the manager to show the tree some special love and care. If the tree comes good in the next year – all well and good, otherwise it’s time for the axe. This story is about us. The one extra year is the time between Jesus’ first and second coming.
In a way the world already deserved the axe at Jesus’ first coming. But instead of immediately giving us our just desserts, God has given people one last chance, one more year, to see if we can produce fruit for God. Now the whole history of the world up to the first coming of Jesus is represented by three years in which the Jews and humanity failed to produce fruit. The extra time the Jews and humanity have been given between Jesus first coming and second coming is represented by one more year. Now I am reluctant to read too much into those proportions. But if these numbers were proportional on the Jewish reckoning of time – Jesus should be returning very soon, or he should in fact already be here. God’s patience with tree is amazing. But it’s not going to last forever.
You see, not only has God given us A TOUCH LONGER, he has also given us everything we need to produce fruit. The digging around the roots and the fertilising of the ground – perhaps equates to Jesus’ love revealed at the cross and the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart. God has given us extra time and extra help to produce fruit for him. The question is – are we doing it?
Illustrate: Naomi and I planted some FRUIT TREES out at Mudgee. But we rarely find any fruit. First, the wattle trees grow up around them and choke the trees. Then the kangaroos come and they bend over the branches to eat the new tender leaves growing at the tips and in the process they snap off the branches. Then we get wombats and rabbits ringbarking the trees because they like to chew the bark. And that’s not to mention the endless battle with bugs and different diseases. We have an orchard full of trees that produce no fruit.
We had this romantic idea – that we’d always have fresh fruit – whenever we went to Mudgee. But in the last 10 years we’ve reaped only a handful of peaches and a few plums.
Apply: But I wonder how God is feeling about his orchard and his church today? Are we really using this extra time God has given us to produce fruit for His kingdom? Or are we STILL using this extra time – for carnal and wordly pleasures?
You can think of “FRUIT” in terms of anything that would please God. It may be repenting of a particular sin. It may be cultivating a particular fruit of the Spirit in your life – like gentleness or faithfulness. It may also be using your money for kingdom purposes or using your time to serve in church. Such things are fruit – pleasing to God. Now of course, we’re never going to produce as much fruit for God, as He deserves. Thankfully we’re saved by God’s grace, not by producing a certain quantity of fruit. But Jesus is reminding us that we’ve been given this extra time to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. And if you are not bearing any fruit (or very little fruit) for God’s kingdom – there is a problem. Maybe you could produce more fruit by helping teach kids about Jesus in SRE (like Janina Britton). Maybe you could be more generous with your money – giving to groups like Bible society who distribute the Bible in the world. This extra time is not just about us being reconciled to God by faith in Jesus. Our faith is also meant to be demonstrated in good works and good fruit for God’s kingdom. Jesus is saying make sure you bear fruit for God – in this time.
Point 3: God has given us this Time to Set the Captives Free
Show: Lk.13:10-13 (READ)
Explain: Well, in this passage we now focus on a special time, within “this present time”. It’s a Sabbath Day. It’s a holy day. And there’s all sorts of laws about what you should and shouldn’t do on the Sabbath. God simply said to rest on the Sabbath and don’t do any work. THE PROBLEM WAS – what constitutes work and what isn’t work. The Jews came up with a ridiculous list of what people could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath.
They decided healing sick people was one of those things – you shouldn’t do on the Sabbath – UNLESS it was a life or death, situation. Obviously, the lady Jesus heals on the Sabbath is not in a life or death situation because she’s had the problem for 18 years. So the Jews are like – Jesus why couldn’t you wait just one more day? Why don’t you do this healing tomorrow or next week?
Now Jesus points out the craziness of their ethics. The Jews had rules that said it was ok to help your ox or donkey on the Sabbath, but not a person. If your ox or donkey fell into pit on the Sabbath, you could still go and get it out – even if it wasn’t a life or death situation. If your ox or donkey was thirsty on a Sabbath, you could still take it and find water – even if it wasn’t a life or death situation. The Jews reached this crazy point where they showed more compassion to animals on the Sabbath, than they did to people on the Sabbath.
At this point (and highlighting this point) Jesus calls them a bunch of HYPOCRITIES. People who treat animals better than human beings are completely out of step with God. Now I’m not saying that we should treat animals badly. Animals are a wonderful blessing from God. And if you ask my family, they’ll tell you, I save my fair share of animals too. But human beings are way, way, way more important to Jesus than animals.
The sad thing is – our modern western world is just as ridiculous as this synagogue. These days, many people who consider themselves spiritual treat animals better than human beings. Its madness. Many of the same people who jump up and down about respecting the rights of dolphins, petition – for the right to kill their baby in the womb. We treat stray dogs and catsbetter than 1) the beggar on the street or 2) the refugee trying to come to our country on a boat. Jesus says you hypocrites…
Apply: Twice in this story Jesus talks about setting the woman free. First, in verse 12; Jesus talks about setting the woman free from infirmity. Then again, in verse 16; Jesus talks about setting this woman free from bondage to Satan. Friends, that is again the actual purpose of this time between Jesus’ first and second coming. THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF THIS TIME is to set as many people free from Satan and free from sin as possible. Its not about helping animals. Its not about observing sacred days or Sabbaths in some sort of religious way. This time is fundamentally about precious, precious people made in the image of God being saved.
And as followers of Jesus we have been called to continue setting people free from Satans kingdom through the preaching of the gospel. This is more important than animals. This is more important than the religious observance of sacred days. Nothing, nothing, nothing should get in the way of setting the captives free.
Apply: The Jews are more or less saying to Jesus – why couldn’t you wait until tomorrow? Isn’t the Sabbath (and observing the Sabbath) more important than helping and showing compassion to this woman. And Jesus is like no. The problem is – there may not be a tomorrow. There may not be a next week. Even Jesus doesn’t know when the end will come, but only the Father. So in light of this end (and knowing that this time is short) – nothing should get in the way of showing compassion to people and sharing the gospel with them.
Let me remind you – as Christians this time is NOT about saving the planet. This time is NOT about saving the oceans or saving oranguatans or dolphins or the amazon. (Now I’m not saying we should be bad stewards of this planet).
But friends, our time may be shorter than we realise. There may not be a tomorrow. And right now as our world really begins to fall apart under the weight of sin – people are creating ALL SORTS OF NOBLE CAUSES. Save the oceans. Save the dolphins. Save the amazon. Save the planet. But our calling as Christians, as followers of Jesus – is the salvation of people – through the preaching of the gospel. I assure you that all the other noble causes in the world right now – are going to end in tears. You jump on that bandwagon – you throw in your lot with the world, using their methods to save the world – and it will end in tears. Whereas our noble cause – setting the captives free through the preaching of the cross is going to be the end of tears, the end of suffering and death forever. Don’t be distracted. Don’t lost sight of the goal. Evangelical Christians still have the only noble cause in this world that will not end in tears.
Jesus made it clear every day (until he returns) is a good day for sharing the gospel – because the clock is ticking down