Luke 13: 1 – 9 Repent or perish
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘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.’
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. 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?”
‘ “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” ’
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Jesus has just rebuked the crowd for being slow to comprehend the signs of the times. They can forecast the weather from what they see, he says, so why can’t they understand the spiritual significance of what they are witnessing? As we saw yesterday, Jesus’ rebuke is intended to draw their attention to the way self-interest blinds them to the truth of his message and the signs that accompany it.
In today’s reading, it would seem as though some of the crowd had tried to defend their ability to read the signs of the times. They remind Jesus of the Galileans slaughtered by Pilate during a festival, and the implication is that these people must have sinned to deserve such a punishment.
“No!” says Jesus, “They were not worse sinners than you. But unless you repent you will perish.” And Jesus offers them another example of the same thing. Eighteen people had been killed when a tower fell down. Were they worse sinners? No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
The thrust of this teaching is two-fold. First it dismisses the idea that earthly disasters come about because of sin. Second, it emphasises that life is precarious. If we are going to lead a life that is pleasing to God, the time to start is now. We don’t know when our death will come.
This leads on to a parable, and it’s a parable we shouldn’t over-analyse. Its point is that a life pleasing to God produces fruit. God is patient and allows time and effort to bring everyone to repentance – but life comes, sooner or later, to an end. Take advantage of God’s patience and produce fruit, because one day your life will end.
What is the fruit God wants us to produce? Why, surely it is the fruit of the Spirit! “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5: 22 – 23)
What wonderful fruit! I long to see such fruit in my life, and in the lives of those around me! I long to feel the presence of Jesus close beside me!
There are many ways in which I sin and don’t put you first. Please help me to keep fighting this selfishness, help me to put you first, so that I can live a life bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, Amen