Today, we will look back at two more events that are only recorded in Luke’s gospel account. At this point in time in the Scripture text, Jesus is only a few months away from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, … His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. And as mentioned in earlier messages, He has a large and varied group of people that are joining Him on His journey. They, for the most part, are all Jewish, … but there are three subcategories within this group people:
- A) – Disciples/Students –Those who have pushed their wants and desires to the side and have dedicated their whole lives to live for … and behave like the One Whom they believe is the Messiah, … the Son of God.
- B) – The Crowd – Those who believed that there is something unique and miraculous about this man, Jesus. They would be happy to follow Him as long as He feeds them and heals them; … and as long as He keeps humiliating the snobbish and uppity Scribes and Pharisees, …. oh, and by the way, He needs to crush the Roman Empire under His feet when He gets to Jerusalem. <note: the ‘crowd’ sees Jesus as their servant (“…do this; …I want that …”); the ‘Disciples’ see Him as Master (“Lord, how can I please You and Father God today?”)>
- C) – Scribes/ Pharisees, Jewish religious rulers – These folk are interspersed within the crowd to spy on and possibly entrap Jesus; … to catch Him teaching or doing something contrary to God’s revealed Word (OT). They were not part of His ‘loyal subjects’. To the contrary, they wanted Jesus killed.
As we enter into today’s lesson, we will see Jesus focusing His teachings and stories on groups ‘B’ & ‘C’. Let’s turn to Luke 13 and follow God’s Word:
Vs.1-5 – “… worse sinners … more guilty …” – Jesus starts his teaching by recounting two local and contemporary historical events that some of the Jewish community interpreted incorrectly. Evidently Pilate ordered the slaughter of some Galilean worshippers while they were presenting offerings at the Temple, … and at another time, a tower collapsed killing 18 citizens. Many of the locals must have been descendants of ‘Job’s friends‘ <grin> and assumed that these people who were killed must have been awful sinners. Jesus corrects their faulty deduction by declaring, “… But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” <note: It is interesting to see that these very erroneous thoughts were probably running through the minds of the crowd in Jerusalem toward the end Jesus’ Passion Week. When Jesus did not take the Throne; … when Jesus was arrested; … when Jesus apparently stood beaten and powerless before Pilate; … all of the sudden, the crowd thought they had been ‘duped’, … and our Lord appeared to be ‘an awful liar & sinner’. Their cries of “Crucify Him!” came much easier at that point …>
In Jesus declarations, He did not say that what befell these folk was, … or was not because of their sin; …that was not addressed. What Jesus did say is that their sin (the sin of those to whom these tragedies befell) was no worse than anyone else’s sin in the crowd He was addressing. A call for the crowd to “repent”, or “perish” was issued to those listening at this point.
So what is it to ‘repent’? It means ‘to change one’s mind and purpose’. John the Baptist preached repentance; … the Apostles in Acts preached repentance; …the glorified Jesus in Rev. 2 & 3 told 5 of the 7 churches He was addressing to ‘repent’. If what they’ve been living and thinking was offensive to God, then Jesus asked …. yay, commanded them to ‘change their minds and purposes’ … to repent! … or else! Jesus then gives them another parable:
Vs.6-9 – “… fig tree …” – (Hos.9:10a) The fig tree was oft used as a ‘type’ of Israel.
“… look for fruit …” – If God is the “… man (who) had a fig tree …”, then what “fruit” was God looking for? ___ Some might say ‘the fruit of the Spirit’; …’Love’. But ‘Israel’ did not have the Holy Spirit. He was poured out into & onto the church. So, God was not expecting to find ‘navel oranges’ on a ‘fig tree’.
The fruit Israel (fig tree) was meant to produce was repentance. (Read Matt.3:7-10) This is why the Pharisees and Scribes had such a hard time with John the Baptist and Jesus. They followed the Law to the letter (…or so they thought). By asking them to ‘change their mind’, they would (in their thinking) be minimizing the importance of God’s Law. If the Messiah was near, notable sinners would eagerly change their ways and repent. But a Pharisee was already obeying and living God’s Word. Why would the Baptist or Jesus want them to ‘change their mind’ about following God’s Law?
First, that was NOT what Jesus was demanding of them (Matt.5:17-20). Jesus WROTE the Law! What John and Jesus were demanding that those Pharisees and Scribes ‘change their minds’ about was from ‘following the Law‘ … to ‘following and obeying the One Who wrote the Law, …Jesus’.
“… cut it down …” – John used the same words when addressing Israel’s elite in Matt.3.
“… the man who took care of the vineyard …” – Jesus’ parable follows the life of Moses at this point (Ex.32:7-14).We know that Moses was a type of Jesus, and as the chief Gardener in His parable, states that He will personally minister to, … care for, … and teach the people of Israel for a little more time. And then if they still do not ‘repent’ / ‘bear fruit’, God can ‘cut them down’ …. and they didn’t (repent) … and He did (Luke 19:41-44).
The point of ‘fruit bearing’ / ‘repentance’ for those who believe there is a God, is to come near to God by establishing a relationship with His Son. The Law is good! God’s Word is good! But eternal life is only found in knowing God … and God is only known through a working relationship with Jesus. Yes, Jesus is the “Word of God”. But if we stop there, we miss Him. He’s the “Word of God made flesh“! The fulness of God in human form (Jesus) was manifested so that we could commune, interact, and worship with One Who knows and is like us …. and not some abstract Deity we only know through His revealed Word (Heb.4:14-16). He created us … He condescended to become one of us … and He, God incarnate, the Father personified, … desires to be our Teacher, … our Guide, … our Master, … and our Friend.
The second story today gives a perfect object lesson of knowing just God’s Word, … as opposed to knowing God’s Word made flesh …
Vs.10-17 – The Sabbath was to be strictly honored (Ex.20:9; Ne.13:15-22; Jer.17:20-27). Many severe warnings were issued against profaning that ‘Holy’ day. So Israel’s prophets and rulers took steps to make sure nobody intentionally or accidentally broke Commandment #4.
Jesus understood what He commanded of His people. He never intended for the people to be burdened by ‘the Day’. That Day was a time, cherished by God Almighty, that He and man were to rest and enjoy each other’s company. Jesus, without breaking one punctuation mark in the Law, healed the woman … as well as others … on the Sabbath, and in doing so, declared that our God is interested in not only reverence (…we are still to fear Him), but also in a personal relationship with us that is so close, … so tight, … that it mirrors the closeness the Father has with his Son (John 17:20-26). This is a truth that needs to be emphasized: … our unity, …our oneness, … our tight relationship with God, …screams to the dark world that Jesus is God incarnate ….‘God’s Word made flesh’.
Beloved of God, … is it possible that some of the church in the West has become very familiar with God’s Word … while not being close to Him?? … Is the church’s Unity with God evident to the fallen world around us?? … is that Unity we are to have with the Father evident to us?? … Does the church, …. do its members … need to ‘change their minds and purposes’??
… Do we need to ‘repent’?? If so, we are commanded to do so. Stay close to Jesus, dearest saints of the Most High.
If you can join us Sunday, brother Wayne and sister Arlene will be sharing with us what God has been doing through them on the ‘mission field’. Continue to support the Wilson’s in the way God prompts you.