This is the sermon for the third sunday in lent. The sermon text is Luke 13:1-9. The sermon theme is: Jesus Gives Us Repentance. Here is the Written Sermon
Jesus Gives Us Repentance
Repent. It seems like such a simple word, doesn’t it? We use it all the time. But it’s one of those words which is very easy to forget. Repent simply means to change ones heart and mind.1 It means to turn away from sin and toward God.
The problem with the word, repent, is that, as we come into this world we are completely unable to do what it says. We are unable to turn away from sin and toward God. In a very real way, telling an unbeliever to repent is like telling a person living in Mexico who has never seen snow to describe it. Unbelievers don’t know who God is. And what they do know about him they hate.
This is a problem, isn’t it? How do you get unbelievers to believe? God’s solution is amazing. First, he makes people see how evil they are and where that sin leads. Second, he gives them faith to appreciate and trust in the promises that Jesus speaks to them.2
And he does all of this with that one little word, repent.3 That word is both the the threat of hell and the invitation to heaven. With that one word Jesus makes us fear the fires of hell and trust in the forgiveness he gives through the gift of faith.
This morning, in Luke 13, we have the privilege of seeing how Jesus uses that one, little word, repent. So, in the opening words of Luke 13, we read: “1 At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And He responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well! 4 Or those 18 that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the people who live in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!”” (Luke 13:1–5 HCSB)
These are some strange words. Some people tell Jesus that there were some Galileans who were killed by Pilate. Now, the Galileans had this habit of rebelling against the Roman Government. And evidently what had happened was that there were some guilty Galileans who were running away from the Romans in Jerusalem. So, they tried to hide somewhere where they thought the Romans wouldn’t go. They hid in the temple area. The Romans not only went into the temple area. They also caught and killed these Galilean men. And their blood splattered in the air and flowed along the floor. And it mixed with the blood of the animals that were being sacrificed there. So not only were the men murdered, the sacrifices were defiled.
Now, what Jesus does with this is quite fascinating. His response to this horrible story can be boiled down to one word: repent. You see, these people needed to see their sin. There is this horrible heresy out there in the world that God is good to the good and bad to the bad. The bible, however, tells us something different. In the Old Testament we hear about Job. In one day his flocks, herds and children all died. Yet we are told that he was a righteous man. So also, in the New Testament, we hear about Stephen. Stephen was in the middle of peaching the truth in love to the Jews. And how did they respond to his sermon? They lead him out, threw him into a pit, and threw large stones at him until he died.
You see, sometimes bad things happen to Christians. And here is where we see our own sin. Those people who said this to Jesus already had their mind made up. They had concluded that these men met horrible deaths because they were sinful. We too are just like them. They arrived at conclusions without knowledge. And we do the same. Every time someone asks you a difficult question about your faith and you shoot from the hip and make up an answer, you are committing the same sin. And what excuse do you have when there are so many bible study classes available to you?
Jesus has two simple statements to say in response to the stupidity that they and we show. Jesus says, “repent!” Then Jesus says, “or be destroyed.”4 Unless you realize that it’s a sin to be stupid—especially when, for so many years you have had access to so many solid bible studies and repent of that sin, you too will be destroyed.
Jesus says, “repent.” And when he says it, it hurts, doesn’t it? It hurts to see how stupid we are. It hurts to realize that where that sin leads is hell. But when Jesus says, “repent” he doesn’t just urge us to see our sin. He also gives us faith to appreciate and trust in his promises. We naturally think that God is good to the good and bad to the bad, but what does God’s word say? God declares the guilty innocent.5 For all the stupid statements you have made when you should have been in God’s word enough to know better—they are forgiven. They are placed there on Jesus’ shoulders on the cross. He pays for those sins there on the cross and then gives you this forgiveness through his word. This too is what Jesus means when he says, “repent.”
And to emphasize this point, Jesus tells a story, a little parable: “6 “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ 8 “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’”” (Luke 13:6–9 HCSB)
So in this story there is the owner of the vineyard. There is a gardener. And there is a worthless tree. Which of these three are you? You are the worthless tree. You see, the worst that a tree can do is use up the resources in the soil and then produce no fruit. We are so much worse than fruitless trees. We anger our God above with our sins. And we have the ability not just to send ourselves to hell, but to drag others with us.
Here in these words we have an amazing picture of how, when it comes to your life, the Father and the Son look at you. They wrestle with the question of how much time to give you here in this life. Here in these words our Triune God’s justice and mercy are waging war with each other. And God shows his mercy in giving you every opportunity to turn to him. But there is that threat at the end of these words, isn’t there? If the tree does not turn around, then kill it. And Jesus says the same thing to you: Produce fruit in keeping with repentance or be destroyed forever in hell.
Again, notice what Jesus does with that one, little word, repent. He causes us to see where our spiritual laziness leads us. Our spiritual laziness leads us straight to hell. With that one little word, repent, he moves us to hate our sin and long for healing. With that one little word he causes us to cling to our Savior, Jesus.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has given to you an amazing gift. We call this gift, repentance. Now you see your sin and where it leads. Now you see your Savior and what he did to take away your sins. So what Jesus preaches, carry out in your lives: Repent. Get up every morning and go to bed every night seeing your sin for what it is—a trap that can lead you to hell. And get up every morning and go to bed every night seeing your Savior. He is the one who took away your sins on the cross. He is the one, who instead of throwing you away with the weeds, washed you and put his name on you in Holy Baptism. Jesus is the one who gives us this gift of repentance. So then, repent. Amen.
1 “μετανοέω,” BDAG, 640.
2 Ac 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25.
4 ⲉⲁⲛ ⲙⲏ ⲙⲉⲧⲁⲛⲟⲏⲥⲏⲧⲉ…ⲁⲡⲟⲗⲉⲓⲥⲑⲉ
5 Rom 4:5
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