Formations lesson for March 25: The urgent call to repentance
March 9 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 13:1-9

Formations lesson for March 25: The urgent call to repentance | Friday, March 9, 2001

Friday, March 9, 2001

Formations lesson for March 25: The urgent call to repentance

By Ken Vandergriff Luke 13:1-9 A perennial question has plagued philosophers, theologians, as well as common folk: why do certain tragedies strike particular persons? An ancient and popular answer assumed that people got what they deserved. If tragedy struck, the person must have done something to deserve it (see Job's friends, who take this view; Job 4:7-8; 8:1-4; 11:1-6; 22:1-5). Although Jesus argued against that view, and even though our own experience argues against it, many still like to believe that there must be a fundamental justice in the world - people get what they deserve. According to Luke 13:1-9, Jesus used the popular connection between sin and tragedy to highlight the need for repentance.

Warning (Luke 13:1-5) Two incidents of tragedy are mentioned in these verses. No other details are known about either event, no historical records available to us mention either one. When He was told of Pilate's slaughter of a group of Galileans as they were offering sacrifices, Jesus recognized a teachable moment and He seized it. Did their deaths mean that they were worse sinners than others? Many in Jesus' audience probably believed it meant exactly that, but Jesus refuted that view and added a warning - unless you repent, you also will perish. To this example of human evil Jesus added an example of natural evil - the collapse of a tower at the pool of Siloam in the southern part of Jerusalem. Again He asserted that there was no connection between sin and tragedy and repeated His warning about repentance.

Such incidents remind us that life is short. Unexpected death comes suddenly, without warning, sometimes from human evil (a drunk driver or someone goes berserk and shoots blindly into a crowd of strangers) and sometimes from natural evil (a tornado, or a flood). Jesus warns that we should repent, because any moment might be our last.

It is a fact that most of the Sunday School classes studying this lesson will be filled with religious persons who already have faith in God, who have been in church for many years, whose lifestyles are fairly admirable. It may be profitable, then, to explore the question: what do such persons have to repent of?

Maybe we need to repent of being good. Here's what I mean. The fact that we are religious, that we don't commit the horrific and repugnant acts that some do, may lead us to think that we are pretty good. That attitude, however, may lead us to overlook the fact that only God is good and that even the best of us are still sinners (Rom. 3:10). In addition, when we consider ourselves good, we may become convinced that we know what is good and not good for others, and that is a dangerous attitude. History contains too many examples of "good" people persecuting, even killing those considered "not good." Sydney Harris, a popular syndicated columnist of the '60s and '70s, bluntly exposed that self-righteous attitude when he said, "The perils of spirituality are far greater than those of bestiality; as C.S. Lewis warned us, 'Of all bad men, the bad religious man is the worst.'"

Grace (Luke 13:6-9) Why did Jesus tell this particular parable immediately following his urgent call to repentance? The parable tells of mercy and a second chance; the unproductive fig tree was given one more year to produce. It is a reprieve, though not a long one. Because death might come at any moment, repentance is urgent; but at the same time, God is willing to give second chances as the history of God's dealings with his people amply shows. The parable thus stands in both continuity and discontinuity with what precedes it. Both affirmations are necessary, as Fred Craddock points out: "according to 2 Peter 3:8-9, God has delayed the day of the Lord in order to give more people opportunity to repent and to avoid that final terror. This parable speaks in a similar vein: there is yet time. God's mercy is still in serious conversation with God's judgment" (Luke, Interpretation Commentary, 169).

God's mercy, God's judgment, the need for repentance - even those of us who have been Christians for a long time barely comprehend these.

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3/9/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 13:1-9 | with 0 comments
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