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How to Respond to God's Patience

April 26, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Joy Verse: Luke 13:1–13:9

Theme: Repentance is the only remedy for judgment.

Introduction: When tragedies occur, or when things happen that we feel ought not to happen, our thoughts often begin to question God’s worthiness. The most common objection to God and surrender to Him is that people think: “If God were truly good, He wouldn’t allow this to happen!” Hence, they feel justified in rejecting Him. 

As with most human reasoning, it is corrupted from the start. The faulty presupposition is that God would only be just in preserving every sinner’s life. The reality is that justice would be more fully served if everyone died – none of us ought to be given the chance to live, prosper, and thrive. The question ought not be “why do bad things happen to good people; but, why do good things ever happen to bad people?” The wages of sin that we have all earned is death. When a person understands grace, we see that God’s love is confirmed in that we are given life. 

As we know, there are varieties of reasons that God allows bad things to happen:

  1. … to test our faith – 1 Peter 1:6-7
  2. … to teach humility – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
  3. … to reveal to us what it is that we really love – Romans 5:3-4
  4. … to teach obedience – Psalm 119:67
  5. … to highlight His grace, compassion, and mercy – Psalm 103:13
  6. … to equip believers for greater usefulness – James 1:2-4
  7. … to enable us to comfort others as we ourselves have found comfort – 2 Corinthians 1:4

Finally, in our text today, Jesus reveals yet another reason God allows bad things to happen to bad people is to highlight that we all are going to give an account for our sinfulness unless we repent …

I. The Assumptions About Judgment – 13:1

A. The Form of God’s Judgment (calamity)

  • Once again, Luke indicates that as Jesus was teaching, someone interrupts him with a comment or question – “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him …”
  • Jesus had just been talking about the need to be prepared and how intense the judgment would be using statements like “cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with unbelievers.” (12:46).
  • These comments apparently prompted some in the crowd to assume that Jesus was talking about how certain people suffer – like He indicated that they would.
  • They missed the eschatological context of Jesus’ teaching which referenced Hell and an eternal perishing away from the presence of God – not a temporal calamity here on earth.
  • The Jewish people tended to live for the here-and-now and pushed eternal considerations out of their minds.
  • Their perspective is that calamities, catastrophes, and crises were God’s way of judging people who failed to sufficiently fulfill the Law; while the absence of such things was indication that God was pleased.
  • Hence, they desire to ask Jesus about whether the calamity at the Temple was a sufficient application of what He was talking about – “… about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”
  1. Pontius “Pilate” was a Roman governor of Judea from 26-36 AD whose term was filled with cruelties, mistakes, weakness, fear, and reactionary governing.
  2. He began by pompously and naïvely marching into Jerusalem with Roman standards bearing images that were viewed by the people as idolatrous.
  3. It caused a riot that Pilate commanded to disburse, “or else,” and the Jews stood firm, calling his bluff so that he had to back down and remove the standards.
  4. Later, “Pilate” robbed the temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct to bring water to Jerusalem and it again caused rioting where many protesting were killed by Roman soldiers.
  5. The incident brought to Jesus attention happened in the temple because their “blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices” – and the Temple was the only location where sacrifices were offered.
  • Hence such a calamity was an indication of God’s judgment – where sin was being avenged by a holy God, grossly devaluing the severity of God’s actual judgment for sin. 
  • This is sometimes seen even today – when some calamity strikes – it must be God’s anger being vented upon someone when it might actually be an act of mercy – demonstrating that sin carries consequences and what is coming is incomparably worse than anything that we can possibly experience here.

B. The Focus of God’s Judgment (condemned)

  • This leads to the second incorrect assumption – that when someone suffers, they get what they deserve while prosperity meant that God was blessing.
  • Their perspective is that when such catastrophes occur, it is because God was judging them for their personal sin.
  1. The disciples had demonstrated this idea – John 9:2.
  2. It is an ancient perspective as well – represented by Job’s friends – Job 4:7.
  • Since righteousness brings God’s blessings – given that these people were victims, it means that they were disdained by God.
  • The dangerous corollary to this perspective is that a person can feel “vindicated” as long as nothing catastrophic is happening to them. 
  • The people of Judea looked down on the “Galileans” as inferior to start with – and their demise seemed to indicate that the unworthiness of the Galileans was aggravated by personal sin and therefore they suffered under the wrath of God - cp. John 7:52.
  • Those who fail to perform, or to keep the Law, and instead indulged themselves in sin – God will afflict them.
  • It is true that a sinful life will produce difficulty, often through what is called natural consequences - cp. Proverbs 13:15.
  1. Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis of the liver
  2. Fornication can lead to a sexually transmitted disease
  3. Reckless driving can lead to an accident
  4. Drug abuse can lead to homelessness and brain damage.
  • However, it cannot be said that anyone who suffers is doing so because of their own sin – there are times when catastrophes fall on those for whom there is no apparent direct cause/affect.
  • So Jesus confronts these assumptions and seeks to direct their thoughts of judgment away from temporary consequences to the eternal consequences that sin produces.

Application:

  1. Do you walk around in fear that God will “zap” you if you in some way step out of line and sin?
  2. Do you walk around fairly smug that God must be okay with you because nothing bad has happened? 
  3. Why is it inappropriate to think “they must be getting what they deserve” when bad things happen to people?

II. The Assurances of Judgment – 13:2-5

A. The Confusion about Judgment – vv. 2, 4

  • Jesus immediately addresses their faulty assumptions: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?’”
  • This was a shocker! … of course, they thought this – it was their way of coping with such calamities.
  • After all, they were “sinners” [ἁμαρτωλός] – those whose behavior does not measure up to the standard of moral or religious expectations and deserving of whatever catastrophe God would execute against them.
  • However, Jesus response to this as “I tell you, no …” – v. 3a.
  • He is attempting to correct their erroneous and temporal perspectives on God’s judgment in light of what truly awaited the wicked.
  • The point that Jesus is making is NOT to deny they are sinners, but to inform the crowd who is currently free from catastrophe that they were just as wicked. 
  • It is apparent that they believed that if God doesn’t judge someone here on earth – if He lets people get away with their sin, that somehow, He is unjust.
  1. This is why some people feel the need to “make them pay” who have offended or mistreated them.
  2. They think that if God isn’t going to “judge” them, that they’ll do it themselves.
  3. However, God admonishes the vengeful to stop and leave room for the vengeance of God that ultimately is consummated in their condemnation – cp. Romans 12:19.
  • These people were thinking that God’s vengeance was clearly demonstrated on these Galileans because they were worse sinners than others.
  • Jesus intensifies His comments by leaving a cruelty caused by the Romans to a catastrophe caused by accident – that could naturally be attributed to God – “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?”
  • His reference to “culprits” [ὀφειλέτης] – refers to a person who is under obligation or deficit in a moral or social sense.
  • Yet again Jesus clearly confronts their comparative righteousness and informs the crowd that they were not more wicked – “I tell you, no ...”

B. The Cure for Judgment – vv. 3, 5

  • As Jesus was making clear to them, these things do not happen because they were worse – and implied in His comments is that all sinners are equally liable to God – “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
  • Clearly Jesus here confronts their self-righteous assumptions that they were okay before God and that their sins were not as bad as those on whom God’s judgment fell.
  • He tells them they under their current circumstances, they will “likewise perish,” – a reference to suffer the consequences of sin.
  1. “perish” [ἀπόλλυμι] – refers to the same event that Jesus has been referencing through this entire sermon – the standing before the Master, the being hauled before the judge – cp. Hebrews 9:27. 

    The present tense subjunctive mood used in both of these verses tells us that this is the enduring, present intention of God – cp. John 3:18.

    Their fate will not be better than those on whom the consequences of sin fell in these tragedies, but Jesus' focus is that it’ll be worse – Matthew 10:28.

  2. “likewise” [ὁμοίως] – does not refer to being hacked to death by the Romans or crushed by a toppling tower, but to suffer the consequences of sin through condemnation.
  • Jesus is essentially continuing the point He was making before He was interrupted by this errant application to what He was saying – they had better settle accounts with the Judge before it was too late – “… unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
  • Each time Jesus tell them to “repent,” He uses the present tense – meaning that become humbled by your sin so that whenever it occurs, you “repent.”
  • “Repent” [μετανοέω] means “to change one’s mind” about your sin which leads to “confession” which means to “say the same thing about your sin that God says about it – cp. 1 John 1:9.
  • This will result in turning to the only solution to sin that God provides – the work of the Lord Jesus Christ – cp. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.

Application:

  1. Do you ever catch yourself seeing some people as bad sinners and other sinners as “not-so-bad” sinners?
  2. Have you historically thought that God “owed” life, liberty, and happiness” to people? 
  3. How do Jesus’ words in these verses confront your view of 1) sinners; and 2) God?

III. The Approach of Judgment – 13:6-9 

A. The Incentive for Judgment – v. 6

  • To demonstrate that none of us can delay repentance since our time to stand before the Judge could be at any time, Jesus provides a parable - “And He began telling this parable …”
  • It isn’t prudent to attempt to push a parable too far in order to assign meaning to every element of the story – generally, there is a single truth being taught.
  • “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any” – likely to refer to the sinner whom God expects to be producing the fruit of repentance.

B. The Insistence on Judgment – v. 7

  • Because ample opportunity had been granted to the tree to produce fruit, the owner was done with it – “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’”
  • The owner was disgusted at the unresponsiveness of the tree despite the benefits of being in an ideal context of a vineyard with adequate water supply and nutrients in the soil.
  • The fate of the tree was set in the owner’s mind – like God Himself who is already condemned those who refuse to produce the fruit of repentance through faith in Jesus Christ.

C. The Imminence of Judgment – vv. 8-9

  • An appeal was made for the mercy of God to provide extended opportunity for fruit – “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
  • This demonstrates that the willingness of God to grant opportunity to people who have not yet repented – God wishes for them to do so within what could be considered a short time of the rest of their lives – cp. 2 Peter 3:9-10.
  • Whereas this crowd was under the impression that the kindness of God to them was an indication of their approval from God, it was actually designed to give them opportunity to repent – cp. Romans 2:4-5.
  • Unsaved people are living on borrowed time – and a certain end will be met by them should they not repent and turn to Christ Jesus.

Considerations:

  • If you have not responded to the call by Christ to repent and believe, the time is now – do not count on tomorrow. God is being patient – He has extended your opportunity, but it is a limited time opportunity!
  • Catastrophes ought not cause us to doubt God’s worthiness, but to consider our unworthiness of God’s blessing, causing us to marvel at the ability to have our sins forgiven instead of judged.
  • Believers, whenever tragic events unfold, ought to fall before the Lord in worship, thanking Him for His patience that allowed us the time to repent – worshipping Him for having saved us before it was too late!
  • Every time a calamity occurs we ought to be reenergized with a sense of urgency in sharing the Gospel of salvation with people for whom it is not too late – calling them to repent.

Application:

  1. What more would Jesus have to do to “prove” Himself to you as the Savior and Lord?
  2. When was the last time that you sensitized your heart before God’s Spirit for Him to identify and convict you of sin?
  3. Jesus refers to our own initiative causing us to “judge what is right” – are you motivated to pursue righteousness?