Sunday, September 09, 2012

Luke 13:1-9 - The Right Kind of Religion

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 02:  Anna Keener, 19...
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPT 2: Worshipers at a call to prayer and repentance at  'Charlotte 714,' in Charlotte, NC, before the Democratic National Convention. 'Charlotte 714' is derived from 2 Chronicles 7:14. (Getty Images via @daylife)
Sept 9: Yesterday morning in Nash County state Highway Patrol trooper died while trying to deploy stop sticks during a high-speed chase that covered parts of Wake and Nash counties.  Trooper Bobby G. Demuth, a 12-year-veteran stationed in Rocky Mount, died while trying to deploy the sticks near Spring Hope in Nash County shortly after 8 a.m. 

The Highway Patrol's public information officer, First Sergeant Jeff Gordon, said, "When something like this happens, it really brings to light and you really do realize the dangers that are involved. We lost an invaluable member today." 

The chase began in Raleigh around 7:45 a.m. and ended around 8:30 a.m. near N.C. Highway 581 in Spring Hope, about 20 miles away on N.C. Highway 64. Authorities arrested 40-year-old Christopher McCoy Rodgers, of Williamston, shortly after he hit Demuth.  Shortly after midnight Saturday morning, Rodgers forcibly restrained a female and her 21-month-old child, barricaded them into a room, and stole the woman’s ATM card.

Totally senseless. A husband, father, and a man working to make a living killed over an ATM card. What can we say? Why do tragedies happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen at all? Why are there Haiti earthquakes? Why are there Hurricane Katrinas? The Asian tsunamis? Why did that person you love so much die a painful death from cancer? Why did you get sexually abused by that man? Why did those innocent children have their lives snuffed out by a drunk driver or by a suicidal grandmother or by another middle school student with a 9mm at school? Did God cause it? Is the devil to blame? Is God not powerful enough or kind of enough to stop this suffering? Should we blame God? Today’s passage speaks to senseless violence by calling us to a right kind of religion, one animated by repentance.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 13:1-9 to warn believers that the right kind of religion is one of repentance which bears the fruit of repentance.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about repentance.
Pray and Read:  Luke 13:1-9

Contextual Notes:
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. Luke’s Gospel makes a major shift at Luke 9:51 where Jesus leaves his Galilean ministry and turns resolutely toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership. 
Luke shows us that new resolute focus in chapters 10 and 11, calling us to realign our own priorities to those of our resolute Lord: First, the priority of His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24); second the priority of our love for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37); third, the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) walked out a higher priority of prayer in our lives (Luke 11:1-13); fifth, the priority of Jesus’ authority in our lives (Luke 11:14-28) which calls us to a high priority on repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
Luke 10:1-24              The Priority of His Gospel (for the nations)
Luke 10:25-37            The Priority of Your Love (for your neighbor)
Luke 10:38-42            The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13              The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28            The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36            The Priority of Your Repentance

First, Jesus condemns the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Then he warns his disciples of hypocrisy and points away from the fear of man to the right kind of fear, the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12). Jesus next warns against materialism but instead to focus on being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), then warns against worry and encourages his disciples to trust the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34). The right kind of focus follows (Luke 12:35-59), then Luke’s outline calls us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19).
Luke 11:37-54            The Wrong Kind of Religion (without relationship)
Luke 12:1-12              The Right Kind of Fear (not of men, but of God)
Luke 12:13-21            The Wrong Kind of Focus (not greed, but God)
Luke 12:22-34            The Wrong Kind of Fear (not worry, but trust)
Luke 12:35-59            The Right Kind of Focus (on eternity, not this world)
Luke 13:1-9                The Right Kind of Religion (with repentance)
In a series of illustrations, Jesus reminds us that the world is rushing toward Christ’s Second Coming. To be ready, believers must serve God actively (Luke 12:35-53) and unbelievers must make peace with God before it is too late (Luke 12:54-59). Jesus’ urgent warnings about the end times must have gotten some of his listeners thinking, and they told him about the Roman procurator’s brutal actions against the Galileans in cutting them down in cold blood as they sacrificed in the Temple, of all places. Surely this indicated the seriousness and urgency of the times. What was this world coming to? That the government would cut down people who were peaceably worshipping in the Temple courts? And Jesus answers them by turning the discussion to his main point: A warning to repent of sin.

Sermon Points:
1.   The right kind of religion is one of repentance  (Luke 13:1-5)
2.   The right kind of religion bears the fruit of repentance (Luke 13:6-9)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Jesus’ teaching on the need to prepare for Judgment Day (Luke 12:54-59) leads directly into a call for repentance (Luke 13:1-9). The crowd is thinking with Jesus as he teaches, and someone brings up the cases of Pilate’s brutal police action. While there is no other record of this incident, it is in line with Governor Pilate’s character. The fact that this brutal attack was not mentioned in other ancient literature is a sad commentary on how common these atrocities were in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.
b.   But one commentator, William Barclay, suggests that this event may be related to a well-documented plan by Pilate to improve Jerusalem’s aqueduct system and funding it with Temple funds. Imagine the uproar and furor today if government required the churches to fund a water treatment plant or an abortion clinic. In the same way, the very idea of using the Temple’s funds for a city works project enraged the Jews, and mobs gathered at the Temple to protest. Barclay says that Pilate sent in undercover Roman soldiers in plain clothes into the crowd. At a given signal, they were to fall on the mob and disperse them. The soldiers not only did their job, but they were so violent that they went beyond their orders and a considerable number of people lost their lives. Almost certainly Galileans would have been involved. Jesus is referring to Galileans who were sacrificing at the altar when the soldiers attacked them, and Jesus adds the grim detail that their blood was “mingled with their sacrifices.”[1]
c.   Apparently the crowd had the misconception that personal tragedy was the result of individual sins. The idea was that these Galileans had been visited by a special punishment of some special sin against God. “I wonder what they did for that to happen to them?”
d.   It is not a new thing to think this way. Job’s friend Eliphaz asked similarly, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” (Job 4:7). But isn’t it strange that these people would assume the Galileans were receiving God’s punishment to have been martyred by Pilate in the Temple while offering holy sacrifices? Kind of backwards, huh?
e.   Perhaps also, as Dwight Pentecost at Dallas Seminary and Alfred Edersheim speculate, they were trying to trap Jesus, to connect his Messianic movement with the Jewish Nationalist movement centered in Galilee. Remember he and his disciples were Galileans, too. If he condemned the Galileans, he would be applauding the cold bloodshed of his own people by the Roman oppressor. If he defended the Galileans, he could be reported to Pilate for sedition and treason to Rome.

f.    Jesus rejects this popular idea and emphasizes that all people are sinners who need to repent before God. He not only deals with tragedy caused by humans, but he brings up another tragedy, one of natural causes, in which Jerusalem Jews working perhaps for the Roman government were killed when a tower fell on them.

g.   The tower of Siloam (13:4): The pool of Siloam was a reservoir in the southwest corner of Jerusalem. This incident may also have been related to Pilate’s building project. Because of its military importance, the tower may have been part of the city’s fortifications or part of an aqueduct that Pilate built to improve Jerusalem’s water supply. It may have been that the eighteen were those who had taken work on Pilate’s hated aqueducts. If so, most believing Jews would have seen the money they earned as having been stolen from God to begin with. It may have been the talk on the street that the tower had fallen on them because of the work they were doing and being paid with money stolen from God.[2]

h.   In their minds, God was giving these people what they deserved. To good people, He gave wealth and comfort; to bad people, tragedy and death. It would be just as wrong, Jesus argued, to say the Galileans suffered God’s judgment as to say these Jerusalemites did. Their politics didn’t matter. Neither nationalist Jews nor those submitted to the absolute domination of the foreign Romans were at fault. The whole nation was guilty of sin, and the coming storm (12:54-56) of the End would destroy all of them unless there were spiritual repentance on the part of the whole nation.[3]Jesus’ point was that we are all sinners. We all need salvation, and that comes through repentance, not on who is better than whom.

i.     APPLICATION: The underlying principle for Jesus in Luke 13 was that when a calamity or tragedy befalls an individual, a group, a city, or a nation, we ought not to assume that there was some special cause sent by God, but to see its general application to all of us. When tragedy strikes we may feel like God is punishing us. We may even wonder aloud about it, but we live in a sinful, fallen world, and senseless tragedy is part of the curse of sin that Christ came to destroy.

j.    The main point is that tragedy is no sure sign of sinfulness, just as the absence of tragedy is no sure sign of righteousness. No matter whether one’s life is tragic or tranquil, all are sinners and all alike must repent before God. We should not so much try to trace a connection with someone suffering but instead learn its lessons as a call to all of us to repent of our sins. And by the way, this also holds true in regard to miracles and deliverances. Instead of wondering what someone did to deserve a miraculous healing or be saved from a horrible tragedy while many others died, we should take the general principles of repentance and God’s mercy.

k.   What does God think when we suffer? In some ways God suffers with us. Jesus had great compassion on the widow of Nain. Jesus wept outside the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matt 9:35-39).

l.     And in regard to tragedies like the tsunami, September 11th, the Holocaust, Katrina, or Haiti, these disasters remind us that creation groans under the weight of sin. The entire cosmos waits for the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord, the hope of the New Creation. Where did the sin come from? It came from us. We are the problem. Man and woman brought sin into the world through our own disobedience. God in his sovereignty gave us that choice to obey or disobey. Our disobedience led to the groaning of this world under the weight of sin. Bad choices are the reason for so much evil in the world. So when we blame God for a cancer diagnosis, that is illegitimate. When we blame God for the Haiti earthquake, that is out of bounds. When we blame God for the senseless suffering of children in sex trafficking in Thailand, we are short-sighted. We have a log in our own eyes. We have done this to ourselves. We are to blame.

m. The good news is that Jesus Christ came to redeem us from the Curse of sin that we brought on ourselves. Jesus is the only real message of hope.
a.   Having dealt with the errant assumptions that his audience derived from the tragedies of the day, Jesus next gives the Parable of the fig tree to teach the urgency of bearing the fruit of repentance, that is, living a life of repentance before God.

b.   Israel is sometimes figured as a fig tree (Jer 8:13; 24:1-10; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1). Jesus is understood by some commentators to be speaking directly to national Israel that the nation must repent of its sins or face judgment which came at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus placed the fig tree in a vineyard, recalling Isaiah 5:1-7.

c.   Fig trees bear annually, so the owner had already had great patience. Three years must pass before a fig tree’s fruit was considered ritually clean (Lev 19:23). Thus the landowner had planted the tree six years earlier, and the tree was giving an indication that it was permanently barren. Being cut down is a common symbol of judgment (Isaiah 6:13; 9:10). Jesus is making a connection to Micah 7:1-2, where God asks for figs (righteous people) but finds none.

d.   Luke 13:8 - The servant intercedes on behalf of the tree. Similarly, our Messiah intercedes on our behalf (Rom 8:34), asking for more time for you and me to repent and turn from our sin to the living God (Mark 1:15). The owner waits another year to make sure it is worthless before doing anything (Isaiah 65:8). Leaving it for another year, digging around it and fertilizing it is a picture of mercy and patience. God is patient, but judgment will not wait forever (Jer 12:17; Psalm 7:11-16; 103:9; Heb 9:27). We have a limited time on this earth to show God our fruit. All our days are numbered. In God’s eyes, unless we bear fruit of a life lived in vital relationship with Christ, we haven’t truly repented; and without repentance, we have no hope of eternal life.

e.   APPLICATION: Are you walking in repentance? As a believer, when is the last time you spent some time honestly and methodically asking the Lord’s forgiveness for your sins? Specific sins? What about the broken relationships in your life? Have you asked the Lord and that person forgiveness for your part in that brokenness? Are you walking in repentance? Are you seeing a growing sense of God’s work in your heart? Are you sensing the Holy Spirit putting his finger on new areas in your life that need repentance, sinful behaviors and attitudes from which you need to turn and leave behind? If you aren’t, you are not growing as a Christian. Something is wrong. You are plateaued or losing ground. The old-fashioned term is called back-sliding. Are you backsliding? You need to be at this altar in today repenting and getting right with God. Just get ready to come down this aisle in a few minutes and get it right with Him.

Tragedies and suffering point to our own awful end if we do not repent, turn from our sins, and give our lives to the only one who can redeem us, Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Jesus says that the right kind of religion is living a lifestyle of repentance and bearing fruit that repentance took place in your life. Would you cast off your sin right now and receive his redemption and come to Christ as your only hope in this suffering world?
F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1210.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 628-629.
S. MacLean Gilmour, “Luke.” George Arthur Buttrick, gen. ed., The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 8:239-241.
Paul John Isaak, “Luke,” Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 1231.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 226-227.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 319-320.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 188.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991, 664.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 333.
Alfred Plummer, International Critical Commentary on Luke, 5th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 28: .
A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary. Vol. 4 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 4:323.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 126-127.
Mark Strauss. “Luke,” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:433-434.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 89-92.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 540-541.
11am Sunday, September 9, 2012, at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, NC

[1] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, rev. ed., The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), 173. According to Edersheim, It seems that the event happened before Christ’s visit to Jerusalem. Since there was no feast between this visit (the Dedication of the Temple) and Christ’s last visit to Jerusalem (Feast of Tabernacles). Notice that apparently Christ had heard of the incident, so it was well known.
[2] Strauss, ZIBBC, 433-4; Barclay, 173.
[3] Edersheim, 629.