Monday, May 03, 2010



As we come to chapter 13 of the gospel of Luke Jesus is speaking to the issue of repent or change your mind about yourself in relationship to God or you will most surely perish.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Jesus refers to two contemporary events in Palestine in order to deal with the question, "Who is it that needs mercy?" And, "Who is it that needs to repent?"

FIRST-Pilate killed some worshippers from Galilee who, presumably, have come to the temple to worship. SECOND-A tower, probably near the pool of Siloam, has collapsed and the falling stones have instantly killed eighteen people.

The normal Jewish reaction was to assume that those who experience tragedies must have sinned greatly to deserve such terrible deaths. But Jesus speaks to this and says, "I tell you, no." His point is that everyone will suffer terrible judgment unless they repent-change their minds about the Lord.

Jesus chooses to share a parable about a fruitless tree that will shed light on this issue of mercy and repentance.

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

"'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down."

This parable speaks to all who are not in a fruit-bearing position at the moment. The goal of followers is to bear fruit. The tree deserves to be cut down due to its lack of fruitfulness, but the gardener still has hope for it. He wants to give it one more chance.

This is exactly how God works with us. When we are unfruitful, we are useless. But the gardener responded to the owner who was demanding the removal of the fruitless tree. He offered a three-fold plan. And, this plan consists of three growth principles for us:

1. "Leave it alone for one year." Give the tree some time. That's exactly what we need in order to recover and grow-time.

2. 'Dig around it." In order for a tree to become fruitful, it must have a freshening of the dirt around it. In life, this digging around may be quite painful and a little frightening.

3. 'Fertilize it." Finally, the tree needs some food in order to grow. We, too need to be fed some good nutrients in order to grow.

So, what is Jesus saying here? Everyone is in need of repentance toward God-no matter their life situation, whether good or bad. Everyone is in need of the mercy and grace of God. If we were given what we deserve, we'd be cut down like the fruitless tree. BUT GOD, gives us more time, freshens up the soil around us and feeds us the nutrients we need. I believe God will do most anything to get you and I back into being fruitful. That's His mercy and it's for anyone. You know what that's called? AMAZING GRACE. It's all yours. Repent or change your mind about where you are and turn around toward God. The only thing that is required of you is that you be interested enough to change the direction of your life. Now, that is amazing grace.



Before moving on to chapter 13 of Luke I want to pause this morning and further clarify how division is triggered by the Prince of Peace. This is a hard statement Jesus has just made, "I came to bring division." I want to share with you the way I see it and maybe it will be helpful to you in your faith journey.

"Peace at any price" is not the purpose of His coming. Jesus came to clarify to everyone who will listen the "way, the truth and the life" where the highest character will be developed, the greatest meaning and fulfillment can be experienced and where one can know God personally. Let's dig in a bit and put this in a wider context.

FIRST-He continues to say "to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see." This indicates that there are those who will refuse to hear and see, therefore they will oppose the teachings and principles of Jesus. That human response will bring division.

SECOND-Jesus teaches His disciples to pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This is because the kingdom is not practiced fully on earth right now and someday it will be. Until that complete fulfillment of the kingdom on earth, the ugly conflict between good and evil will continue. That will bring division.

THIRD-The peace that Jesus promises is not the peace of this world. There is a parallel passage in John's Gospel. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. Jesus gives total liberation to man through spiritual and inner peace. Luke presents Jesus in this manner as a king of peace at His birth and before His suffering and crucifixion. The Jews expected a wordly happiness and satisfaction with the coming of Jesus-sort of a political bliss that would come over people as if they had been exposed to some chemical that would put everyone on a high. But Jesus makes it clear that it is not so. The reality is that His coming will not bring about some political nirvana, but will make people think and choose. This very fact will bring division through a variety of responses.

FOURTH-When you choose to follow "the suffering Jesus", you separate yourself from following some pompous and powerful leader created by Madison Avenue marketing departments. Jesus was the ultimate "self-giving" example for us. Those who have difficulty being self-giving, but are self-centered will choose to walk another way. Jesus will get in the way of their self-centered quest. This, too, will bring division.

FIFTH-There is also the reality of people taking the words of Jesus and using them to build their own "human-centered" organization for human gain. This new organization is like a monster in that it wants to get as many members as possible and control them and their pocketbooks. Those who are in leadership are not bad people, but misguided because this is the only way they know to follow God and do ministry. Those who follow it are not bad, but misinformed thinking that this is the "right" way to do things. Therefore, the organization gets into "brand-loyalty" and competes with all other brands, thinking they and they only have the "right" way of thinking or believing or behaving while everyone else outside this brand-loyalty is "wrong". This is the way of much of Christianity and other forms of religious brand-loyalty. There is this need to be right. Jesus is the way, truth and the life...and He is the unifying factor, however man's self-centered need to be right and to die for their brand-loyalty divides and is so hurtful. When a person in that ugly, divisive position of faith in their particular brand sees that it is all about Jesus Plus Nothing and not their brand of it-that Jesus is supreme over all of the brands, then peace is brought to a person's heart and to his family and friends.

SIXTH-This same kind of brand-loyalty then can be extended to the variety of religious systems in the world and how they view Jesus. The fundamentalist whatever who believes he is right and all others are wrong and must be conquered or destroyed will continue to advance the conflict of good and evil and will bring unending division. However, as we witnessed at the Prayer Breakfast, once a person from whatever background discovers the Jesus Plus Nothing truth, then peace is experienced-first inner peace and then that peace overflows into family and friends and enemies.

SEVENTH-So, as Jesus enters any life-situation, the various responses to the Way, the Truth and the Life" will be different and those responses are at the source of divisiveness-not Jesus. Jesus is not the cause of divisiveness, but by His very presence there is a very real reality that some will reject Him or twist Him or use Him and stir up the spirit of divisiveness.

"I came to bring division" is saying that His very coming will trigger a variety of responses to Him and will bring division among friends and family. He will not force anyone to follow Him or love Him, therefore there will be division. He is warning the disciples of this reality. In our faith journey we are to introduce people who are interested to the irresistible Jesus and His kingdom. In a sense, we are always looking for ways to "advance the conversation" about Jesus. We must not be afraid of the truth that comes out of that conversation, because Jesus is the truth. I like to say, ALL TRUTH IS GOD'S TRUTH. All truth culminates in the person of Jesus. This brings us back to what I've been saying over and over lately. We are not talking about a set of beliefs to believe, but rather a person to follow. Jesus is the great I AM. HE IS THE WAY-without Him there is no place worth going. HE IS THE TRUTH-without Him there is nothing worth knowing. HE IS THE LIFE-without Him there is nothing worth living for.