20th MARCH 2022

Luke 13:1-9 The Barren Fig Tree - Faithlife Sermons

SUNDAY, THIRD WEEK OF LENT

 

Ex 3:1-8,13-15;          Ps 103:1-4,6-8,11;      1 Cor 10:1-6,10-12;      Lk 13:1-9


  

THE LESSONS THAT TRAGEDIES TEACH

 

There are two kinds of tragedies in the Gospel text of today – one caused by evil people and the other caused by an accident. But the greater tragedy, as Jesus shows, will be the eternal damnation, which involves not only physical death, but also spiritual death or eternal separation from God in hell. If we learn rightly from earthly tragedies, we will avoid the ultimate and final tragedy. So what should we learn from tragedies?

Jesus asks twice, “Do you suppose that these were worse sinners” than others because they so suffered? He twice responds emphatically, “I tell you, no….” In Jesus’ day (as well as in our own), many had the mistaken view that people suffer in this life in direct proportion to their sinfulness. If a tragedy hits someone, he must have done something to deserve it, even if it was in secret. Even the disciples asked Jesus concerning the blind man, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (Jn 9:2). The wrong assumption was that someone was paying for his sin through this tragedy.

There is a general principle in the Bible that God blesses the obedient and that sinners reap the consequences of their evil ways. But there are many, many exceptions. The Bible often shows godly men who suffer and are killed at a young age and ungodly men who live long and relatively trouble-free lives. The ultimate biblical resolution to the problem of evil and suffering is the final judgment, when every wicked person who has not repented will pay for his sin, and every righteous believer in Christ who has suffered will be eternally rewarded.

Lurking just beneath the surface of the notion that someone who is suffering is a greater sinner than others is self-righteous pride. If someone else suffers some tragedy, we are quick to assume that it was his own fault. If however, things are going well for us, we assume that it is because God is pleased with us. But, Jesus shows, when tragedy hits someone else, rather than judging them, we should judge ourselves.

Tragedies show us that life is fragile and that we must get right with God before we die and face judgment. The point is, life is very fragile! Even though you are healthy and young, you could be in your coffin tonight. Because you are a sinner, you have one pressing need, to get right with God today, before you, too, perish. The second time, Jesus uses the word “debtors,” rather than sinners, which relates to his illustration in 12:58-59, that we all are debtors against God. Either we pay for our sin by eternal separation from God in hell, or we trust in the death of Jesus as the sinless substitute who bore God’s wrath on our behalf. Whenever we hear of a tragedy, we should immediately apply it to our own hearts by making sure that we are in the faith (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5). The key question we should ask ourselves is, “Am I truly repentant for my sins?”

Tragedies should drive us to repentance, which will spare us from perishing. Jesus emphasizes, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” If we do not want to perish, we had better understand what Jesus meant by repentance! We must understand at the outset that repentance cannot atone for our sin. The blood of Christ alone satisfies God’s just wrath against our sin. We can weep over our sins for days, but our tears will not get us into heaven. Our sorrow for our sins does not somehow cancel out the debt we owe. Only Jesus Christ and his shed blood atone for our sins. Our trust must be in him alone, not in our own faith or repentance.

 


Response: The Lord is compassionate and gracious.


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