(13:1-5) Jesus is confronted by a very real human tragedy of barbaric proportions. Pilate had not only killed some Galileans, but in some symbolic, gross fashion, had mingled their own blood with the blood of the ritual religious sacrifices. It was a way of attempting to not only kill them, but by doing so spread fear and dread in the populace at large.
We are not immune to such terrible tales today too. Things happen which beggar belief were they not reported by credible eyewitnesses. Daily international news is filled with rapine and murder. What are we to think of such things?
The typical response is to begin to formulate some sort of “theodicy”—that is, a defense of God’s goodness in the face of the evident human evil and suffering. How can a good God allow such evil to occur today? And typically we attempt to defend that in various ways.
But look! Hear what a different approach Jesus takes. Do you think they were “worse sinners” than you because this occurred? “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
In other words, Jesus is saying that—outside of the grace and mercy of God—we are all, as sinners, worthy of the most terrible suffering and pain. We have so rebelled against the beauty of God that ugliness is our deserved lot.
So the lesson Jesus wants us to draw from human suffering is this one: Repent!
Would you take that to heart today when you hear of a horrible evil or suffering in our world? As C.S. Lewis put it, “Suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.” Repent!
(13:6-9). Then Jesus tells a parable to put further urgency to what he has just been teaching. He imagines a man planting a fig tree in a vineyard. And he imagines that that man finds no fruit on the fig tree. The whole point of planting a fig tree is for that tree to bear fruit. The vinedresser gives him the following advice. Give it another year. Fertilize it. And if after that it still does not bear fruit, cut it down.
Jesus is saying that he expects his disciples to bear fruit. There will come a day—judgment day—when if we have born no fruit at all for Jesus, then we will be declared as not really his at all.
Therefore, once more, repent! God is gracious and may “give us another year.” He may continue to give us spiritual nourishment and food to allow us to bear fruit. But one day the end will come, the curtain will fall, and we, like the fig tree, are to have born fruit in keeping with repentance.
Would you then today turn again to Jesus and ask him, by his Spirit, to grant you the fruit of his Spirit in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?
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