LUKE 13:1—9 ESV
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?
5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’
8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.
9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
Last week, in all three services, this church heard that we are committed to loving the person in front of us. That if you want to know where Jesus is, He is on the front lines of making a way for people to experience God and have a relationship with Him.
Something that Pastor Derek and I realized in that same moment was that there would be some people in the congregation saying, “Yeah, that’s right! I sure am glad so-and-so heard that. They needed to hear it.” Today, there’s something we all need to hear.
Loving the person in front of us has been a great line for us here at Smyrna as we work on becoming like Christ. But what happens when someone who is reaching out to you isn’t someone you want to love you? What if the person reaching across the aisle is someone who doesn’t have much in common with you, or worse, what if they disagree with you? What then?
Well, Godly love is void of preference. Godly love means married people loving divorced people and divorced people loving married people. It means people of one orientation still loving people of a different orientation, and the reverse.
It means Democrats and Republicans loving each other. And, here’s the hard one, it means Braves fans have to love Giants fans, and vice versa. What this ultimately means is that each of us needs to be rescued from the sin of thinking that we’re ok so we need to love someone who is not. Folks, none of us are ok.
God’s holy love does something profound to the heart that is open to God’s grace and open to receiving whoever is in front of them, regardless of where they stand on something. God’s grace is transformative, which means grace WILL NOT leave ANY OF US the same as we are. Grace will change all of us.
In the text this morning, the people talking to Jesus believe that the violent death of the pilgrims that Pontius Pilate slaughtered were deserving of their violent death. The more violent the death, the more sinful they must have been, as if that death was somehow an indictment on their way of life. This was a normal way of thinking back then. Jesus then pops their bubbles, saying that the people who died were no more sinful than the ones judging them. He then mentions a tower that fell and killed 18 people, saying that the deceased were no worse sinners than anyone else.
Twice, Jesus tells the judgmental people in front of Him that everyone must repent or perish; that everyone must turn from their fruitless ways. A life lived in judgment of others makes no effort to win people to the kingdom. Condemnation bears no fruit and fails to glorify God. Only a God-centered life offers love in both directions. Jesus loved those who died at the temple, those who died at the tower, and those who were condemning both. Jesus came to rescue people in both directions.
The story that Jesus tells afterwards is meant to illustrate a life of fruitfulness. If Christ has come to preach the coming of the kingdom of God, and He is drawing all people unto Himself, then His ministry is founded upon revealing the love of God. The fruit of Jesus’ life is love.
The story of the fig tree is very clear. The owner of the vineyard wants figs, so he plants a fig tree. He gives the tree its average, expected time to bear fruit and it doesn’t. The vinedresser says to give the tree one more year. He will fertilize it and dig around it to make more room for water and nourishment (which isn’t necessary for fig trees, but just goes to show that he’s giving it every possible chance to succeed). If its fruitful, then that’s good news. If it’s not fruitful, down the tree will come.
Jesus’ word to turn from our ways is a word of love, care, and concern. He has come that we might have an abundant, fruitful life. To have that, we must repent. I know for many of you when you hear the word ‘repent’ you hear a particular voice, a specific accent from a real life person, or you even think back to a moment that might not have been very pleasant for you.
But what each of us pastors want to challenge you with today is to hear the Holy Spirit saying to you, “Hey, listen to me, just me. I really and truly do have things that I want you to turn away from.”
We want for you to look down deep, identify the unfruitful parts of your life, and to hand them over to God. Let Christ fertilize you and dig around your roots. Listen to the voice of the Savior, who seeks to fill you with grace and save you by helping you turn away from unfruitful things.
In order to love the person in from you, you first need to be rescued from the things that keep you from loving. Every person in this room needs to be freed from something. The cross is a stake in the ground of sinfulness that affects all of us.
There are classic scriptures that speak to this, but will you hear them with a different tone, with a different accent? Hear the Holy Spirit:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Do you hear it? Do you hear the concern that God has for you? I hope that after today you can say, “Man, I’m so glad so-and-so was here today. And I’m so glad I was here too. We all needed to hear that.” Let us turn away from fruitless living and let God bear fruit in our life. Amen.