On any given day, you can read the news and learn of horrific atrocities around the world. Natural disasters wipe out entire towns or cities. A despotic leader oppresses a group of people, sometimes to the point of death. The “why” isn’t always clear. When I was a sophomore in college, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. At that time, no one knew how extensive the damage was or how long recovery would take. I heard multiple leaders claiming to speak for God who declared the disaster to be a curse from God for the sins of that city. One went to far as to show a map of the devastation and assert that the because the damaged area was shaped like a newborn baby (in his mind’s eye anyway), the disaster was a judgment on abortion.
Is that how this works? In Luke 13:1-9, people are asking similar questions. Atrocities have occurred, some at the hands of ungodly leaders and some seemingly random (like a tower collapsing and killing 18 people). Are those who suffered somehow guilty of moresin than those who have survived? Is their suffering a judgment on them and our survival a reflection of our righteousness? Jesus is clear: no!
We expect Jesus to follow up this “No way!” with a word of comfort, but he doesn’t. Instead he calls the listeners to repent, or they will perish too. He goes on to tell the story of a fig tree that continues to bear no fruit. The caretaker of vineyard pleads with the owner of the field for more time to prevent the owner from cutting the tree down entirely.
In these somewhat confusing verses, Jesus is reminding us of several things:
This is a strange word from Jesus, but one that prompts us to turn away from sin and spiritual apathy and toward God through our repentant obedience.
Click here for today's additional Scripture readings.
Grace and Peace.