Very Simple: Repent Or Perish
October 06, 2019 | Randy Smith
Very Simple: Repent Or Perish
Sunday, October 6, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
To understand this message, it is essential that we all understand one word. It’s a word repeatedly used in the Bible. It could be argued that nothing pleases God more than when we do this. It’s despised by the world and sadly amongst many Christian as well. Some churches without shame simply refuse to mention the word. Yet it was among the first words mentioned by both John the Baptist and Jesus. This word is reserved for the conclusion of our Lord’s sermon here in chapter 13, a sermon that began some 59 verses earlier in 12:1. The word I am referring to is: repentance.
So, what is repentance? Repentance is understanding where we fall short of God’s expectations as they are revealed in the Bible and by God’s grace changing our mind, our heart and our actions to be more in line with God’s will. Repentance is making a complete break with sin (a “180”), and in its place, now the pursuit of righteousness. There is an ongoing repentance that all Christians do. That’s what it means to grow in Christlikeness. And there is a general repentance we do when we initially come to Christ. That is primarily what Jesus is talking about in chapter 13.
Coming to Christ is a faith that not only believes in Jesus and His work on the cross, but also confesses the desire to turn from sin and follow Him as Lord the rest of our lives. There are a lot of people that “believe” in Jesus out there, but how many of those are truly repentant? How many of those are truly doing what Jesus said? “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Lk. 9:23 NAU)
Today, before we go to the Lord’s Table, we will see irrefutable proof from our Lord’s heart and the undeniable need to repent when we come to Christ and then as we live our lives with Christ. God is not just looking for converts. He wants people dying to self and devoted to following Him without reserve.
Repentance Taught Through History (verses 1–5)
So, Jesus, the Master-Teacher is going to teach a lesson on repentance using two different means. The second will be a parable. The first is a history lesson with two different stories.
Story No. 1
Look with me at verse 1. “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”
What’s going on here? Well, a few things we can conclude. Some people from the district of Galilee, hence “Galileans,” were either on their way to make a sacrifice or were in the process of making a sacrifice. They encountered Pontius Pilate (the Roman leader of the area who was politically responsible for the crucifixion of Christ) or most likely representatives of Pilate. These Galileans were murdered. To make matters worse, the Romans mix their blood with the animal blood and possibly offer the sacrifice.
Pilate’s cruel actions are mentioned repeatedly throughout the Jewish historian, Josephus, however there is no official record of this incident. Either he did not know about it or it was not important enough or this was evidence of his bias against Galileans.
Additionally, it would be hard to say these Galileans were innocent. Somehow, they provoked the wrath of Rome, even though Rome was known to overreact, especially when insurrection was sensed. Nevertheless, to the Jews this story is a tragedy. The slaughter of the Jewish people, but moreover, the significant blasphemy of mixing their blood with animal blood as a mock sacrifice to God.
The story is shared with Jesus and a sympathetic and political reaction is no doubt expected. Our Lord responded in a way no one would have imagined.
Verse 2, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?’”
No defense toward the “innocent.” No condemnation for the actions of Pilate. No outrage over Roman occupation. No plea for a revolt. Not even a thought regarding the murdered Galileans. Jesus simply, to the surprise of everyone, lumped these Galileans and all Galileans (and in a sense all people) in the same category. And what is that category? Sinners!
We see things differently, don’t we? As we read the Bible, we see Judas as a sinner. He deserved to have an awful end to his life. These Galileans? Well, they seem somewhat innocent and zealous for God. Their outcome wasn’t fair. Herod? Deserved to die. But the babies he killed when Christ was born. Not them!
Now, do not get me wrong. There are evil people out there and, in our estimation, there are good people out there. In our understanding, I am not equating the death of an attempted murderer with the death of a promising young man that is suddenly killed by a drunk driver. The slaughter of the babies was way worse than the death of Herod who slaughtered them. But to understand this section, we need to see things as God see things as it pertains to “deserving” death.
As we discussed last week, the bottom line is that we are all rotten sinners. Even the “best” person that has ever walked the planet, in the eyes of God, is a filthy wretch that deserves nothing but hell. The question we must come to grips with is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” but rather, “Why do good things happen to bad people.” Technically, that’s the only apparent “injustice” God needs to answer for.
Jesus is not being callous with His response in verse 2. He’s being truthful and actually, quite merciful! Because there is no one, regardless of their assumed or conferred “goodness” by others or themselves that is going to heaven. We are all sinners and a perfectly holy God must judge sin. To leave anyone in a false state of security as it pertains to their eternal destination would be the most unloving act anyone (especially Jesus) could accomplish!
In God’s eyes, in the eternal state of things, no one based on their supposed innocence is going to heaven. I’m sorry, but just because a person died in war or died in 911 or provided for his family or went to church or won citizenship awards or donated much money to charity is a lock for heaven. And to not think this way is unbiblical and frankly quite dangerous. No one deserves heaven.
The only hope we have is to acknowledge reality. We are sinners and we need forgiveness. We do not want justice. We want grace and mercy. God has made that forgiveness for our sin freely available in Christ. And the way we receive Christ is believing upon Him and what? Repenting of our sins.
Look at verse 3, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Story No. 2
Verse 4, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?”
So, what happened here? Like before, we have no record of this in Josephus. Probably something having to do with the construction or repair of the city wall or most likely an aqueduct leading to the pool of Siloam. Somehow this tower collapsed, and due to its fall, eighteen people were killed. The assumption based on this freak accident, was that God’s judgment rested on these eighteen individuals. They must have been worse sinners (like those Galileans earlier) than others. Divine judgment had fallen.
We still do this today, don’t we? A corrupt man dies of a sudden heart attack. God’ judgment. A godly woman in a car accident. We suppose she must have had awful hidden sins. Hurricane Sandy hits us a few years ago. God’s judgment because of the television show “Jersey Shore.” Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. You get the idea. We simply enjoy judging others and believe we are less deserving of God’s judgment. When “judgment” falls on others we think they must have deserved it. When it falls upon us we question God (see Luke 13:4-5).
Personally, I believe we do a great disservice to Christ when we think we can read the mind of God and determine when His judgment falls upon certain people. And according to this passage, I believe it is clear we need to stop doing it. These eighteen individuals were not worse sinners. Jesus made that clear in verse 4. They died because of God’s mysterious providential actions. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” We all deserve death because we all sin. And to all of us, death will come. Personally, I see these mysterious acts as less of God’s judgment, but rather more His mercy. The goal is to “walk up” before it is too late and repent to accept (now the rest of Romans 6:23) “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The point is reiterated by Jesus< in verse 5. “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Repentance Taught Through A Parable (verses 6–9)
Our time is fleeting but let me take you to the second point of the sermon – the parable.
I think to understand this we need to look at this entire section from an individual and nationalist perspective. Obviously, a nation can’t repent unless the individuals within it repent. And obviously, God is not working with America as a nation as He worked with Israel as a nation. As we know from their history, Israel repeatedly rejected God. That brought consequences on the nation. And now Israel is committing its ultimate rejection. God in the flesh is among them and they want Him dead. More tragedy is about to fall upon them because of their failure to repent.
Look at the parable beginning in verse 6. “And He began telling this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down’’” (Lk. 13:6-9).
You get the idea. A fig tree is growing in a man’s vineyard. Fig trees produce fruit twice a year. The owner is patient, but after a three-year wait not a single fig is produced. What would you do? It’s taking up space. It’s drawing nutrients from the grape vines. The tree is providing no value without fruit. Disgusted, he orders the tree to be cut down.
But the story takes a surprise turn. The gardener intercedes for the tree. The fig tree represents Israel (in a sense people in general) so the desire is to give it more time. The gardener does not disagree that the tree needs to be cut down, but his hope is that with more time the tree will begin to bear fruit.
This represents all of us. We all deserve death. And when death comes it’s too late to repent. None of us without Christ are bearing any spiritual fruit for God – evidence of salvation. This is the patience of God that He permits us to live, that He permits us more time that we might repent. 2 Peter 3:9, “[The Lord] is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” But the hourglass is running dry. Time is ticking. As John the Baptist said, “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Lk. 3:9). Some are one breath away from an eternal hell. Therefore, the call goes out to Israel back then and us today, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
Without Christ you are under God’s limited temporary mercy. With Christ you are under God’s unlimited eternal mercy.