Sunday 20 March 2022

Bible Book:

'Unless you repent, you will all perish' (vs 3 and 5)

Luke 13:1-9 Sunday 20 March 2022

Psalm 63:1-8


In the film June Bug, set in America’s deep south, one of the characters says to her ne’er-do-well boyfriend, “Honey, God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you way too much to want you to stay that way.”

This passage from Luke’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus’ message of God’s welcoming and healing love comes with a call for radical change.

The Jesus we meet in the gospels can be challenging and unsettling, often at odds with the ‘meek and mild’ image we prefer. These verses form the climax of a long section of the gospel where the emphasis is on urgency, decision and judgement.

First, there is an exchange about the link between suffering and sinfulness. Is a violent or untimely death a sign that God is punishing those who are especially wicked? No, says Jesus, people are not victims of violence or natural disaster because they are more sinful than anyone else. Nevertheless, their story is a reminder that we are all going to die some day and that we need to pay attention to the direction of our lives. If we are not going to die unfulfilled and alienated from God, we need to repent. In other words, we need to make the most of the gift of time to change. ‘Repentance’ (the Greek word is metanoia) implies both a change of mind and a change of action. Because we see the world differently, we behave in a different way.

That leads us to the story of the barren fig tree (verses 6-9). It carries the same message: we should use our time on earth well. There is an echo here of Matthew’s account of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3.8-12), where Pharisees are told to bear ‘fruit worthy of repentance’ and unfruitful trees will be cut down and burnt.

‘Transformation’ and ‘fruitfulness’ are the key words that link the two halves of this passage.

To Ponder:

  • What question would you like to put to Jesus? How do you think he would respond?
  • What experience do you have of a radical change to your life? What were the results of that change?
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