Immediately prior to our Gospel lesson, Jesus warned that he came not to bring peace, but division. He also warned the crowds that, while they knew how to read the sky for signs of impending weather, they did not know “interpret this time”
Immediately after our Gospel lesson, a synagogue leader will criticize Jesus for healing on the sabbath, and Jesus will put him to shame, be reminding them that they killed the prophets.
TWO STORIES AND A PARABLE
Luke gives us a couple of stories that call us to repentance and a parable that illustrates the patience and love of God. Both stories call for repentance. The story of the Galileans warns of the coming judgment—“unless you repent, you will all perish”. The fig-tree parable offers hope that the Lord will defer judgment to another day.
Some scholars see the stories as calling for response by individuals and the parable as calling for response by the nation and its leaders—scribes, Pharisees, and the like.
LUKE 13:1-5. UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH
1Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way. 4Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.”
“Now there was some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices” (v. 1). The news is indeed terrible. Galileans came to the temple to make their sacrifices, and Pilate’s soldiers slaughtered them in that holy place—profaned the altar with human blood—compounded murder with sacrilege.
Imagine murder in your church on Sunday morning. Imagine the carpet soaked with human blood mingled with communion wine – yuk!
Pilate Got the Sack
The incident that led to Pilate’s removal from office had to do with the slaughter by Pilate’s soldiers of Samaritans who had gathered on Mount Gerizim to see if one of their prophets could locate temple vessels that were supposed to be buried there.
Pilate’s superiors ordered Pilate to return to Rome to answer charges that arose from that incident. We know little about the outcome of that inquiry or Pilate’s later life.
Jesus, however, responds in a completely unexpected way, saying, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered such things?” (v. 2). He addresses the unspoken assumption that these Galileans sinned grievously, provoking God’s judgment. Indeed, in Israel’s mind, sin and judgment are closely linked.
It is weirdly comforting to believe that suffering is the direct result of sin because it eliminates randomness—explains suffering—offers us a way to avoid the disasters that we see befalling others-
– but is that the correct way to look at it? I don’t think it’s so dualist as this, after all. We know that Bad things do happen to good people.
The text continues “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way” (v. 3). Jesus denies that the Galileans suffered because of their sins but calls his listeners to repent lest they suffer for theirs
– now that’s reasonable!
Redemption-(Bringing you back into the love of God)
What happened to the Galileans is history, and nothing can be done about it. The fate of Jesus’ listeners, however, is still negotiable. Jesus does not condemn them but instead shows them the way. His purpose is to redeem.
While not all tragedy is the result of sin, sin sometimes leads to tragedy. Jesus’ listeners have sinned (as we all have), and he calls them to repent so that they might escape possible disaster. This is a courageous response indeed.
We live in a time of victim-culture where people become self-righteous and resistant to a different world view, correction or criticism.
The Jewish leaders saw themselves as victims of Jesus’ preaching. By calling for repentance, Jesus appears unsympathetic to the national cause—uncaring about Roman cruelties. In Nazareth, townspeople tried to kill Jesus when he spoke well of Gentiles (4:16-30). The same could easily have happened on this occasion.
“Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem?” (v. 4). The pool of Siloam is in Jerusalem (John 8:20; 9:7) and, presumably, the tower of Siloam was near the pool. The issue is the same as in the first instance: Did God target these eighteen because of their sins? Jesus moves the sin/suffering debate from the context of suffering at Roman hands to suffering at God’s hands—from a massacre to an “act of God.”
“I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way” (v. 5). This is the same response that Jesus gave to the first story. Jesus denies that the eighteen were worse offenders than others but uses the opportunity to call his listeners to repentance.
Again, his purpose is not condemnation but redemption. The call to repentance shows that it is not too late for his listeners. Salvation is still possible.
By the time Luke writes this Gospel, Rome will have destroyed Jerusalem. For Luke, there is a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the city’s sin and its fate.
Repentance is a major emphasis in this Gospel, it’s not a demand but instead offers an unconditional promise of salvation. If they don’t repent, they will perish, but if they do repent, God will forgive—will save them -simple!
Live Every Day in an Attitude of Repentance
We often wonder what a truly successful life looks like. I think one of the keys to success is repentance.
We need to live lives of repentance because we don’t know what the day or tomorrow will hold for us.
Repentance helps us to live happy lives and to experience a happy death.
Repentance helps us to live as forgiven people—helps us to face life and death without fear.
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Paula Rose has a Bachelor of Pastoral Counselling and Theology, Vision Christian University, USA
Master of Arts In Counselling & Professional Development, specializing in Spiritual Abuse The University of Derby, UK.
BACP Life Coaching Course, Bristol, UK
A life member of (ISFP) The International Society of Female Professionals.
Paula Rose Parish is an author, and the founder, of Hope. Faith. Love. She studied at the University of Derby and received a Master of Arts in Counselling in Professional Development. Over the years Paula Rose has served as a pastor, chaplain, counsellor, coach and taught at Christian university, led workshops and retreats, and spoken worldwide on Christian spirituality. Author of over 100 articles and two books, Paula Rose continues to write on the spiritual life. Paula Rose is adding a string to her bow and is presently reading Health and Wellness. She has four grown children, five grandchildren, and lives in South Wales, UK.
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