Notes from our most recent sermon are posted below each week.
God’s Love for People
April 21, 2019
God’s Love for People
Some people came and told Jesus about Pilate’s execution of Jewish pilgrims from Galilee, killed while in the act of offering sacrifices in the temple. Pilate would have been in Jerusalem at Passover time, and the Galileans had a reputation for rebelliousness.
Behind this report Jesus sees an attempt at self-justification of their actions based on the common belief that disaster comes upon those who deserve it. The report of a tragedy in Jerusalem, thought by Jesus’ hearers to be due to the especial sinfulness of those who had suffered in it, leads Him to ask if these Galileans were worse sinners than other Galileans. He affirms that all His hearers are equally in danger of divine judgment unless they repent.
Jesus reinforces the point by adding a second example of His own. Eighteen people had been killed when a tower fell at Siloam. The point is that disasters give no proof that those who suffer in them are any worse sinners than anybody else; far more important is the fact that all sinners face the judgment of God unless they repent.
Jesus’ reply does not deny sin has consequences, nor that sin leads to judgment; instead, He rejects the theory that those who encounter tragedy have been marked by God as more deserving of judgment than those who do not. The progression of His argument, then, is that judgment will overtake people, unless they repent.
Jesus pointed out that in both incidents the victims of these tragedies were not especially evil. Everyone needs to repent, not just those we deem as especially evil. God will judge all people, not just those we think are especially evil.
This leads up to a parable indicating that, if Israel does not take the chance of repentance afforded to it by God’s patience, the day of reckoning will duly arrive. A tree that has received special treatment from its owner has not borne fruit. Now he seeks to rid the vineyard of this worthless tree and plant something else that will use the space more profitably. The vinedresser, however, intercedes to give the tree one last opportunity. If it does not bear fruit in the coming year after additional care and treatment, it will then be cut down.
The details of the parable are oriented toward highlighting the sterility of the tree. It points dramatically to the lenience allotted the tree in order to give it additional nutrients and time for fruit-bearing. Not incidentally, the parable also holds for the possibility of fruit-bearing in spite of a history of sterility — or, in human terms, the possibility of change leading to faith expressed in obedience to God’s purpose. If it announces a warning of judgment, it also dramatizes hope.
While the introduction speaks merely of the need for universal repentance, the parable indicates that mercy is available for those who repent in time. Grounded thus is Jesus’ final note of urgency. Now is the time to repent and to live fruitful lives.
God created a perfect creation without tragedy for us. We chose, and still choose, to sin against Him bringing brokenness and fruitlessness into our world and lives. Due to our rebellion the perfect nature of God demands that we are judged for our rebellion. God sent himself in Jesus to live a perfect life and die in our place and accepted our judgment. We now have a chance of hope, repentance, healing, restoration, and fruitfulness if we will respond to Jesus with faith and repentance. Then we will experience the many blessings of His resurrection.
People cry out to be accepted as they are, without change, because there are people more evil than they are. Yet, everyone equally deserves God’s judgment because of our sin. God, however, in His love for us offers everyone forgiveness, salvation, and acceptance all because of what we’re celebrating today. Jesus is God’s greatest expression of His love for us.