The Gospel of Luke - Part 60: Jesus Cares About Sin — Luke 13:1-9
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Today we start into Luke Chapter 13 where we continue to learn about Jesus. In this chapter we will learn a lot of diverse things from His teachings. In the first section we will see what God cares about, and from that we should realize what we should care about.

What does God care about? What is important to Him? In this chapter, we learn that God cares about sin and our response to it; about people and about His kingdom. These things are all important to Him.

What about you? What do you care about?

What are some indicators that reveal what we really care about?

Today many Christians spend more time watching TV than studying the Bible. We are guilty of spending more money on possessions than on helping people. We may get more excited about sports than about the Savior!

As you study this chapter, ask yourself, “What do I learn here about what matters to God, what He cares about?”
Then ask yourself, “Are the things that are important to Jesus also important to me?”

Billy Graham said: We've lost sight of the fact that some things are always right and some things are always wrong, We've lost our reference point. We don't have any moral philosophy to undergird our way of life in this country, and our way of life is in serious jeopardy and in serious danger unless something happens. And that something must be a spiritual revival.

Jesus Cares About Sin . . . Do we?

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 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? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” —Luke 13:1-5
—In verse one, Luke tells us that people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
—In verse 4 Jesus mentions those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them.

 

These two incidents are recorded only in Luke. All that we know is recorded right here. In the first incident, apparently Pilate had killed some people from Galilee while they were offering sacrifices, probably at the temple. We aren't told why they were killed, although Pilate's involvement suggests that he perceived their actions to be acts of rebellion against Rome.

In the second incident, a tower in Siloam had apparently fallen, taking the lives of 18 people. Jesus used these current events to teach an important truth.  What stands out to you from what Jesus says in these verses?

Recognize Our Sin:

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?"
Jews believed the bad things that happened to people were a direct consequence of sinful behavior. So they saw these events as God's punishment of those who died. Even Jesus' own disciples believed this as shown in John 9:1-3:
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." —John 9:1-3
The disciples saw only two possible explanations for this man's misfortune — it was the result either of his sin or the sin of his parents. Jesus said both answers were wrong. Jesus shifts their focus from why this happened to what God wants to do — work in our lives for His glory. God doesn't always answer all our “Why?” questions. But He will show us what He wants to do in us and through us even in tragic situations.
Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?"
We need to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of the same wrong thinking — that bad consequences are always the direct result of sinful behavior. Jesus is warning them to guard against thinking the other people's sin is worse than their own. We are all sinful before the Lord. We are all guilty. We are all equally needy of the salvation Jesus offers. This is very important truth.

"Worse sinners" — We are guilty today of the same mistake that Jews made in Jesus’ day. We categorize sins, defining some as worse and others as not so bad. We see some people as being “worse sinners” than us.

James addressed this very issue in James 2. He made it clear that before God we are all equally sinful, equally guilty:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. —James 2:10-11
The New Living Bible says it as:
And the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God's laws. For the same God who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” So if you murder someone, you have broken the entire law, even if you do not commit adultery. —James 2:10-11 (NLT)
How would you define/explain what sin is?

What are some reasons why people today, both Christians and non-Christians, don’t see themselves as being “sinners”?

In The Valley of Vision, a Puritan wrote, “Let me never forget that the wickedness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.”

Blaise Paschal, the French mathematician and philosopher who was also a very committed Christian, once observed: “Truly it is an evil to be full of faults, but it is still greater evil to be full of them, and to be unwilling to recognize them.”

After teaching us to recognize our sin, Jesus goes on to teach us to:

Repent Of Our Sin:

After asking if the fact that those people were killed was evidence that they were greater sinners, Jesus answered His own question.

I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
And again in verse five He says the same thing:
I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
We all need to repent of our sin. There are no “good people” who don't need to repent.
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. —Luke 18:19
We talked a little about repentance in Chapter 3 but maybe it would be good to review that discussion:

The Greek word for “repent” is μετανοεω [metanoeo] meaning, “to change your mind”. That's a good picture of repentance. Repentance isn't just being sorry when I sin. Repentance is when I change my mind about my behavior — I agree with God about my sin; I'm truly sorry, grieved by my sin and take steps to change the way I live to be in obedience to the Lord.

A great picture of repentance is found in Psalm 51, where David prays for forgiveness after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Remember that not only did David commit adultery, he compounded it with murder.

Frederica Mathewes-Green in her book The Illuminated Heart says: “The first time Jesus appears, in the first Gospel, the first instruction he gives is ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4:17). From then on, it's His most consistent message. In all times and every situation, His advice is to repent. Not just the scribes and Pharisees, not just the powerful — He tells even the poor and oppressed that repentance is the key to eternal life.”

Let’s review what it means to “repent”?

Here are five simple points to remember, the five A’s:

Agree with God.
Repentance means that we agree with God about our sin. It means that we accept what He says about what is right and wrong as unchanging and applying to everyone.

Against You, You only, I have sinned
      And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
      And blameless when You judge. —Psalm 51:4
Admit our sin.
A second part of repentance is admitting our sin. We don’t hide our sin or deny our sin or rationalize our sin.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
      And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
      And You forgave the guilt of my sin. —Psalm 32:5
Accept responsibility for my sinful behavior.
We don’t try to make excuses or blame other people.

Agonize about your sin.
This is also an important part of genuine repentance — a genuine sorrow about my sin. “Agonize” may seem a little strong but it is important to be sorry, to be genuinely repentant. Some people are more sorry they’ve been caught than they are about their sin! But when God’s Spirit is at work within us, He causes us to genuinely grieve over our sin and its consequences.

But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done. —Psalm 38:18 (NLT)
Act to change.
There’s one final component to true confession and that is a commitment to change. It means being willing to give up my sin and obey God.
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. —Proverbs 28:13
Notice how this verse says “confess and forsake”. Confession without a commitment to change is not genuine repentance. This doesn’t mean you’ll never commit this sin again but that should certainly be your desire and intent.

We need to learn to see sin the way God does. Imagine you are standing by an open, full septic tank. You slip and fall in. How do you feel? God sees sin and feels about sin the way we feel about raw sewage — it's disgusting, loathsome, contaminating. What would you think of someone who liked being covered with raw sewage?

 So, What sin do you need to confess and forsake? Don’t put it off!

Samuel Johnson said: “Repentance is always difficult, and the difficulty grows still greater by delay.”

After Jesus taught to recognize sin and to repent for it, He continued 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.’ ” —Luke 13:6-9
The parable here seems to describe God's relationship with Israel: the “owner” is God the Father, the “fig tree” is Israel, the “vineyard-keeper” is Jesus. God has done everything possible to cultivate His fig tree and yet still there is no fruit. The barrenness of the fig tree symbolizes the spiritual barrenness (unresponsiveness) of Israel.

The implication of what Jesus says in verses 8-9 is that His ministry in Israel is their last chance. In fact, within 40 years of Jesus' ministry Israel will cease to exist as a nation.  In 70 AD, the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and scattered the people of Israel to live in other nations. What do you think we can learn from this parable of the fig tree?

 

The Compassion of Christ:

Look at all that the Lord did for the fig tree, to help it bear fruit. This reminds us of all that God did for Israel but also all that God does for each of us, seeking to draw us to Himself.

The Fruit of Repentance::

The “fruit” that the Lord desires is the fruit of repentance. He's talking about what genuine repentance should produce in our lives. In Luke 3:8, John the Baptist says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”.

“Repentance” is another Big Deal in the Bible. It is mentioned 71 times in the Bible, 52 times in the New Testament, 24 times in the Gospels, and 13 times in Luke.

What actions or attitudes do you think are the “fruit”, the evidence of genuine repentance?

What are some sins that Christians tend to condone, tolerate?

Another thing we can learn from this section is

The Limits of Opportunity.

This parable shows us that we have a limited opportunity to turn to Jesus. People are often tempted to put off getting right with God. We forget that there’s no guarantee that we’ll even live another day!

Sir Thomas Fuller said: “You cannot repent too soon because you do not know how soon it may be too late.”

A.W. Tozer said: “God will take nine steps toward us, but he will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but he cannot do our repenting for us.”

Maybe you need to do business with God today. Maybe there is a pattern of sinful behavior in your life that reflects a lack of genuine repentance.

__________

Next week — we will truck on in Luke 13 where Jesus will teach us that He cares about people. That will teach us that we should too.