[Luke 13] Delivered from Random Happenstance: In Luke 13, Jesus discusses the random calamities that befall man and suggests that if we repent, we can be protected from such things. Is this true, and do you believe it? The world says “stuff happens” as though to suggest that things indiscriminately occur, at times catastrophically, and there is nothing that can be done. Jesus, on the other hand, declares plainly that if we change our minds and repent about these unbelieving suppositions, we can actually experience divine protection at a level beyond what we can imagine.
[Luk 13:1-35 KJV] 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 6 He spake also this parable; A certain [man] had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung [it]: 9 And if it bear fruit, [well]: and if not, [then] after that thou shalt cut it down. 10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up [herself]. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called [her to him], and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid [his] hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, [Thou] hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or [his] ass from the stall, and lead [him] away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him. 18 Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. 20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 22 And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all [ye] workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you [yourselves] thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and [from] the west, and from the north, and [from] the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. 31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. 32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third [day] I shall be perfected. 33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the [day] following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen [doth gather] her brood under [her] wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until [the time] come when ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
In Luke 13, Jesus speaks to current events in the city of Jerusalem to correct some collective thinking among the people living in that time. The occasion of His remarks came about because Pilate had executed several Galileans by exsanguinating them and mingling their blood with pagan sacrifices. The common consensus among the people was that these men must have done something to anger the heart of God toward them; therefore, they suffered this cruel fate. Have you ever thought this way when sudden calamity came upon someone? A person dies by misadventure, and the conjecture might be, what did they do wrong to deserve what happened to them? Of course, we might ask, is there not a law of sowing and reaping in effect over those lives? If something terrible happens, can it not be that the person was reaping something they had sown? Then, when details emerge, it is often challenging not to conclude they simply got what was coming to them, not in every case but many. Jesus is assaulting these very suppositions.
In verse 3, Jesus declares that the Galileans were not any greater sinners than others who did not experience their fate. What is the thinking here? We need to find out because Jesus says that if we do not learn to correct our thinking about such things, we “shall all likewise perish.” Do you realize what He is saying here? We are talking about random causality that brings calamity in our lives. The suggestion is that yes, we live in a fallen world where dreadful things do happen, BUT if we repent, and adopt the frame of mind that Jesus is espousing here, that we can be protected from random happenstance that brings so much pain and misfortune to our existence. Jesus underscores the point He is trying to get through to His listeners by adding another recent example of a building collapse that killed 18 people nearby. Here are two different incidents of catastrophe and death, one caused by a man, Pilate acting in cruelty and evil, and another a random collapse of a building upon 18 hapless people. The question is asked in verse 4 when a building falls on someone; does it mean that they must have been sinners worse than others, and for that reason, they died?
The point Jesus is making is not that these deaths were undeserved. The fact is we are all sinners, and when unfortunate things happen to us, it is hypocrisy to say they are underserved because there is little that happens on the earth that does not underscore the fact that we live as fallen creatures in a fallen world, as enemies of God outside of Christ. Therefore if something happens contrary to our wishes, it is only a demonstration of the fact that we need a savior. So, the lesson is not that these victims were any worse than other citizens of Jerusalem, but rather that those making the observation are not any better. Do you understand what Jesus is saying? These men in making the observation and coming to the conclusion that these victims must have been vile sinners, they first must conclude that they are not! When people suffer and feel as though they did not deserve what happened to them, they often conclude, “well, I’m no worse than the next person, why did this have to happen to me”? Listen, outside of Christ; we are all enemies of the kingdom and just inheritors of the wages of sin. When we complain and wonder why God does not act in our defense, we can only make that complaint from the position of one who feels they are righteous in their own standing, and God, therefore, is unjust if He does not act in our behalf on our terms and on our timetable. This may be the plaintive cry of a suffering person, but it is nonetheless pride, rebellion, and insurrection against the fairness, and judicious equity of Almighty God.
In verse 7, Jesus goes on to underscore the point He is making with a parable dealing with an unproductive tree. It is allowed to grow for three years, but it doesn’t bear fruit. Who is the tree, and what is the fruit? Jesus’ hearers know that in speaking of a fig tree, He is speaking of Israel and Jerusalem. The common consensus of the people of Jerusalem is that they were suffering for righteousness under the jackboot of Roman occupation. The entire nation is wrapped up in a victim mentality that deeply believes what they are experiencing that which is unfair and undeserved. Have you ever made that claim? Have you ever gone through something and thought, “this is unfair! I shouldn’t have to go through this!” When that happens, what you are doing is channeling your inner Pharisee. In the parable, the landowner thinks about destroying the unfruitful fig tree, but instead gives it more time to bring forth the fruits representative of repentance. Do you understand what Jesus is saying to the people? He is acknowledging that yes, they feel they are suffering unfairly, but their greatest need is not to be delivered from calamity but to change their mind about blaming God and thinking that they were too good to suffer. There is no suffering that man can face that is undeserved outside of the shed blood of Christ applied to deliver us from suffering. Our only response then is not necessarily to fatalistically accept suffering but to run to the mercy of the Cross, not justifying ourselves but having faith in the justifying blood of Christ upon us as otherwise desperate sinners, deserving even of death, but delivered to life by the clemency of God in Christ.
In verse 10, in another day, the Sabbath, we see Jesus healing a woman bowed down with a spirit of infirmity for 18 years. Jesus lays hands on her and looses her from the malady that has brutally crippled her. Because it was the Sabbath, the ruler of the synagogue, rather than rejoicing that the woman is miraculously healed, complains that Jesus should not have worked a miracle on Saturday, because Saturday, the Sabbath was a day when no servile work should be done, according to the law of God. Do you see the vileness of the man’s attitude? He had been the ruler of this synagogue for many years. He had no doubt seen this crippled woman coming to Sabbath faithfully every week but was more willing to see her remain in her infirmity than to see a religious protocol violated. What about today? You see churches and ministries making a strong emphasis, that if you are not wearing a badge, or if you have not been trained to be an altar worker, that you are not allowed to minister to someone in need. This is modern-day Pharisaism. What does it matter if one of the protocols, or rules of the house are violated, if someone gets a miracle? Obey God, deal with the consequences with grace and be more invested in people being saved, healed, and delivered than you are pleasing those who are more invested in the status quo than they are in seeing the people they claim to serve experience the hand of God on their lives.
In verse 18, Jesus gives the parable comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. In the parable, the man who casts the mustard seed into His garden is none other than God giving to every man the measure of faith, beginning with Adam in the garden of Eden. God gives the measure of faith to every man, and the tree of human civilization is reared up, and the fowls of the air (the demonic forces of the enemy) come to lodge in human society to spoil it for their purposes. In verse 20, Jesus gives a second parable comparing the kingdom to leaven that leavens three measures of meal. Leaven can represent sin, but more to the point the leaven speaks in this parable of the influence of the Spirit of God in the earth. The woman is the church, and the leaven is the Holy Spirit working through the church in the earth until the earth is wholly influenced, for repentance or rebellion in the fulness of the timing of God. The underlying truth being pointed out is that there is a line of demarcation when God says “enough is enough” and will act to bring the time of man to its consummation.
In verse 23, Jesus is asked whether or not only a few might be saved. The question is one that obviously does not exclude the one asking. The person is assuming that, of course, THEY will be saved, but they wanted to get some sense of how many will not be delivered from judgment so they can have a “proper” estimation of their own righteousness. Jesus answers by pressing the questioner to pay more attention to entering the strait gate of God and serving God than in measuring the magnitude of God’s judgments on everyone else.
Finally, in verse 31 Jesus is approached by a number of prominent Pharisees, claiming to help Jesus by warning Him that Herod is plotting to kill Him. This is a lie, for Herod had made no such plan. The Pharisees, however, had conspired to assassinate Jesus since He left the Galilee months ago. Jesus, therefore, dismisses the suggestion that Herod will apprehend and execute Him, by giving the Pharisees His itinerary. In so doing, He exposes by word of knowledge the plan of the Pharisees to see that He is crucified and states that as far as He is concerned, even if they are able to successfully take His life, it will only bring about His perfection on the third day. He then turns, and overlooking the city laments that He came to do her good, but because Jerusalem had turned its heart from Him, and spurned His message that they will now be left desolate until they would say “blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord…”
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