Well, as we take our Bibles in hand today, we have the joy of turning to a new chapter in Luke’s Gospel, Luke Chapter 13. So, take your Bibles and turn there, please. It’s a new chapter, but it is a continuation in the first part of this chapter. Of the same theme that we looked at last week. And that theme is that judgment is coming, so repent and repent now.
In today’s text, Jesus is pressing his audience to repent in the view of the coming judgment that he talked about in the last chapter. And that’s what we need to say to people in our own day as well. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent because we’re all sinners before a holy God. We all have sin, and sin as the song says, leaves a crimson stain before God we need to wash white as snow. So repent, or in Jesus terms here in Luke 13, repent or perish. Repent or die. Now, since we are turning to a new chapter and entering into that, I’d like to take just a moment to locate where we are in the text of Luke’s Gospel. Identify our place in the literary development of Luke’s Gospel.
We’re in the middle of what’s called simply the central section, the center of Luke’s central section. We’re right in the middle of it. The central section began back in Luke 9:51, which tells us there that when the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. So, Jesus knew the time was near, he left his home soil, which was his native soil of Galilee, the region of Galilee. He left from there, and he started on his journey toward Jerusalem. This is a journey narrative, this central section.
So, he’s going to Golgotha, the cross. He’s going there to fulfill his messianic mission to, to die for the sins of his people. So, he knew he was going there to, to die. He was gonna die an atoning death like a lamb, a, a spotless lamb offered for the sins of his people. And he’s gonna be raised up by God for their justification. When he was raised up, he knows now at this point in the text, he knows he will ascend to the Father’s right hand. He will rule and reign from on high until that time set by his Father to bring about the consummation of all things.
So, starting in Luke 9:51, Jesus is on the move. His disciples are on the move. And that’s why some refer to this central section as a travel narrative, or the journey to Jerusalem. Commentators marked the end of that journey differently. One sees Jesus’ journey ending outside of Jerusalem in Jericho just before he ascends up to Jerusalem. Ah, that’s in Luke 18:35, then maybe they mark it there. Another commentator thinks that the journey ends at the triumphal entry, which is marked at Luke 9, 19:28 as he starts making the ascent to Jerusalem and everybody cries out Hosanna, receiving the king.
Still another commentator ends the journey at the heart of the city, right in the temple Luke 19:44, when Jesus enters into the temple and for the second time once at the beginning of his ministry, here at the end of his ministry, he cleanses the temple and clears it out saying, this is to be a house of prayer for all the nations.
Wherever we draw that finish line of Jesus starting this journey and then ending the journey in Jerusalem, he’s on the move. That’s what you need to see. He’s on the move from Luke 9:51 all the way through chapter 19. He’s left Galilee behind. He is visiting the people living in and around Judea and Perea on the other side of the Jordan. He’s visiting all those who remember, he sent out the seventy-two evangelists basically to prepare the villages, the towns and villages, every place where he would go he prepared them for his visit.
So, he’s visiting all those people now. Leaving Galilee and going toward Judea into Jerusalem we might make a crude comparison to our situation today by saying he’s traveling from red State territory to blue state territory. That’s really, that’s really what’s going on. He’s going from fly over country in Galilee to the urban center in Jerusalem. Really what many saw as the center of the world, the center of the world. So, as he moves from Galilee to Judea. And as he gets ever closer to Jerusalem, allegiances change among the populace.
Lines of loyalty are drawn politically, drawn differently. Politics are more tangled up with more interests and concerns the closer he gets to Jerusalem. The social, political, religious factions in that city are much more complex. Issues of the day seem more immediate. There’s a heightened concern about the news of the day, which is, which is typical when you move from a rural setting to an urban setting, seeing, things seem simpler from a further distance, don’t they?
And still, everywhere he goes, he sees people in need of truth. He sees people who need to see themselves as sinners no matter where they live, whether it’s in red state territory or blue state territory. Neither can take pride on, one behalf of on, on behalf of the other. Neither can take pride in their position, in their proximity to what’s going on. No one can take pride because all are sinners, all are condemned before a holy God. All the ground is level at the cross.
Everybody needs to see themselves that way. They need to see themselves as sinners, in need of repentance, in need of salvation. So, people living in Judea and Korea, there are no different than those who are living in Galilee when it comes to God and his word when it comes to God and his law. Traveling in and around Galilee, Jesus had made the judgment back then, Matthew 9:36 says this, that “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Well, these Judeans are no different than those Galileans. All of them, just as blind and hardened before God, hardened in their sin, blinded. They need to see themselves that way. We saw last time when Jesus had just told them in Luke 12:56, “You all know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but you failed to interpret the present time.” That’s true whether they lived in Galilee, or whether they lived in Judea, or whether they lived right in the heart of Judea, in Jerusalem itself. “You all are ignoring all the signs.” Well, as someone listens to him in this crowd. They speak out and they offer, maybe evidence to the contrary that indeed maybe they are seeing the signs.
Look at Luke 13 verse 1, “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” So, their saying we’re seeing signs, what about that one? Jesus answered them verse 2, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all [other], the other Galileans, because they suffer in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus follows up that bit of interaction with a parable. He tells them a parable to encourage their immediate response of repentance. And this echoes, really, this parable echoes the earlier voice of John the Baptist, Luke 3:8 and 9, a message of John the Baptist that had thoroughly saturated this region, by the way. John said back there in Luke 3:8 and 9, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. [And] every tree, therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
And with that in mind, listen to the parable Jesus tells starting in verse 6. “He told this parable. A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. He said to the vine dresser, ‘Look, for three years now I’ve come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should he use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. [And] then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”
It’s just meant to emphasize put the exclamation point on the need to repent now or perish, which is what the message of verses 1 to 5 is, repent or perish. The message of the parable is get with it, repent and bear fruit right now because the time is short. So foolish to test the Lord’s patience. And yet so many do. Well, today we’re gonna consider that opening section versus 1 to 5. There’s plenty to cover there.
Repent or perish. That seems to be a message that’s primarily aimed at non-Christians, and that’s true. But it’s instructive for us Christians as well, for the non-Christians, for those of you who are listening, who are not yet Christians, this message that Jesus is gonna give you, I’ll tell you all the way through, but I want to tell you right now it’s repent and don’t delay. Repent. Don’t wait any longer. You don’t know how long you have. Repent and repent right now. Look beyond what you see externally. Stop making external judgments. We’re all sinners before a holy God. We’re all debtors before a gracious God, and unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. So, repent and don’t delay. Don’t delay one more second. That’s the message that Jesus wants you to hear, in all earnestness, in all haste, repent.
For those of you who are professing Christians, there’s a lot to learn here as well. How we think about proclaiming the gospel with this message of repentance embedded in it, we if you don’t proclaim the gospel with a message of repentance embedded in it, it’s not the gospel. So don’t soft sell the gospel by excluding the hard message of repentance, calling people to forsake their sin and turn to Christ.
We need to clarify the meaning of repentance, which we, we as Christians need to do. We need to be clear about that ourselves. We need to be clear about that because we need to be practicing it for ourselves. The Christian life is a life of repentance. Repenting is what we do as Christians. You can call us, instead of calling us Christians you can call us repenters, because that’s what we’re doing all the time. We need to see as Christians how to interpret bad things that happen in the world around us.
From this section here in Luke’s Gospel, that’s what we’re going to see. It’s gonna, we’re gonna see how Jesus sees these things, how Jesus looks through those things. To call people to repentance, we need to see it, things the same way. How to look beyond the politics of the day to get to the deeper spiritual issues? Look, too many Christians are caught up too much in this world and too much in its politics, too much in the, in the things that are changing all the time around us.
There are some things that are certain and never changing, and that’s a men and women are all sinners before a holy God. He does not change. And yet we have the opportunity to change if we’ll repent. It will be in a different alignment to God. Because of Christ. So, we need to think about this rightly for ourselves as Christians so we can actually bring a true gospel to the people who so desperately need it, who are lost wandering around like sheep without a shepherd.
So, starting with Jesus’ interaction here with some of this crowd. First point we need to see number 1, learn repentance from human atrocities, learn repentance, from human atrocities. There’s an atrocity pointed out here in the text. As we look around at our world, there are atrocities everywhere. There are atrocities on the battlefield. There are atrocities in the cities, there are atrocities in the country. There are atrocities. Human atrocities. Everywhere you look. And from those atrocities we need to learn the message of repentance. So, learn repentance from human atrocities.
Look again at verse 1, “There’s some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” Sounds gruesome. Some translations make this verse sound like the reporters arrived on the scene at this very moment to bring Jesus breaking news about this atrocity that Pilate had committed but it’s really best to see the, these folks just as our text lays it out here. It’s best to see them as being on the scene the entire time and bringing this up within the middle of this conversation. That’s because of the content of the report, the Galileans as it’s reported here, they were in the act of sacrificing. They were there at the temple, sacrificing when they’re cut down by Pilate soldiers.
The specifics of this event aren’t clear to us because they need to be deduced just from the text itself. What we read here, this is an incident, is not corroborated by any extra biblical secular source. Details of the incident can’t be filled in by what we gather from historical background study, because there’s no report of it. We do know enough about Pilate. We know enough about other rulers as well during that time, enough about the violence of these times that this is pretty commonplace.
Shocking though it seems to us on the pages of Scripture, it’s no stretch of the imagination to know that what is reported of here about Pilate is exactly what happened. Now, even though this isn’t breaking news like immediately on the scene, they would come to Jesus with this, with this report. This was recent enough for them to bring it up, recent enough for them to introduce it.
Alfred Edersheim says this, quote, “Between Christ’s visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles and that, at the dedication of the temple, [which is just before this incident here, the dedication of the temple], no festival had taken place. It’s most probable that this event had happened before Christ visits to Jerusalem.”
“Everybody needs to see themselves that way. They need to see themselves as sinners, in need of repentance, in need of salvation.”Travis Allen
So, in other words, the setting of our text is just prior to the feast of dedication, which is around the December time frame, we call it Hanukkah today. So that’s, this is happening in the December time frame. That’s where our scene is set, Pilate’s slaughter of these Galilean worshippers must have happened months prior to this. If it was the previous Passover, which could be likely, then it was 9 months prior. But it does seem to be a relatively recent occurrence because it’s freshened up in people’s minds to bring it to Jesus’ attention here.
Jesus though, didn’t need to be told about this atrocity. As if he, it’s not as if he didn’t know. He’s well informed as you look from verse 4. He’s up to date on current events as anyone else. He knew about something happening right within the minutes of Jerusalem. This isn’t new news to him. So, why did these people feel compelled to bring this up in this moment, at this time, on this occasion?
Clearest explanation comes from the immediate context that Jesus’ indictment of the crowd from the end of the previous chapter had prompted this within them. They wanted to say it, he said in verse 56, “You hypocrites.” That stung. “You hypocrites, you know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky. You don’t know how to interpret the sign of the times. You don’t know how to interpret this present time you’re in.” So, it seems that even though Luke doesn’t state this explicitly, the implication here is.
Well, we know something about the sign of the times. We’re, we’re looking at some things. We’re not completely unaware of Jesus. We’re able to take note of Pilates slaughtering these Galileans while they’re offering their sacrifices. That’s instructive to us, and that’s gotta count for something in our favor, right? What they’re pointing out to Jesus is that they do see the sign of the times. There’s a national storm brewing. And the suggestion seems to be from these primarily Judean listeners in the crowd, that Pilates slaughter of the Galileans was a special judgment of God upon the Galileans.
These Galileans were in the wrong and God didn’t protect them. God allowed this massacre to happen. Says something about their cause, says something about them. Perhaps the report is to get Jesus to condemn Pilate’s cruelty. Put him on the wrong side of Pilate right here, as though Pilate added insult to injury, not only killing the Galileans while they’re offering their sacrifices, but also going further to mix the blood of the worshippers with their sacrifices, as if he intentionally mingled them together.
So, that would mean he went further than the atrocity by desecrating both their sacrifices and the altar on which their sacrifices were offered. If Pilate did that, that would be a huge, huge insult to the Jews. It would further inflame this spirit of rebellion that passed around the land, especially in Galilee. Galileans already known to be seditious, that would take and ratchet up the anger and the wrath even further. I think.
We couldn’t put it past Pilate to do such a thing. I mean, he certainly was a Roman. He certainly despised the Jews and their religion. But from what we read in biblical and extrabiblical sources, Pilate was a pretty pragmatic ruler. He was a careful governor. He wasn’t overly concerned about human life. He wasn’t overly concerned about Jewish scruples. But he was interested in keeping his job. And as a governor, a Roman governor quelling rebellions and riots was his primary job. Unrest rioting was bad, bad for the tax collection. So, doing what was expedient to quell unrest is pretty typical to his leadership.
Joe, Josephus writes in the antiquities of the Jews about a time when Pilate, he was moving his Roman army from their summer quarters in Cecilia, Caesarea, back to their winter quarters in Jerusalem, and they marched into Jerusalem with as they always did, with images emblazoned upon their standard, upon Roman unseen signs. No big deal for the Romans, but a total outrage to the Jews. Images of Caesar, who was worshipped as a god by the Romans, that was a pagan idolatry being introduced into Jerusalem. And they were the, the Jews were willing to die in protest about that.
So, when the Jewish multitudes, on this occasion they came to Pilate to protest, to appeal to him to remove those images, he deployed his soldiers, suspecting some kind of a riot, surround the crowd. He was about to slaughter them. But then Josephus tells us this, something very interesting happened. The Jewish protesters, quote, “threw themselves upon the ground and laid their necks bare and they said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed. Upon which Pilate was deeply affected. With their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Caesarea.” End quote.
Pilate isn’t beyond intentionally desecrating Jewish worship. Jewish sacrifice. The Jewish altar. But he’s not stupid either. Because to do that, if he did mingle, intentionally mingle blood with sacrifice and offer that on the altar, he would have had more on his hands than he wanted to deal with. It’s not entirely consistent with the way he governed to do such insulting things. More likely, as Edersheim notes the report in Luke 13:1 describes a number of Jesus fellow, fellow Galileans whom Pilate order to be cut down, as we infer in the temple, while engaged in offering their sacrifices, so that in the pictorial language of the east, their blood had mingled with that of their sacrifices. So, it’s just it’s just a way of describing what actually happened.
So, it’s not to say that what happened here is not an atrocity. Most certainly was. Pilate did massacre these Galileans and it was as violent and as gruesome as it sounds, shocking. Right in the middle of the temple as they’re offering their sacrifices to God as they’re preparing their sacrificial animals for the soldiers to come in and attack there. Why did Pilate do this? What’s his, what, what, what, what possible reason could he have? What motivation could he have?
Well, most likely because he believed these Galileans are connected to a nationalist movement. Was very popular in Galilee. Most of the unrest actually came out of Galilee into Jerusalem, and so Roman governors were on their guard. They wanted to make Israel great again with their protests. So, in Pilate’s mind from a Roman point of view. These Galileans are involved in some sort of a seditious plot. Probably he had, his spies had reported such to him. So, to catch them in the temple while they’re offering their sacrifices, that’s they’re vulnerable there. That’s the most expedient place to quell this rebellious spirit.
So, he deployed his soldiers to the temple. He cut them down as they worshipped. He wanted to deal with the problem forcefully and also set an example for other likeminded Galileans to discourage them, dissuade them if they shared the same mind, or add any bad intentions at all. So, that’s what we can discern from the limited information we have in the text about the incident.
Now we want to ask a more interpretive question here of why is it coming up? Why did these people report this atrocity to Jesus? I mean, if it didn’t just happen and they’re shocked from the event and running forward to say, hey, guess what just happened, which is not likely at all. This happened months ago. Why did these people feel compelled to tell Jesus about this incident, on this occasion in the middle of Jesus’ sermon? What point they’re trying to make?
As I mentioned a moment ago. If the context tells us anything, and it always does, they seem to be keying off of Jesus indictment. That they are interpreting the sign of the times in protest, in contradiction to what Jesus just said. You hypocrites. You’re not looking at the times and seeing the signs. They’re refuting that charge. They’re saying ohh yeah, we do. We can look beyond the weather patterns and we can see and discern what’s going on socially, politically. They’re telling Jesus we see it. Revolution is in the air. There’s more to it than that though.
When we pick up, we pick that up from Jesus’ response in verse 2, Jesus answered them. Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way? Notice the emphasis there on these first couple verses on Galileans. Once in verse 1, twice in verse 2, Galileans, Galileans, Galileans, and what is Jesus? He’s Galilean. The people who were massacred were Galileans and they’re his people, aren’t they?
We don’t know their exact motivation, can’t get into their minds, their heads as such. But we can discern from Jesus answer that these people reminding Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. They are clearly making an association here. Remember, Jesus is in Judea. Most of the people in the crowd this day are Judeans. So as Judeans, they’re trying to connect Jesus the Galilean with those Galileans.
Could be several reasons for making the association. Perhaps they wanted to embarrass Jesus, take the wind out of his indictment for their failure to discern the times they’re living in. Maybe they’re saying, hey Jesus, haven’t we seen your kind before? Messianic pretensions, eh? Full of promises, short on follow through. Just like your fellow Galileans. Yeah, they tried. They’re cut down. What do you got? Perhaps they’re trying to make a further judgment? Expressing their disagreement with the Galilean impulse toward sedition and rebellion. We’re Judeans, we’re more sophisticated. We understand the complexities of politics. You Galileans out there in the red state territory fly over country, you’re a bit of knuckleheads, aren’t you? You don’t see things as clearly. Like us.
So, it’s because these Galileans were sinning in how they tried to resist the Romans not doing it as sophisticated political way. But actually, a brutish, seditious way. That’s why they were cut down in the temple. It’s evidence of divine disfavor on your tactics, your methods of trying to produce political change. Listen, we’ve seen the same technique used in our own day and our own political situation in our country used on Republican voters. So, you were voted Republican aye? Ohh, you voted for Trump? Ohh, so those were your people storming the Capitol building. Hmm. Mr Buffalo Head QAnon Shaman guy, that’s your guy? Friend of yours?
Why do people employ that tactic? Because they want to avoid making actual arguments. If they can shame their opponent with guilt by association. They can avoid. The thrust of the argument. They can avoid actual debate thinking through the issues. Same tactics being used on Jesus here, interpreting the present time? Uh-huh. Like your fellow Galilean friends trying to make Israel great again with their messianic uprising.
Evidently God doesn’t approve. God refused to protect them, while they worshipped. Their hypocrisy is seen. He let him be cut down in the very act while they offered sacrifices. Those your people, Jesus? And who you’re associated with? Notice as Jesus answers here, whatever’s going on actually in their minds, whatever motivations they have. Notice he doesn’t try to distance him, himself from those Galileans at all. Neither does he try to defend their cause. What does he do? He makes no comment on Pilate. He makes no comment on Pilate’s cruelty. He doesn’t make any comment on the Galileans or the Galilean nationalist movement.
What does he do? He transcends. The entire scene, doesn’t he? He completely ignores their tactic, their attempt to shame him with this guilt by association. Fallacious argument. That is a logical fallacy, by the way. He refuses, though, to buy into it if you he refuses to be drawn into it. He doesn’t allow them to discredit him and his concern by this association argument. It’s not a ploy on his part. He’s not skillfully sidestepping.
He just simply answers about what’s actually on his mind. You know what’s on his mind. Not politics. What’s on his mind is a spiritual concern and a concern for them. He’s not unaware of politics. He’s engaged. He thinks it through. He transcends verse 2 and 3, he says, “Do you think these Galileans are worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus refuses to defend the Galileans as his people just because he comes from the same region. He takes no interest in defending any political cause, supporting some political movement. He parries their tactic with the truth, and he presents all Galileans as sinners before a holy God. Suffering in this way. That is, as victims of this atrocity. Brutally cut down. While ostensibly practicing their freedom of worship. Dying in a manner that makes them no better and no worse than any other Galilean. The way they died says nothing whatsoever about their actual condition. As guilty sinners who are condemned before a holy and righteous God.
If those Galileans are not in some special category of sinner because they were cut down that way, well, they’re not any worse than any other Galileans. They’re all condemnable. Red state all condemnable. No matter what part of the spectrum you are in, that red state area, all condemnable before holy God, sinners. If Jesus stopped here, he might hear some loud “amens” from this predominantly Judean audience. Ohh yeah. “Amen.” These urban sophisticates. They tended to look down on the hayseed Galileans. And they’d be very inclined to accept Jesus’ argument that these Galileans, whose blood Pilate and mingled with their sacrifices, the same kind of sinner as all Galileans. I told you so. They’d be willing to grant that. Quite easily make them mental adjustment.
They’d say something like, well, hadn’t thought of that Jesus, but hey, totally willing to grant your point here. All Galileans are the same kind of sinners that’s exactly what that region produces. That kind of sinner, prone to being deceived, pulled into seditious movements, attacking in the temple. No argument from me. Jesus didn’t give him time to agree too quickly because he immediately followed up with this, unless you repent. He’s pointing the finger at the crowd, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
In fact, he’s basically saying, you Judeans, you’re the same as those Galileans. Not just the ones who live peacefully in rural Galilean settings, but the ones who are cut down ends unceremoniously in the temple. You’re the same as them. You’re all the same. Unless all of you repent, you’ll all likewise perish. You’ll die. You’ll forfeit your life. By saying, you will all likewise perish.
Is Jesus warning them that Pilates gonna kill all them too, in the same way? That you know, that while they’re all offering their sacrifice at the temple? Not, not exactly the word likewise here hom, homeos can mean similarly but not necessarily exactly similarly. So, Jesus he may here be thinking ahead nationally. He may be think, thinking, mindful here that justice Rome who’s represented on this occasion by Pilate the governor killing the Galileans. So, also in about forty years the Roman General Titus is gonna invade Judea, destroy Jerusalem, and in this bloodthirsty, active atrocity, slaughter the Jews.
According to Josephus reckoning, Titus slaughtered maybe more than a million Jews. Whatever the number was, it’s incredible. Maybe Jesus is looking ahead to that. You’ll all likewise perish. More to his immediate point, though, he’s probably thinking this. It’s probably drawing a comparison. To the sudden and the unexpected way that these Galileans died, their hearts are focused on worship.
They’re there with their animal. They’re, they’re cutting the animal. They’re preparing the animal for sacrifice. They’ve got no heart. They’ve got no mind set on violence coming upon them in that moment, right? But they’re cut down just like that. They had no time at all to repent. To bow their knee before God for their sins, when God called their number using the swords of Pilate to take their life.
So, rather than stepping out of your lane as a human being. Rather than trying to rise above your pay grade, don’t try to adjudicate these human atrocities from a moral and philosophical distance, Jesus is saying. Don’t stay at a distance here, get right in it and think about why did they die in the first place. What is death the penalty for? Humble yourself before God. Learn to repent when you observe all these human atrocities. Because the is, the issue is not the manner in which you die. The issue is that you die. Death rate is still a hundred percent, far as I’m told.
Key to avoiding such a sudden, violent, unexpected fate is to repent before God. Repent. The word repent, metanoo, strictly means to perceive afterward. That is, in the sense of being too late to avoid the consequences. You’ve gone through the consequences, so you’re regretting you didn’t act beforehand. That’s the original idea of the word repent. So, the command here to repent is to do that regret before it actually happens. Think ahead to the consequences and think now about it and repent and change your course. Look ahead, see the consequences. Anticipate whatever misfortune lies ahead, i.e., death. Change your mind. Change your behavior. Change your course of action. Do whatever it takes to avoid that outcome.
Not physical death per se. What’s gonna happen after your physical death? Standing before a holy God, do what it takes. One Greek scholar says metanoo is to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or a course of behavior. That’s exactly right. Serious change of mind and heart. It starts internally and it works its way out externally into how you think, what you do, what you prioritize, what you set your mind on, what you’re looking at right now. How you’re living.
In speaking to this Judeans, evidently Jesus believes they still need some convincing. They may have missed the point. They’re having a hard time seeing their own need for repentance, perhaps because it’s too easy for them to disassociate themselves from those deplorables from those Galileans.
Jesus makes a second point. And its number 2 for your notes too, calling them to number 2 learn repentance from accidental tragedies. Learn repentance from accidental tragedies. Jesus has his own current event to bring up to them. One that brings the point closer to home. Very near to where they are. Look at verse 4, “Or those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?”
Once again, apart from Luke’s record of Jesus words here we have no other record of this incident. This accidents. This tower of Siloam is presumably a tower that’s located on the southeast corner of the city. Where two walls came together. Overlooking the pool of Siloam. That pool was created by Hezekiah’s incredible engineering feat when his men built a water conduit that ran one thousand seven hundred and twenty-five feet underground and it started the Gihon Spring and fed the pool of Siloam and then was brought into the city. That waters brought into the city.
So, evidently there’s some kind of construction worker repair work that’s being conducted on this tower. That’s overlooking the pool. Tragic accident happened when this tower fell. Killed 18 men. We don’t know if they were the workers or if there are people passing by, or a mix of both. Whatever, it was 18 dead.
Jesus, who’s an itinerant Galilean preacher. If he knows about it, well, so do the Judeans in this crowd. They know about it as well. There’s a common belief for them, for these Jews, that when tragedy struck. God was bringing judgment upon an individual, for some unseen, some hidden sin. Sometimes that’s true. Scripture shows us that, like in passages like Acts chapter 5 or 1 Corinthians chapter 11, sometimes hidden sin does bring about the severe and immediate judgment of God in the moment. Or God judges individuals for some blatant, unrepentant sin that’s hidden from other people. But God calls them to account in the moment.
Scripture also shows us, like in the whole book of Job, that tragedy is not always the result of sin. Personal pain suffering is not always the result of sin. In fact, much of Scripture shows us that that’s not always the case. In fact, mostly not the case for Christians. Suffering is a part of life. It’s a part of life in the fallen world. And for God, there’s always a purpose in everything that he does.
Christian, don, Christian going through suffering. What is suffering meant to, meant to do for us? Turn our eyes upward? It’s meant to humble us. Bring us into a place where we recognize our need, that we’re dependent on God. Jesus’ disciples a short time from now. In John chapter 9, Jesus actually does go to the feast of dedication, December time frame, Hanukkah we call it. He goes there and he heals a man who was blind from birth. You remember that story in John chapter 9, he tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Close connection here.
You may remember here that Jesus’ disciples asked him, they said, rabbi, who’s sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? They believe this too. Jesus said it wasn’t that this man sinned or his parents. But why? So, the works of God might be displayed in him. It’s common Jewish belief that tragedy meant judgment. It can, but not always. These 18 who died in the tragic accident.
Notice that Jesus does call them according to the ESV text. He calls them offenders. That’s the ESV translation. The word is opheilete who, which is related to the verb opheilo. Opheilo means to owe. It means to be in financial or moral indebtedness to somebody. So, this is a morally equivalent term to the one that he used in verse 2, which is the word sinners. He’s got a more specific focus here. Jesus puts the 18 who died in this accident, he says, they’re offenders. He says, they’re opheliete. They are debtors. Those 18, is that why they died?
He says no, they’re on the same level as everybody else who lives in Jerusalem. Everybody else who lives there, all the residents of Jerusalem, Jerusalemites, are also offenders, debtors. They’re in the position of obligation they owe. All of them, the 18 who died and the people who living in Jerusalem, all of them owe some something to somebody else.
So literally in verse 4 Jesus asks this Judean crowd, do you think that the 18 are greater debtors than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? He’s getting them to think for themselves, to reflect, to consider not only the 18 and not just the residents of Jerusalem. He wants them to reflect upon and consider themselves as well. The 18 dead men, all the residents of Jerusalem, all debtors. So, what about the people in the crowd? Debtors. How? How are they debtors? Debtors to whom? What do they owe?
Once again, as Jesus reasons with the crowd, he returns to this theme of stewardship. For Jesus, stewardship is a basic assumption about how he assesses everybody in life. But this is a concept that is foreign to this crowd, and I’ll tell you, it’s foreign to most of us as well. We don’t wake up every single day thinking I’m a debtor to God. How do I use the gifts, the abilities, everything he’s entrusted to me? How do I use it today for his glory? What do I do with the next minute and the minute after that and next hour? What do I do with the middle of the day and the end of the day? How do I use it for God and his glory?
Do you think like that? We struggle to think like that, don’t we? We need to be reminded of this all the time. This is, this is Jesus going assumption. This is his presupposition about the world, as we are all debtors and stewards of what God has given us.
So how are these residents of Jerusalem debtors? Think about it. The 18, the residents of Jerusalem. What do they have that say, just by comparison, what did they have that the Galileans didn’t? Start with the tower. That meant they lived in a walled city, towers, ramparts, an organized and reinforced protection from enemies who might attack. Towers near Siloam. What is Siloam? It’s a pool that’s fed by a freshwater spring and that fresh water piped into the city. What do Galileans have to do? Out to the river. Out to the lake. Go gather in buckets. Bring it back.
What city are we talking about? Ancient City of David, the holy city of Jerusalem. They live in the place where God put his name to dwell. This is the social, political, religious heart of the nation. This is the location of the temple itself. This is the place where the sacrifices are, where the feasts are offered before God, the feasts of Israel. So, unlike the Galileans who really lived remotely. And they were despised for that, because they lived remotely on the borders of pagan lands.
“He’s pointing the finger at the crowd, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”Jesus
The 18 who died, along with all the residents of Jerusalem, daily access to the temple. Jesus is saying that’s a privileged position. Those things so many more. For these 18, for these residents of Jerusalem. They’re not just privileges, they’re responsibilities. They’re matters of stewardship. And that makes them debtors before God, for the Judeans, for all the residents of Jerusalem, for all the ways they failed to exercise wise and faithful stewardship.
Christ could see their accountability. He considered the dereliction of their duty, and he saw their need, verse 5, for repentance. We can see in how Jesus structured the sentences. The sentence in verse 2 is parallel with the one in verse 4. And in a very skillful way, Jesus has put all those people on the same level before God. The Galileans massacred in the temple, and all Galileans. The 18 Judeans who died and all residents of Jerusalem, all of them sinners, all of them debtors.
And then in verse 3 and verse 5, he levels the playing field even further. He puts everyone in the crowd on the same level as those Galileans and those Jerusalemites. Unless you repent you people in this crowd. Unless you repent. You people giving me this report, you people in the crowd, unless you repent, you all likewise will perish. They’ll all die, apollymi. Be destroyed, come to utter and total ruin. Not just killed. apokteino. Apoll, apollymi. You’ll be annihilated, destroyed, perish forever. It’s a, it’s, it’s something that that brings to mind an eternal judgment.
The word translated likewise in verse 5. It’s not the same as the word translated likewise back in verse 3. Back in verse 3, that word was homoios, which means similarly. This word in verse five is hosautos, which is a stronger word. It can be translated in the same way similarly. But it goes a little bit stronger to say, you’ll perish in the same manner or in just the same way. So, everyone in this crowd is gonna die by means of a tower falling on their head. Is that what he’s saying? No, it’s obviously not the point.
What’s Jesus saying here? Simply this. The Galileans how’d they die? They died by human agency, right? Pilate sent soldiers in to cut them down in the temple. Before God, those Galileans are sinners, no different than all Galileans or anyone else in the crowd. Unless they repented, they’d die in a similar way, suddenly, unexpectedly, with no more time to repent. So, repent and repent now.
What agency is at work in an accident? Who’s to blame when an inanimate structure, like a tower, collapses and falls on your head when you’re walking by? Who’s to blame when an avalanche like it just killed 4 skiers, I think in Utah? Who’s to blame when an avalanche falls on your head? Who’s to blame when you get killed in a tornado or hurricane? In the end, what does it matter? You’re dead. Right. Whether by sword or by tower, all sinners die. That’s the problem. Those indebted to God will be brought to answer for their debts.
So, friends listen to me. We need to stop looking at the world with worldly judgment. It’s not about red and blue. It’s not about Galilean and Judean. It’s not about Democrat and Republican. I understand I’m oversimplifying it, but I’m oversimplifying to make a point. And the point is that it doesn’t matter what kind of party that someone associates with politically. Doesn’t matter who’s in office, doesn’t matter what kind of laws and regulations and, and onerous restrictions are put on anybody. What matters is that all people die.
If we get better legislation, that makes our lives easier. If we get the right people in office. At the end of ten, twenty, thirty, whatever many years, we’re dead. We’re gonna stand before a holy God. What then? Does it matter what kind of laws you lived under? Does it matter, who is your president? Does it matter what party you associated with? It does not. What matters is what about your sin? What you goanna do about that?
Same thing Jesus said to the covetous man back at Luke chapter 12. Told the story of the rich fool. Same lesson, different way of giving it. Luke 12:20, he said fool, this night your soul is required of you. Even your soul is not your own. Your soul is given to you as a stewardship from God, and he’s gonna require it back. He requires an accounting for the soul that he is given to you.
So repent or perish. That is the message in these first 5 verses. Not just for those Galileans who died, but all Galileans. Not just for the 18 who died, but for all Jerusalemites. Not just for the Galileans and the Judeans, but everyone in the crowd that day. And not just for everyone in the crowd that day, in that place, on that occasion. Repent or parish is the same message for you today, hearing this now.
Repentance. What is that? Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have biblical repentance without faith and vice versa. There is no biblical faith without true repentance. They will always go hand in hand. In a fallen world, repentance and faith go together.
So, biblical repentance. The corollary of biblical faith involves an intellectual, emotional, and volitional element. Mind, will, and emotions are involved in true biblical repentance. All three are at work. If one of those is absent, take away emotion. Just have mind and will gutting it out there, no repentance. You fall short of true biblical faith, true biblical repentance, if you don’t have mind engaged, emotions engaged, and will engaged.
So, when Jesus says repent, all that is bundled up in the charge. Engage your mind, your intellect. Engage your emotions, your affections. Engage your will, your volition. All of it comes together. He means you must understand with your intellect you must be rightly affected in your emotions and by the decision of your will, your volition, you reverse course and stop going that way and start going that way. That’s what it means. You turn away from where you were going, from what you were doing, from how you were thinking, from how you’re living, from how you’re speaking, and you turn toward righteousness.
We need repentance because of what Jesus says here that all of us are guilty to serving of death. And take note of the terms that he used on this occasion. Like the people in this crowd, we too, all of us were sinners before a holy and righteous God. We’re sinners hamartolos sinners, Hamartano is the verb to sin, to transgress, to miss the mark. We’re debtors before a generous and gracious God, opheiletai. Connected to that verbal opheilo to be in debt. To be sinners before a holy, righteous God.
Hamartolos, to miss the mark. God is holy, pure. We’ve all missed the mark. We’ve failed to live up to his holiness. We’ve said holy, holy, Holy, and we’re not, not, not. God is righteous and just. We’ve missed that Mark. Failing to keep the standard of his law. For starters, we’ve all broken the ten commandments. Every single one of us in here have broken the ten commandments. Every single one.
If not in deed, then in thought and in word, we fail to love God, failed to worship him as God. That’s the first 4 Commandments. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. We failed to do that. Exodus 20:3-11, we have had other gods before God, haven’t we? We have worshipped and served, created things like money, like security, whatever it is, and the gods of the modern age. We’ve worshipped and served created things.
We’ve taken God’s name in vain, if, if not just in clear blasphemy of saying OMG or whatever. That’s whatever the expressions are. We’ve done it by claiming to belong to him and professing him and yet not acting like him. We’ve taken his name in a vain or meaningless way. Some people, I hear pray, pray like that. Their whole prayers taking God’s name in vain because they’re thoughtlessly praying, just mumbling the same meaningless phrases over and over again.
We failed to honor the seventh day. God said six days you shall labor, do all your work, but the seventh, the seventh you do not work. It is a rest day devoted to me. For you to reflect on. Think about me. Worship. We failed to honor that seventh day, a day of rest to keep it holy. Ohh, we’re violators. We’re, we’re all missing the mark. My feeling to love God and worship him as God. We’ve been off the mark from the start.
We failed to love also our neighbor as ourselves. Means we violated all the rest of the commandments and the ten. The rest of the six. Exodus 20:12-17. We haven’t honored our fathers and mothers. Through our obedience, through the way we speak about them, the way we think about them, the way we, we respond to them. We have committed murder. If not physically, then certainly we have mentally, in our hearts had anger toward others, Jesus says in Matthew 5. If you’ve had anger in your heart toward your brother, well, that’s the seed of murder. You’re a murderer, in the heart.
We have committed adultery. Okay, maybe you haven’t gone and slept with another person’s spouse, but if you haven’t done that physically, you have done it in your heart in the form of lust. In the form of unlawful desire, inordinate desire. Jesus said that too in Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount. If you’ve committed lust, you’ve committed adultery in your heart. Sexually immoral and, and look at our, look at our society. Is there any question that all of us are adulterers at heart in this pornographic society?
We’ve stolen. Probably physically, but also in other devious ways. Not just cheating on taxes or cheating on tests or whatever. Stealing what doesn’t belong to you but think about taking credit that doesn’t belong to you. Taking credit for somebody else’s work? Robbing others of the honor that’s due to them? You’ve taken it for yourself. We’ve borne false witness against others and to others. We’ve lied, deceived, we’ve slandered, told false things about other people, passed it on as truth.
We’ve coveted. That’s the tenth commandment that pretty much insinuates itself into everything else. Covetousness is such an insidious sin. It gets itself into all of our affections and our motivations. It incites our heart to idolatry in such a way that Paul says covetousness is idolatry. So as sinners as hamartoloi. We missed the mark. We have no chance of fulfilling our stewardship that we’ve received from God that makes us debtors to God. He’s been so generous to us. He’s been gracious to us. We’ve taken his generosity for granted. We’ve taken advantage of what he’s given. We’ve spurned our accountability to him and ignored our stewardship before him.
We breathe his air every moment. And we’re not thankful. Why did he give us air to breathe? Why did he give us bodies that breathe air? So we can use these bodies to bring glory and honor to him. Since we’re all debtors, since we’re all sinners, since we all deserve before God to perish, what can we do?
We can repent. This is where the story is so hopeful. And what Jesus says, when Jesus says in verse 3 and verse 5, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. You know in our sensitive thin-skinned time, we’re all in our little safe space away from such harsh language. We tend to take this as such harsh, confrontational, severe.
This is gracious word from God. This is so gracious that he would offer repentance to us. That we don’t have to go through the event of death and then look back and regret, we can regret right now. We can anticipate and regret now. And say, “God, be merciful to me the sinner.” Knowing how blameworthy we are, knowing the truth about our condemnable state, our truly desperate condition before him, Jesus gives us a glimmer of hope and that message unless you repent, which means you can repent. Unless you repent, you’ll perish.
We ought to be rising to our feet, looking to the heavens and saying, “So, you mean if I do repent now, I don’t have to perish. Tell me more.” Understanding our sin. We are sinners and debtors and a general sense, but also that each and every one of us are guilty of very specific sins that were guilty of very specific failures in our stewardship. We owe specific debts, not just generalized. Now all have sinned. I’m a sinner like anybody else. To err is human. That’s not the idea.
To repent means we grasp, intellectually, the specific ways that we have sinned against God and that we have failed in our stewardship before God. We assent to the truthfulness of that charge. If we repent, it means that we’re not unaffected emotionally. Were affected though, we’re moved, we’re moved to tears often. We mourn for our sins. We sorrow because we have displeased God.
That’s why Jesus said blessed are those who mourn. Why? Because those who mourn. You will be comforted. Why? Why are you comforted? Because of the gospel. When we repent. We understand it on an intellectual level, we understand it on an emotional level, but then it goes further to a volitional level. We refuse to remain in that scene any longer. In debtors’ terms, we refuse to squander our stewardship any longer. We refuse to be, dare I say it, lazy, self-satisfied Christians. Banking on yesterday’s giving. Saying that’s good enough. I’ve served a lot, don’t need to really do anymore. I’ve given a lot to the church, given a lot to God and his causes. I’m good.
We need to engage our wills volitionally as repenters. Direct our lives to the pursuit of obedience and faithfulness. When we repent, we turn away from our rebellion, turn away from all indifference, turn away from all excuses, all laziness, all wastefulness, all staying away from people because the one anothers. That is the command we have from Christ, and the joy we have to be here, one another, sharing in each other’s lives. Giving to one another, ministering to one another, letting other people know us, and getting to know other people as well.
We long to pursue what’s righteous. We understand it intellectually. Were affected emotionally, longing for it, and we pursue it volitionally. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” What do hungry people do? They look for food. What do thirsty people do? They don’t waste any time trying to find a drink. What if those who hunger and thirst for righteousness do? Pursue it with all zeal, nothing getting in their way. And what does Jesus promise? They shall be satisfied.
Beloved, that’s our entrance into Luke 13. As we learn about repentance from human atrocities. As we learn about repentance from accidental tragedies. We’re going to come back next week and look about this, look at this parable that Jesus tells us here to really work this in and put the exclamation point on this issue of repent or parish. We’re gonna repent in all haste because the time is so, so short. But we’ll get to that next time.
Father, thank you for, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for his offer of your grace. That we now can anticipate perishing, and we can repent now. We don’t have to wait until after the fact, when we’re destroyed and standing before you having no answer. Because we’re transgressors. Because we’re debtors to you. We can admit that now. We can understand it intellectually, we can be affected emotionally. We can mourn and weep and sorrow over our sin before you, and we can offer ourselves to you a living sacrifice. So, we devote our will, our volition, to you, and give our lives to you completely.
I pray, Father, for those who are here and don’t know you. That you would affect salvation in their hearts, even now, for your glory and for the for the name and the sake of Christ. And Father, for those of us who already know you, I just pray that this would spur us toward love and good works. That we would devote ourselves afresh. To the things we were convinced of at the point of our salvation. There were sinners before you that Christ is our only substitute, our only hope. And that we trust him fully and completely. We love him and we’re devoted to you because of him. And we give ourselves to you now. We pray that you would affect these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.