March 21, 2022

NO difference

NO difference

"Who sinned?" "God is judging that city." Those are common responses to disasters and tragedies in our world. But what does Jesus have to say on the matter?

Greensburg Church of the Nazarene
31 Bluebird Lane, Greensburg, KY 42743


**not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript**




This is the third week of Lent, the time of year we reflect on the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and Savior who paid it all, so all to Him we owe. Many during this season make the decision to give up something that costs them to honor Jesus. It is not to put on a show, but to remember.


In this passage, Jesus is has just finished up a time of teaching with the crowds. He has taught on preparedness, faithfulness, conflict, and judgment. However, Jesus is approached by some folks with a disturbing report.




1 At that time, some people came and reported to Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. 4 Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish too. 6 And he told this parable: A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He told the vineyard worker; ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ 8 But he replied to him, ;Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 Perhaps it will produce fruit next year; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (CSB)


This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.




*** Key verse ***


In school, there were two ways to know if something was important. One, the teacher or textbook would put it in a box. If it was in a box it would be on the test. Second, if the teacher said it twice or more, then it was definitely going to be on the test.


Jesus repeats the same phrase twice in our passage for today. In verses 3 and 5, Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you will perish too.” That word perish can be translated “destroyed” or “lost.” To know why this is important, we need to examine why Jesus said it.

** Real life ***


Two different events are mentioned in verses 1-5. First, Jesus is told about an incident involving Pilate having Galileans massacred while they were visiting the Temple. Second, Jesus brings up an event involving a tower that fell in another city that resulted in the deaths of eighteen people. Our writer Luke is the only author that mentions either of these events, other ancient historians provide no details about these happenings.


While there are no outside sources to confirm the events shared by Luke, that does not mean they are myths or historically inaccurate. For starters, if there was one thing the Romans did not care for, it was those who were insurrectionists. Pilate was no stranger to squashing those who could be considered a threat to the empire. And tragedies like the tower collapse in Siloam are a common occurrence in our world, similar accidents would have happened in this period too.


A widely accepted understanding among the Jews at this time, going all the way back to Job, was that misfortune (such as Pilate killing these Galileans and the tower collapse) was a sign of sin. God was punishing sinners for their unrighteous acts. There are Old Testament stories that would seem to push that theory. However, Jesus challenges that viewpoint. He is saying the victims in these incidents did not necessarily die because of a sin or sins they personally committed.


***Reality of life***


Jesus then tells a parable that is directly connected to verses 1-5. In this parable, the Jews (the nation of Israel) are the fig tree. And this illustration is not unique to Jesus. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes.” (Isaiah 5:2) Another prophet, Micah wrote, “How sad for me! For I am like one who—when the summer fruit has been gathered after the gleaning of the grape harvest—finds no grape cluster to eat.” (Micah 7:1) God is the one attempting to collect grapes, but Israel is not producing any.


Anyone who plants a fig tree expects that fig tree to produce figs. That is reasonable expectation. And given enough time, in the correct season a fig tree should produce figs. If a tree does not produce figs, then there is not point to it. In the parable, the man who planted the tree asks, “Why should it even waste the soil?” (v7) Since the tree is wasting space, the reasonable thing to do would be to cut it down so another tree or plant that is more fruitful could grow in its place. Israel, the Jews, God’s chosen people, were expected to bear fruit based on their blessings from God, but they were not. If you ever wondered why they do not like Jesus, this is a clue.


As hard as that truth is, Jesus does add in verses 8-9 “Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will produce fruit next year; but if not, you can cut it down.” While the threat of being cut down remained, grace is given to allow the tree a little more time to produce. Jesus interceded on behalf of the Jews and God gave them grace to turn back toward Him and to bear fruit. The standard was high for Israel, but God was willing to give them the grace to reach it.



*** Survival does not mean you are the fittest ***


In response to the massacre ordered by Pilate and the collapse of the tower, Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well.” The Jews believed that misfortune had found those who committed sin or sins against God, therefore they were being punished. By that same attitude, those unimpacted or spared most be morally superior since they survived. Jesus is saying that kind of attitude should not be the focal point in such moments.


Why? Because every single person is a sinner. Those who were killed by Pilate in the Temple were sinners. When the tower in Siloam fell, those killed were sinners. And those who survived those incidents, or were no where near them, are sinners too. The point Jesus is making is that all are sinners, and all will die. “Unless you repent, you will be lost too.” Jesus is saying these moments should cause those who survive to measure their life by God’s standard, and repent for not measuring up. This way when death comes to them, they can stand before God as one who is approved.


*** Survival depends upon how you live life***


So much of our own lives is spent in fear and avoidance of death. Our tendency is to play it safe and avoid anything that would cause death. We do our best to learn from others and take the necessary precautions, yet the reality is that death is inevitable. I know, welcome to church, you are going to die… such a cheerful thought. While that truth is reality, take comfort in knowing that death does not determine how God will judge you. When others die, it is a call to remember our own mortality and examine how our life is being lived.


How we live our lives is how God will judge us. I am in no way trying to advocate that we work to earn our salvation. When we examine our lives, we will find that we fall far short of God’s standard. In humble recognition of that fact, you and I must repent so God’s grace can wash over us. Life is to be lived in the reality that follows repentance. This life is one beyond mere survival, it is one that produces fruit. Fruit is us letting go of anger, dropping sinful habits, and being transformed. Transformation brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All things that are from the character of God, a result of His Spirit living in us and through us. And living this life will cause us to be lights shining into the darkness.




Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “…now is the day of salvation.” Stop looking over your shoulder in fear of death. Quit judging yourself by how other sinners die. You and I do not measure up, but God’s grace can change that score today. God’s grace changes us into trees planted in His vineyard, expected to produce fruit. And we will produce fruit as long as we stay submitted to Him and His ways.