Asking Questions and Bearing Fruit — Jesus in the Midst of Tragedy
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account (13:1-9) the 13th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Asking Questions: “Why?”
It’s good to ask questions. Jesus wants us to ask questions. He wants us to grow and learn and study and put the answers into practice through repentance and faith. The problem is, we often ask the wrong questions, questions the Bible doesn’t answer. And too often we ask questions supposing ourselves to already know the answer. Such is the case this morning with our text. “Some came to Jesus reporting to him concerning certain Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices.” They set before Jesus a tragedy supposing to know the answer and thereby seeking confirmation of their own opinions. Really, what they’re asking is: “What do you think about this Jesus. Why did this happen to such good pious people while they were making sacrifice in the temple?” The question asked is the wrong question. They ask “why?” And the Bible, nor Jesus, answers.
The Bible doesn’t answer our “why?” questions. To ask why is to attempt to peer into the hidden mysteries of the wisdom and knowledge of God. This has not been given us – particularly regarding tragedies. We want to know why. We want to understand the purpose. We want to have our own inklings confirmed. As you can see from Jesus’ response – which doesn’t answer the “why?” questions – the assumed answer is wrong.
Asking “Why?” often leads to measuring and judging. Why did such a tragedy happen to these Galileans? Why did the tower of Siloam fall on those 18 men? Why did my brother-in-law get cancer? Why did they guy shoot up a movie theater? Why were 20 young children shot to death while attending school? Why? Why? Why? The answer can come back one of two ways. They were worse sinners than the rest of us – and because it didn’t happen to us we’re better than them. Or, they were completely innocent victims and didn’t deserve to die. BOTH answers are wrong because the wrong question was asked.
What does this mean?
We shouldn’t be asking why tragedy happens. We should be asking “what does this mean?” This is the question Jesus answers with His reply. “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus rejects our fallen presuppositions of why tragedy happens and at the same time preserves the justice of God.
You see, beloved, when such things befall us we shouldn’t be asking to peer into God’s will. We should be asking, “what does this mean?” This is the question the Bible answers. This is the question Jesus answers. And the answer is not the answer we were hoping for. We much prefer our own answers – they’re worse sinners than we are so we don’t have to repent. Or, they’re innocent victims who didn’t deserve to die so they didn’t need to repent. Either way everyone goes to heaven except the really bad people.
Jesus won’t let us think or believe this way. He gives us the meaning. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” There is judgment upon humanity for sin. Those who suffer death at any time, be it through tragedy or old age, suffer God’s judgment on sin. The wages of sin is death. This is God’s Word. There is no getting around this. And death comes to all because in Adam all sinned therefore all die. This is God’s Word. There’s no getting around this either. There is no one righteous, no not a one! Again, God’s Word and no getting around this. The temptation in the midst of tragedy like we have in our world today is to believe that the Lord is vindictive – out to get the worst of us sinners, or He’s completely helpless and unable to protect us who are innocent. This is exactly what the Devil wants us to think and believe because doing so we think and believe wrongly about the Lord. Such thoughts will eventually lead to either pride – “because this didn’t happen to me I don’t need to repent”, or despair – “is there no one innocent enough to be spared such things?”
Repent and Believe the Gospel
When Jesus answers He calls for repentance and faith. “Unless you repent . . .” He turns the situation around and places it on the hearts of His hearers and therefore also on us. Jesus calls us to repent and to believe. For “God does not will the death of the wicked but that they turn and repent and live.” God wills every man, woman, and child even infants to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth in Christ Jesus.
In Christ Jesus there is a deliverer from tragedy, a preserver from death, and a rescuer from hell. He doesn’t take away suffering and the judgment upon sin still stands. Death and suffering are still with us in this world because there is still sin in the world and sin in me – for now. But Jesus has overcome the world having taking the sins of the world upon Himself. The cross is the sign and symbol of our victory for there Holy blood was shed. There righteousness was poured out upon the earth. There sin was atoned for. There death was wrestled into the ground. There the Devil’s fangs were knocked loose. There God pours out His justice and deals with sin, deals with death, deals with the devil and He deals them a decisively deadly blow. He crucifies it in His Son, having nailed to the cross the one who not only bore our curse, but became a curse for us. Here is Jesus, hanging, dying, bleeding, suffering in your place for you and for the world. Here is Jesus hanging between you His dearly loved creation and the wrath of God that is against your sins. Thus Jesus hangs between heaven and earth, between the Holy God and sinful creation. He hangs in the middle and takes it all so that we who follow Him by faith receive His destiny.
What does this Mean? Bear Fruit Worthy of Repentance!
What does this mean? What is repentance? Repentance means to turn away, turn around, to change your mind. Repentance involves turning and changing. It is a gift of God that is wrought in us by His Spirit through the Word and the Sacraments. This is what Jesus is looking for when He tells the parable of the fig tree. He’s looking for fruit worthy of repentance. The whole life of the Christian is to be one of repentance. Repentance involves change. The change is first done through the gospel as we abandon our sin and receive forgiveness. The fig tree is first made good. Thus confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness of our sins by faith we are renewed and regenerated. We’re made alive to God in Christ. And then we live out our faith through our actions. And our actions are not to be indulging in sin any more.
St. Paul says, “What shall we say then, are we to continue in sin that Grace may abound? CERTAINLY NOT!” Bearing fruit worthy of repentance means that you not only confess your sins and believe in Jesus but because you confess your sins and believe in Jesus you DON’T WANT TO KEEP ON SINNING! If you keep on purposely sinning you are showing everyone – Jesus included – that you love your sin more than the Lord. You may try wiggle out from under these words reminding yourself and your family and friends that “Jesus knows my heart so I’m okay.” But this only shows that you don’t really know His heart. Because Jesus’ Word reveals His heart and His Word is clearly against sin, every sin, all sin. There is no sin that Jesus is “okay with.”
Therefore if you let sin reign in your mortal bodies, if you intentionally keep on sinning by repenting but not giving up the sin, you jeopardize your eternal salvation. A Christian without repentance is not a Christian. Faith without works is dead. A fig tree without fruit will be cut down . . . unless there is repentance, faith and so also the amending of your sinful life. St. Paul goes on to say in Romans chapter 6 – “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13). 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Rom 6:11-14 ESV).
The Right Question
Beloved in the Lord, Jesus would have us ask the right questions and then hear the answers with faith. We are not to be asking why? Supposing some to be more worthy of death and suffering than others. Why is not the right questions. Jesus would have us ask, “what does this mean?” This is the question He answers in our text. This is the question the bible answers. And the answer always points us to Christ. Repentance turns away from sin and towards Christ.
Thus when tragedy strikes, when cancer is the diagnosis, when suffering and death are upon us we are reminded of our “dustliness” for to dust we shall return. Questions of “why” shall not give us courage nor shall the answers of this world bring us comfort. But our God has not left us in the dust. He has not abandoned us to the grave. He has given us a savior from sin, death, and devil. He’s given us Jesus. In the World you will suffer many trials and tribulations but be of good courage, take heart, be bold with faith. Jesus has overcome the World for you! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!