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When lifes direction

Biography of Jesus #59

"When life’s direction needs to be changed,

sooner is better than later"

Luke 13:1-9




1. John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife and sister-in-law took off last month from an airport just across the highway from the high school from which I graduated. He piloted his single engine plane toward Cape Cod but they never made it---crashing into the ocean near Nantucket. Almost immediately there was worldwide speculation about a Kennedy curse. Could it be that he, his wife and sister-in-law tragically died because of some sin he committed or a series of sins in the Kennedy clan?


2. When a daytrader-gone-wild shot and killed innocent people in and around Atlanta, was there something spiritual and supernatural behind what happened?

3. When Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building exploded and took the lives of hundreds of unsuspecting visitors and workers, was there some spiritual connection between what happened and their deaths?

4. Every generation has its tragedies. Every generation wonders about the spiritual and supernatural meaning behind the otherwise unexplainable catastrophes that steal the lives of otherwise healthy people. Plane crashes. Epidemics. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Droughts. Mass murders. What do they mean?


5. It was no different in Jesus’ generation. Some people came to Jesus with the latest news of tragedy. Some worshippers from the northern province of Galilee had been murdered at the temple while they were offering their worship to God.

It reminded Jesus of another recent tragedy when the tower in Siloam collapsed and crushed 18 other people who were caught by surprised and quickly killed.

Both of these stories raised a practical theological problem that Jesus wanted to answer: "Is suffering always a direct consequence of sinning?"

6. Let’s review the stories that triggered the question.


I. Problem: Luke 13:1-5


Is suffering always a direct consequence of sinning?

A. Story #1 = "The altar murders"

1. Story #1 is about the altar murders. We don’t know the exact historical details although it isn’t hard to fill in some of the blanks.

2. Pilate was the Roman governor over Jerusalem. He was notoriously hardhearted and heavy handed. While he did some wonderful things for the city he often stomped out all personal and political opposition.

3. The people of Galilee were renowned as rebellious. They often opposed Roman rule.

4. Some news-bearers ran up to Jesus to tell "about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices."

5. Do you remember the moment when you first heard about some great tragedy?

I was talking on the phone when a friend heard the news and told me that the Challenger had exploded and killed our American astronauts. I was in a rental car in Findley, Ohio when I listened to a radio report about the Oklahoma City federal building explosion. I was in Moscow, Russia when missionaries Matt and Terri Miller told me that John Kennedy’s plane was missing and presumed down.

Jesus was teaching his followers when the news arrived about the slaughter of Galilean worshippers.

6. History reports at least one other occasion when Pilate ordered his soldiers to enter a temple crowd under disguise and then suddenly throw off the disguises and bludgeon the worshippers. Apparently that’s what happened to those Galileans. They had their hearts on God and they were murdered.

7. You can’t help but wonder why. Jesus asked a question that was on everyone’s mind: "Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?"

In those days people assumed that calamity in life was a direct consequence of sin. In other words, they assumed that these murdered people must have done something terribly wrong to suffer what they suffered. They got what they deserved.

8. There are people who hold to the same theology today.

If someone gets cancer or has a terrible business setback or faces some other calamity, it must be because of sin in that person’s life.

It is not uncommon for terminally or chronically ill patients to rehearse everyone they have offended in life and ask for forgiveness in order to receive divine healing.

9. Jesus asked: "Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?"

Jesus answered: "I tell you, no!" (Jesus is saying that such a notion is bad theology. It’s just not true.)

10. Yet Jesus adds a seemingly contradictory line: "But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (That seems to say that there is a direct connection between sin and sickness or death.).


B. Story #2 = "The tower tragedy"

1. Jesus then adds a second story about a second recent event. It is the story of the tower tragedy.

2. The tower of Siloam in Jerusalem collapsed and eighteen people were killed.

One Bible scholar has an interesting possible explanation of this story. Pilate recognized the need for a new water system for Jerusalem. He forcibly withdrew the money from the temple treasury to pay for it. The Jews were really upset and angry. Pilate then used the money to pay the construction workers. Some people may have assumed that God punished the workers for accepting the stolen money as wages—God caused the tower to fall and crush them!

3. Suppose you accepted drug money to pay your salary. Then you were severely injured in an accident. Would you think it was God’s punishment?

4. Jesus asked: "Do you think these eighteen were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?"

Jesus answered: "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."


C. Moral to these stories

1. So what’s the moral to these tragic stories?

>>>We never know when tragedy will strike and we should always be spiritually ready.<<

2. We live in a world that is contaminated with sin. There is sickness, corruption, injustice, disasters, violence and risk everywhere. No one is exempt. You never know when you will be in a car accident, be assaulted, get a disease or suddenly die. Life is not fair. Life is not predictable. You just never know when you might be murdered or have a building collapse or a plane crash.

So, always be ready. If you have sin on your conscience, confess it and get right with God. If you have something wrong with a relationship, go and get it straightened out. If your life is going in the wrong direction, never assume that you have much time to change directions.

3. Jesus tells his followers to repent or perish. To repent is to change directions. It is to stop going the wrong way and start going the right way. It is a tragic thing to die headed in the wrong direction.



II. Parable Luke 13:6-9

The tree that didn’t produce

A. Missing the purpose of life

1. Jesus tied a parable to his teaching about repentance. A parable is a made-up story to teach a main point. It was a common teaching tool of Jesus Christ. Here’s what he said:

"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

"‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’"


2. Topsoil in the Middle East is sparse. While vineyards are mostly for growing grapes, farmers sometimes planted trees on any unused little piece of soil. Fig trees were a good choice because they didn’t take a lot of room and typically produced a crop after three years.

3. In Jesus parable, the fig tree didn’t produce anything. So, the owner ordered it chopped down. The land was too valuable to keep a tree that didn’t do what the tree was supposed to do.

4. Jesus was probably referring to the nation of Israel but the principle of the parable applies to us as well. Each of us has a purpose in life. God planted us where we are to produce fruit. If we don’t do what we are supposed to do, we might as well be chopped down.

5. What does God want from you where you are planted? What is the purpose of your life?

Many people have no idea. That is sad - - - to live life and have no idea why; to be born and live and die and never have a purpose or accomplish what life is supposed to be about.

Other people have mistaken purposes. They say that the purpose of life is to have a good time, make money, be famous or have success. This is like a fig tree that grows leaves but never grows figs. It looks good but misses out on what matters the most.

I encourage you to learn and know God’s purpose for your life. Think about it. Pray about it. Be quick to name the fruit your are supposed to grow.

Knowing your purpose can transform your whole life. Your attitude at work, at home, in the neighborhood or wherever you are planted will be different when you can say "my purpose is to show others the life and love of God in this place." You will be able to face disappointment with courage and accept success without pride. All of life is growing the fruit God has called you to grow.


B. God of the second chance

1. In Jesus’ parable, the gardener intervenes on behalf of the fig tree and asks the owner to give it one more year. It is a second chance to do what it is supposed to do.

2. It’s just like Jesus to bring this into his story. Jesus intervenes on our behalf to give us another chance. For those who have wasted years of life, for those who have lived without purpose and direction, for those who have born no fruit for God where they are planted - - - Jesus says, "Give it one more shot. Allow one more year. Let her try again. Give him another chance."

3. It is still the theme of repentance. Remember, repentance is changing directions—quit going the wrong way and start going the right way.

4. If that’s you, listen up to Jesus’ parable. Take this as a gift from Jesus. Seek and live your God-given purpose in life. Do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t waste another day just taking up space. Be and do what God wants you to be and do where you are planted!


C. Warning of the last chance

1. With Jesus’ gracious offering of a second chance he adds a serious warning about the last chance. He says, "If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down."

2. In other words, the tree doesn’t get 100 years to do what a fig tree is supposed to do. It needs to produce figs or make room for a tree that will produce figs.

3. Jesus warns us not to waste our lives. Don’t expect that we can go on and on without fulfilling our God-given purpose in life. There’s a limit. There’s an end. There’s a last chance.



1. I suppose some people may hear these teachings of Jesus and take them negatively. They resent talk about bloody catastrophes and warnings about going the wrong way in life. Religion can sound so restrictive. Jesus can sound so pessimistic. Where’s the freedom? Where’s the grace? Where’s the fun?


2. Come on, let’s be fair and let’s understand. Imagine getting a great new job with a brand-new car as a perk. Your job is to represent the company all over town and maybe even all over the country. You’ll get to go to wonderful places and meet lots of interesting people. Your new boss gives you directions as he hands you the new car’s keys. The directions include six right turns and four left turns to get onto the highway you need to take. He warns you not to take some tempting shortcuts.

When you drive away from the headquarters you can see the highway you want much closer than you expected. The problem is that there is a left turn arrow with a red circle around it and a slash through it. Also, there is a sign that says NO LEFT TURN. You decide to turn left anyway. Next there is a sign that says DO NOT ENTER. But you keep going. A delivery truck is coming straight at you, but you are driving a big SUV so you swerve onto the shoulder and into the nearby ditch and have a near miss. Back on the road, you keep going until you see a huge sign that says WRONG WAY.

What are you going to do? Keep going or change directions?


3. Jesus says, "unless you repent, you will perish." It’s simple—if you’re going the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction. If you aren’t fulfilling your purpose in life where you are planted, grab your second chance and do what you are supposed to do.


4. The sum of it all is that Jesus loves us and wants the very best for us. He warns against going the wrong direction and invites us to follow him, go the right direction and fulfill our God-given purpose for living.


August 8-9, 1999 Wooddale Church

ęCopyright, Leith Anderson, 1999.

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