+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 13:3
Theme: Seriousness of Sin
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Strong words; very strong words from Jesus! He can read the heart. He knew exactly what they were asking. He had just been teaching them about making right judgments and approaching conflict with an attitude of reconciliation. Now He must be unmistakably clear that there is no bargaining with God. The notion of when, and in what measure repentance is necessary simply cannot be entertained. Faith is always seeking the forgiveness of God. Christians never believe the need for mercy is obsolete.
On this third Sunday in Lent our appointed Scriptures address one concern above all others. It is the concern of true reverence for who God is and what He wills. It is the concern of true repentance. The Israelites were delivered through the Red Sea and yet set their hearts on evil. The Galileans were trying to measure the sins of others, but Jesus told them bluntly, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”1 Dear friends, God wishes us to have no confusion over the zeal of His justice or the certainty of consequences for transgressing His will. God is serious about His intentions and resolute in His judgments. We deserve His temporal and eternal punishment. God does not tolerate sin; this state of existence must be resolved.
The questioning of Jesus in today’s gospel about the Galileans who fell victim to Herod’s despotism typifies human nature. They wanted to know what great sins these other people had committed to receive such a harsh judgment. What about those who were crushed by the Tower of Siloam? People were wanting to know just what measure of punishment would be doled out for a corresponding level of sin. People always want to test the limit of what they can get away with. Can we lie and deceive? Can we gossip and slander? Can we covet and steal? Can we participate in sexual immorality? Can we sin intentionally, in a “controlled” way, and not be punished? When people believe they can they are emboldened to sin all the more.
Why did those particular people board Malaysian airline flight 370 which subsequently disappeared? Why were these certain people in the path of a cyclone or in the way of a tornado? Why did those people contract the Zika virus? Why did those people get Bird flu? Why do people suddenly die of heart attacks, strokes, and traffic accidents? What does the Scripture say? God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”2 He says, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live”3
True repentance does not ask which sins of commission or omission may be tolerated by God. True repentance laments the totality of our condition as poor, miserable sinners. True repentance eagerly trusts in the offer of complete and full forgiveness. Christians live God-pleasing lives always and only vicariously, that is, not of our own accord but through Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”4 The Christian life of humility is characterized by the example of Jesus in Luke 17, “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty,’”5
We do not live before God in fear and trepidation, but in reverence and with joy. The cross has turned wrath into favor. The crucifixion has wrought the exchange of bondage for freedom, of exile for rapprochement, of division for reconciliation. The cross has turned darkness into light and time into eternity for all who believe. Jesus Christ rose from the grave and has turned death into life. He lives and He dispenses to us that life.
Nothing we face, even the “new” evils of the world today, is novel to Him. Christ has always attended to His people and nothing can frighten Him. Consider what we heard earlier. “I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”6 Yes, the Messiah who had not yet taken on human flesh accompanied His people through the desert. How much more so we who have Him who has been crucified, raised from death, and now intercedes before the throne of grace! They were baptized figuratively as they were delivered from physical bondage across the Red Sea. We are baptized literally and freed from the grip of sin for all eternity. They were nourished with spiritual food in anticipation of the sacred feast to come. We have the substance, the body and blood of Christ, a holy banquet overflowing with forgiveness, life and salvation.
Dear friends, we are drawing near to Holy Week and one concern must be held above all others. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”7 Imprint this on your minds, etch it on your hearts, teach it to your children, discuss it with your friends, pray it for your enemies, share it with strangers, think it in your thoughts and live it in your actions. Be faithful and diligent in handling this truth and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Christianity is not complicated, but it is all-encompassing.
What are we to make of the concerns voiced to our Lord today? The “Why do bad things happen?” script can easily be flipped. Why should we expect care-free, smooth-sailing through life? Why does anything good happen at all? On what basis should we assume that life should generally be safe and enjoyable? There is none! Yet, the lavish generosity of God attends us every day. Good does happen and it will prevail because the conquering love of Christ overcomes all the forces of evil. The apostle says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”8 Is it so bad if we suffer trials and tribulations, frailty of body and mind, injury to heart and will if we know a resurrection awaits us? Is it so bad if we close our eyes this very night and wake up in heaven? On the cross the eyes of Christ closed in death. But He opened them again and in His light we see light9. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Third Sunday in Lent
28 February, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Luke 13:3
2 2 Peter 3:9
3 Ezekiel 18:32
4 Romans 8:10
5 Luke 17:7-10
61 Corinthians 10:1-4
7 John 14:6
8 1 John 3:1
9 See Psalm 36:9