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Sunday, March 15, 2015

TOMS: Luke 13

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 15, 2007

Here we go with Luke 13. It seems like Jesus doesn't spend much time coddling His audience, telling them what they want to hear. He is always challenging something. In this case, He challenges the idea that bad things happen to bad people: "There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were 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. Or those eighteen 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.'" (13:1-5)

The boys in my Sunday School class think like the Jews did here. Our lesson was about how Peter raised Dorcas from the dead. I asked them why God chooses to heal some people and allows others to die or get worse. They didn't really have any answers, other than they deserved it. Of course they are just 7-9 year olds, but still lots adults think that way today. Jesus disabuses the Jews of that notion here. He brings up two instances which are not recorded elsewhere in the Bible but were apparently big news at the time. Pilate, who was governor of Judea and not Galilee, apparently executed some Galileans as they were making sacrifices in Jerusalem. Also, the tower at the pool of Siloam, one of the water sources for Jerusalem, fell and killed 18 people. Everybody thought these people died because of God's punishment. But Jesus tells them punishment had nothing to do with it. The circumstances of a person's death do not indicate whether or not they were a good or bad person. These people did not die because they were especially wicked, and God did not have an extra special punishment waiting for them. The real question is whether they repented, and that is the real question for everyone.

Next we have a couple of parables that are often misinterpreted: "He said therefore, 'What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.' And again he said, 'To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.'" (13:18-21)

This parables teach basically the same thing. A mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, or at least one of the smallest, and yet if it is allowed to grow, it will become a large plant. The kingdom of God, whether Jesus is talking about the kingdom in general or the church in particular I don't know and it doesn't really matter because it's all the same thing, starts out small but will one day become a large, glorious thing. A little yeast is nothing compared to a lump of dough, but it is the key factor in making the small lump into a large loaf of bread. A lot of people think the yeast here refers to sin, but Jesus would never say the kingdom of God is like sin. Yeast is compared to sin in other places, but context is important to determine if a comparison is to be applied uniformly. There's no hard and fast rule that requires that metaphors always be used the same way in Scripture.

In the next section, Luke records a similar teaching to what is found in the Sermon on the Mount, but Luke adds more: "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!' In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God." (13:24-29, ESV)

The Jews were confident that they were going to heaven because they were Abraham's children. But Jesus tells them it takes more than bloodlines to be part of the kingdom of God. It takes repentance, a renewal of your heart.

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