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Repent Or Perish

March 22, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 12:58–13:9

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
March 24, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 3
Repent Or Perish

[Jesus] also said to the crowds, "As you go with your accuser before the magistrate make an effort to settle with him on the way lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the bailiff, and the bailiff put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny."

There were some present at that very time who told Jesus 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."

And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, 'Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down! Why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put manure on it. Then if it should bear fruit next year well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'" Luke 12:58 – 13:9

A woman is pregnant for nine months before she delivers.

Early on she may not even know she is with child but as the pregnancy progresses it becomes more and more pressing until one day it is the only thing.

The events we hear in today’s gospel take place very late in the pregnancy of salvation. The bloody baptism with which Jesus is to be baptized for the world’s redemption is ever so near. We learn this from verse 1 where St. Luke writes, “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.”

What time? The occasion on which Jesus instructed people to avoid going to court, but to settle with their accuser on the way. Jesus was not dispensing legal advice but religious advice; spiritual advice; theological advice that will last for eternity.

For, you see, until you come to terms with Jesus the crucified Lord he is your Accuser; and God the Magistrate will consign you to hell until the last penny of your debt is paid. There will be no purgatorial work-release program, only an un-payable eternal debt.

Is that a jolt? If so it is because we still don’t understand the gospel of peace, but only a watered-down, “what-a-friend-we-have-in-Jesus,” version of it. But don’t throw stones yet! Because the Great Theological Truths of Holy Scripture are foreign to the human mind; to say nothing of offensive to human pride. And so we are always more likely to misunderstand than to understand. Which is why we must submit not just to the church’s preaching ministry, but to her teaching ministry; and why every Christian must engage in theological reading, study and devotion.

Yes, Jesus is Savior like no other! The Savior who loves us, and whom we can love in return. The one who gave his all for us! Who deletes the sin of the world.
Not like the ostriches of culture who think that if they pretend something doesn’t exist, it doesn’t.

But Jesus faced our sins head on! He bore them in his body on the Tree. He absorbed all of their judgment, all of their guilt, all of their pain, all of their sorrow, all of their loss, and all of their shame. He met sin head on, he conquered it, and locked it away in the deepest regions of hell where those who will not repent can “enjoy” it for all eternity. There is nothing worse than that!

But for those who will not receive his Great Sacrifice by baptismal life the message is this: “Unless you repent, you likewise will perish.”

In today’s epistle St. Paul tells us about a large contingent of the Old Testament church who disdained the mercy of God and perished in the process. He thus warns us, “don’t desire evil as they did.” “Don’t put Christ to the test like they did!” And, “If anyone thinks that he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.”

Thank God for such warning because temptation can be overpowering; and the testing of our faith grueling! Thank God that he will not allow you to be tested beyond your ability, and that he will always provide a way out!

And so be patient. Be calm. Be religious. Love the things of God. Fix your eyes upon Jesus as he is seen on the crucifix, our beloved “graven image.” And in the Bread and Cup we elevate, and partake of, each Sunday. Fix your eyes on it, and receive it as your way of escape from our implacable addiction to self-destruction.

But the cornerstone of today’s worship is the gospel. What was the point these people were trying to make with Jesus by bringing up the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices? This senseless act of violence? What were they doing?

They were tossing him a red herring! Jesus was confronting them with the most vital decision of all, to follow him, and they changed the subject.

Jesus says: what about this?

They respond with: what about that? What about Pilate’s evil deed?

But hear the Lord’s response? “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other Galileans because they died this way? No,” says Jesus, “but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Please take careful note that the Lord does not get all sloppy like newscasters do over such events. Nor does he condemn Pilate (who would soon condemn him). Nor does he propose new legislation to curb violence; or make a bid for better building codes so that buildings won’t fall on people. He does something much better than all that! He sets the record straight. He teaches us that: bad things will always happen and that one is exempt: good, bad or indifferent.

But the cross, which he will soon mount for the world’s salvation, is the pivot point for humanity. For us! One either turns his back on sin, culture and Satan and goes to the cross with Jesus by holy baptism; and a baptismal life; or he perishes a fruitless tree!

And then our Good God tells the most wonderful parable of all! A parable that will console you in all testing, and strengthen in every temptation! For, you see, Jesus is the Gardener. The Merciful one who intercedes for us with the Gracious one on our behalf. There is nothing better than that!

Truly we have failed to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The Evil One, and the people who hate us say: Cut her down! Pluck him up! Why should this waste of life, this waste of air, be allowed to go on?

But Jesus stays with you and works his grace in you, he is doing it now, on that you can rely. He is our Mediator, Advocate and High Priest and because of his intercession we will never perish.