We’ve been looking together at the Call of the King, asking the question: “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus the King?” In Luke 13:1-9, we see that one of the marks of a disciple of Jesus is that you are a person who repents. And not just someone who repents once- but someone who repents again and again and again!
In this passage, a group of people come to Jesus reporting to him about a public tragedy. Jesus perceives that beneath their report is a subtle self-righteousness, the idea that “those people” who were killed must have been worse sinners than those who were spared. But Jesus will not indulge their sense of moral superiority. Instead, he uses it as an opportunity to invite them to repent-- which literally means “to turn around.” He invites them to turn away from their own sin and selfishness and to turn back to God. This suggests that it is often those who are most secure in a sense of their own righteousness, “the good people,” who are most in need of repentance.
Jesus then goes on to tell a story about a fig tree. Though the owner of the tree wants to discard it because it has not produced fruit, the compassionate vine-dresser wants to give the tree another year. He’ll tend to its roots, he says, and do what it needs. There are at least two lessons here for us. One, true repentance gets to the root of sin. Too many of us say sorry for our surface mistakes and issues, without attending to the deep subterranean disease beneath our behavior. Jesus wants deep repentance, not just surface regret. But second, we learn that God is compassionate and patient. He desires us to repent, he wants to have us back, and He always leaves the door open for our return. “God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). There is no time better to repent than right now!
Repentance is not just how we become Christians. It’s how we grow as Christians as well, as we continuously turn away from our self-centeredness and turn toward our gracious King.
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Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 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?’
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”