Gospel Lesson – Luke 13:1-9 NRSV
“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Summary – This passage has two parts, the first describes two historical events in which certain persons died, and the second is a parable that applies the meaning of those events to the current listeners. The first event tells of certain persons from Galilee who had been killed by Pontius Pilate, who then mingled their blood with the blood of the sacrifice in the Temple. The second event tells of the Tower of Siloam falling and killing eighteen people in Jerusalem. The second part of the passage is a parable about a fig tree that bears no fruit. The man who owned it has been looking for fruit for three years and has found none. He is about to cut it down. The fig tree in the parable is Israel, and the man looking for three years for fruit is Jesus. He has found none. Therefore, unless Israel repents, then judgment will come upon them, just as judgment came upon the people in the first two events.
Insight – Some people think that they can live as they please right now, and then, right before they die, they can repent and believe, and be forgiven. The reality though is that we never know when we are going to die. While we might think we have 80 years to live, the truth could be that we die in a car accident tomorrow. Or a tower might fall on us, or we might die in our sleep. We never know. The lesson we are to learn from bad things happening to others, like a tower falling on them, is that these things could just as easily happen to us. That means we are to repent of our sins now, for we never know what could happen to us, and when. Those people who died are not worse sinners than we are, are they? Did they deserve to die anymore than you or I do right now? Jesus didn’t think so. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” This Lenten season, we should be continually repenting and remember those ashes that were placed upon our foreheads, remembering that our life is but dust, and to the dust we shall return. Therefore repent, brothers and sisters, and flee to Jesus. Then bear fruit in keeping with your repentance (Luke 3:9-14).
Catechism – Are those who suffer untimely death worse sinners than others? No. But unless we repent, we will all perish just as they did.
Discussion – What is repentance? How do we know we truly repent? What happens if we do not repent?
Prayer – Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those O God who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according Your promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And Grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.
Submitted by Michael J. Shover