Year C – Third Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:1-9

Gospel LessonLuke 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. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 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? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

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. 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?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 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

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Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

Summary – Jesus is teaching in the towns and villages of Galilee as he is going toward Jerusalem. The Pharisees tell Jesus to leave the area because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus says that he still has devils to cast out and healings to perform for the next three days, but he will be travelling toward Jerusalem during that time because it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem. Jesus then laments over Jerusalem’s rejection of him and her coming destruction. His desire to love and protect the city is like that of a hen with her chicks, yet Jerusalem would have none of it. Before Jesus is rejected and the city is destroyed, Jesus will be received by them with praise, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Insight – Have you ever identified yourself with a character in a story? Perhaps in the Chronicles of Narnia, for example, you might identify with Lucy, or even Peter, or maybe Prince Caspian. How often though do you see yourself as Aslan? Probably very little.  As we read Luke 13:31-35, and we hear Jesus being confronted on all sides by his enemies, it is easy to identify with Jesus because he is the hero. He is our Lord, and we want to be like him. But this Lenten season, in order to help prepare your soul for Easter Sunday, try to identify yourself with Jesus’ persecutors and enemies, not with Jesus. As you hear these verses see yourself as that “Fox” Herod who wants to kill Jesus. See yourself as a shady hypocritical Pharisee who wants Jesus to depart from their regions and cease doing miracles. Or perhaps you are one of those who plot and scheme about how to destroy Jesus. Perhaps you are even one of the sick whom Jesus cures, or maybe even you are one of those of whom Jesus casts out devils. Are you Jerusalem, the city that rejects and kills the prophets and who will eventually even kill Jesus? Imagine Jesus telling you that you will reject him and kill him. See the tears running down Jesus’ face as he laments over you in great love. Feel the agonizing hypocrisy of betrayal as you greet him on Palm Sunday with shouts of praise, for in one weeks time you will precede his departure with shouts again, but this time saying,  “Crucify him, crucify him!”

This Lent, in order to have a deeper and more powerful resurrection with Christ, see yourself as the reason he was crucified to begin with. Come face to face with the reality of your fallen nature. Look intently on your hatred for God, and the evil in your heart. For then, when Christ is crucified, you will see those very sins nailed upon that cross. It is necessary that in order for us to see the cross as something done for us, we need to see the cross as something done by us. Only then will we be fit to join Christ in his resurrection on Easter morning.

Catechism – In which city did Jesus die? In Jerusalem, for it cannot be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.

Discussion – Which character are you in this story? Why is Herod called a “Fox”? Were the Pharisees helping Jesus, or telling him to scram? Discuss how Jesus is like a hen, and Jerusalem like baby chicks.

Prayer – Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless us this Lenten season with hearts full of repentance. May we see our guilt in the crucifixion of our Lord, that we might faithfully receive its benefits for us.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Year C – First Sunday in Lent – Luke 4:4-14

Luke 4:4-14 (NRSV)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 

Summary – Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. These temptations attacked his trust in God for bread, for authority, and his trust in God’s Word. Jesus responded to all these temptations with absolute and unquestionable trust in God and His Word. The devil then departed from him for a season, and Jesus came back out of the wilderness still filled with the Holy Spirit.

Insight – It has been said there is a difference in being “alive” and “truly living.” This means that there is a way to be physically alive and yet completely miss out on the joy and excitement of what life is all about. Jesus refers to this “true living” when he answers the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” There is a way of living that is more important than simply remaining physically alive. Adam was told that in the day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge that he would surely die (Gen 2:17). Yet that day he did not die physically, but he did certainly die spiritually. His covenant relationship with God was destroyed, and that was the death of which God spoke (Rom. 5:12-14). Now Jesus, as the Second Adam, succeeds where Adam failed. Jesus reveals that our covenant life in God is true life (John 14:6) and is way more important than just being physically alive. In fact, the only way we are to truly live is with this covenant with God intact and unbroken. The bond that keeps this living relationship alive is the Holy Spirit, who gives us an unquestionable love and trust of God and His Word. This is where the devil tried to make Jesus sin, at the very core of his love and trust for his Father. Jesus’ death and resurrection re-connected our broken bond and He brings us back into that true life of God (Ezek. 20:37). The faithfulness of Jesus is now ours by faith, and like Jesus, when we are tempted to sin against God, we must remember that we too are filled with the Spirit and have the power to be unmovable in our commitment to God and His Word. This is what it means to “truly live.”

Catechism – How are we to truly live? Answer; Not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Discussion – How can a person be physically alive and yet dead at the same time? How does a person become “truly alive”? How is a person supposed to remain “truly alive”? What is more important than being physically alive? Discuss what a “bond” is.

Prayer – Heavenly Father, please grant to us in the day of our temptation the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Strengthen in us the bond of love and trust in You and Your Word that we may not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from Your mouth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Michael Shover