Repent or Perish Luke 13:1-9
13 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, planted 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.’”
Repent or Perish. That is the theme of the Sermon today. It sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? Well, in a sense it is. It doesn’t leave much doubt. We are all going the wrong way in relation to God, and we are all going to die if we keep going as we are.
I’m not talking about physical death, as the people were who came to Jesus. I mean that eternal death that comes from taking the wrong path. The opposite of eternal life. Hell. That’s where we are heading, Jesus said, along with all other people, unless we repent. Unless we turn away from that path, and grab hold of the way out that we have been given.
Repent or Perish. A depressing theme for us, because we concentrate on the “perish” side of things so much. And this is the place where you have always heard the fire and brimstone preaching, trying to scare you into doing the right thing. Repent or perish sounds like a nasty message.
But I want to change your minds about that. That is what “repent” means, to change your mind. To change your mind about the way you are going, about your sin. To repent means to turn away from, to completely change direction.
First imagine that there is a beautiful four-lane highway leading to the edge of a divide, like the Grand Canyon, and that way off in the distance the highway continues on the other side of the divide. The other side is Heaven.
It is so tempting to drive ever onward through life in the belief that if we are good enough, we can jump the great divide to the other side. Maybe if we get a good run-up, or try to build ourselves a ramp, we can get over. Well, if we think that we will even get close to making it across we are fooling ourselves. We will fall.
That is what happens if we believe that we are our own gods, or believe that we can save ourselves. If we trust in human goodness to save us.
Otherwise we might not believe that the gap is there at all, and try to keep on driving. We will fall. That is what happens when we say that we don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, and so we go smiling to our destruction. The bottom of the canyon in our analogy is where the fires of hell are.
Another temptation is to try to stay on this side for as long as possible, and pretend we aren’t interested in the other side. We live for today, driving fast and dangerously, and try to have so much fun that we forget about what we are missing out on. In the end, we are forced towards the edge by all the traffic, and just like all the other ways, we still fall.
Death catches up with all of us one day.
We are caught in peak hour. We are driving with everyone else straight towards that edge. No matter how slowly we try to go, no matter how hard we resist, we are swept along on the tide. We are going to fall.
But Jesus has put up a sign for us. “Detour”.
Jesus has built a bridge. A bridge to the other side. He puts up a road sign telling us about it. Do you know what it says on that sign? “Turn aside or perish” ,“Repent or Perish”.
Suddenly we feel differently about these words, don’t we? We don’t see them as nasty or threatening, but as a beacon of hope. We have a way out of our headlong slide towards the end.
There are members of our families or friends who have seen this sign all of their lives and ignored it. They have driven straight over the edge and fallen to their destruction. “ I don’t need a detour, this is a great highway”.
Some of us have seen that sign a few times on our drive and finally decided to listen to it, and turn aside. Some of us turned the first time we saw it.
But the detour that Jesus has given us is narrow and winding, and it leads to a one-way bridge across the divide. It doesn’t look very easy, so most people don’t bother to take it.
What happens when we get to the bridge that Jesus provides for us? It is high and it is narrow, and we get scared that we can’t drive across it on our own. What if something happens to us? What if we put a wheel over the edge?
That is when we realize what a gift we have been given. We don’t drive across the bridge of our Christian lives alone. Jesus has gone across in front of us and we have his example to follow across. We are safe in convoy with him.
Our text for today has some useful lessons for us as we drive through life.
The people in our text who were murdered and the people who had the tower fall on them went over the edge to their physical death. Those who reported this to Jesus wondered why. They wanted to know if these people had
done anything wrong?
A few of us may get to the edge before others. Jesus says that this doesn’t mean they are worse sinners.
We need to repent, to turn aside, or we will one day topple over the cliff too. We should be worrying about our own drive through life, not someone else’s. While our eyes are on other people, we might miss Jesus’ detour sign.
The second part of the text tells us that there is a limit to the amount of times we will see this sign in our lives, and have the opportunity to turn aside.
It is no use ignoring the opportunity we have been given, in the hope that we will have the chance again later. It may not come.
Some are saved at the very last, as they are about to fall, just like the fig tree in our text. It was given one last chance as the gardener pleaded for it. But we do know that if it didn’t bear fruit it would at last be cut down.
As we hurtle towards the edge, we may be given one last detour sign as Jesus tries to save us, but he can’t turn the wheel for us if we don’t want his help. In the end if we don’t turn, we will run out of road, and fall to our destruction. We will be like the fig tree that is cut down.
“Repent or Perish”
It isn’t a harsh threat anymore, is it? It is Good News for us, that we have been given a chance. There is something for us other than perishing when we do repent and turn aside from our old lives.
As we turn aside from our certain death and go the way of Christ, we have an opportunity. Once we know where the detour leads, we surely will want to plant that detour sign in front of others.
What a tragedy it is that someone who has been driving blissfully along all their life falls off the cliff, and realizes too late that they are heading for doom. They look up and see the bridge and say “No one told me that there was a way across” “No-one put up a detour sign”
This is one of the challenges that has fueled the mission work and evangelism of the church. This is part of the “drive” behind our mission to the unchurched. We are called to be God’s council workers, putting up that detour sign for those around us.
Now, Lent is the time to think about the direction in which we are going, to take stock of our lives. Where are you on your drive through life?
“Repent or Perish” What a wonderful message. What a song of hope. We have been given a way out.