GUEST POST – A Sermon Preached during the Spiritual Empowerment
- Luke 12:54-13:1-9
Friends, we may never tell why good things happen to bad people or why bad things happen to good people. But one thing is clear, when bad things happen to those whom we presume to be bad, we rejoice and inside our hearts we celebrate that at last God has punished them. We are preoccupied with smelling out or smoking out those who are sinners or evil due to sufferings they are undergoing while we never take just a moment to look at ourselves. We have no time to focus on our own wretchedness.
This is what Jesus at one time, asked His audience in the Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 7:3-5 “3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
In the same way, Paul had the similar questions to ask the Roman Jews in regard to God’s law:
Romans 2:21-24 “21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Back to the Text:
In our Luke’s text, Jesus begins the conversation at Luke 12:1 with a crowd:
Luke 12:1 “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
As He continued to address the disciples while those in the crowd just watched, somebody in the crowd decided to interrupt Christ:
Luke 12:13-14 “13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
After handling the heckler or the interruption, Jesus goes on to address His disciples:
Luke 12:22-23 “22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”
At this stage, the stuff Jesus is talking about seems to be real heavy stuff that Simon Peter is somehow concerned and he decides to interrupt Christ:
Luke 12:41-43 “:41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” 42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.”
By this time, Christ is moving the conversation to another level, His talk is moving to a crescendo and in a way, He is getting worked up:
Luke 12:49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”
Oooh Jesus is now breathing fire; His conversation has now evolved from just being a talk to His disciples to a warning to the crowd.
“I Tell You No! But Unless You Repent…” now points us to three crucial aspects of Christ’s address to the crowd:
- Interpretation of Natural Events vizavi Spiritual Smatters
Friends, the way we interpret ordinary and natural events or happenings is not the same as the way we perceive spiritual things.
People have become experts in interpretation of events and happenings – People want to know; people want to read into events; people want to speculate:
i.e the famous Handshake between His excellency Uhuru Kenyatta and The Rt Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga…
Friends, we, more than often, tend to rely on human wisdom as opposed to spiritual revelation. We appeal to speculation; trying to find meaning and forcing reason into events.
Jesus acknowledged the crowd’s power of accuracy in speculating or interpreting the natural events, especially concerning the weather – they were expert weather forecasters:
Luke 12:54-55 “54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is.”
But then, Jesus was disappointed and angry with them, that they failed the spiritual tests:
Luke 12:56-57 “56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? 57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?
Jesus seems to lament: Oooh how I wish you would also get it right when speculating on spiritual matters!! Oooh how I wish you could also be spiritual forecasters!
The crowd were living in conflicts with their neighbours and pursuing lawsuits against each other. Yet they could not spiritually forecast that they needed to reconcile as soon as possible.
For Christ, they were hypocrites who could waste their time speculating on none essentials rather than devote their energy on the essentials – reconciliation, peacebuilding and conflict resolution! Jesus was angry with the crowd that they could correctly speculate on none essentials rather than spiritually forecasting that they were walking the path of self-destruction – (Luke 12:58-59).
The second aspect of Jesus’ address is the whole belief that whatever happens either positively or negatively to a person affirms the person’s spiritual status. Whenever a person goes through some challenges or some successes, we, most obviously, equate their experience to their spiritual status.
Friends, we live in a time of spiritual judgements and condemnation – where positivity and negativity defines spirituality. Whenever something, either positive or negative happens to us or to someone, we will find ourselves either loudly or inwardly asking: why has it happened to me and not to him or to her; why? Why has it happened to her or to him and not to me? Why? And why?
Sometimes we have become experts in interpreting how people pay for the consequences of their evils by the evils that happens to them! Or others are paid positively by goodness because of their holiness. I am sorry to guess but almost 90% of our judgements are against “the others”, our negative spiritual comments are how others are getting what they deserve
Jesus shifts the focus from those who have suffered whatever is negative or are going through sufferings and challenges to the self-righteous. Jesus shifts their focus from seeing those who have suffered calamities as the sinners. Jesus shifts their focus from “the others” to themselves.
Luke 12:1-5 “1 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.”
Jesus was telling and He is still telling the self-righteous; don’t think you are standing on a safer ground – “…unless you repent…” Jesus is telling the self-righteous, you are not home yet – “…unless you repent…”
Jesus asked them a soul-searching question: “Do you think they were worse sinners than..?” “Do think they were more guilty than…?”
Do you think those suffering are the worst sinners than you who are seating pretty? Do you think that those who are suffering because of HID/AIDS are more guilty of immorality than; do you think that those who are being drugged into the courts because of the various scandals in our country are more corrupt than those who are walking around scot-free? “…unless you repent…”
Yes, they might be suffering because of their sins, or guilt but you might also be guilty; and so guilt is guilt; and sin is sin; there is no big sin and small sin. The person who have stolen billions from the tax payers and the one who have taken the institution’s property to his house without signing for it is also corrupt. Corruption is corruption whether mega or mini.
- God’s Suffering Grace
The final aspect of Jesus’ discourse is the unmerited God’s favour to every sinner. The reason every sinner is still walking the street of Nairobi and is not in prison is God’s suffering grace. God, through His grace, have chosen to suffer patiently, waiting for the guilty and the sinner to repent.
Jesus made it clear to the crowd, who thought that they were holy while the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices were sinners or the eighteen men who died when the tower fell on them were more guilty; that they have been spared only and only due to God’s suffering grace but not due to their spiritual uprightness.
The reason you and I have not met the same fate like the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices; the reason you and I have not suffered the same fate as those eighteen men who died when the tower fell on them, is due to God’s suffering grace. God, in His gracious mercy has suffered in patient, waiting for you and me, to be spiritually productive; waiting for you and me to produce spiritual fruits; waiting for you and me to repent.
Luke 12:6-9 The illustration of the fig tree planted in the vineyard
Through God’s suffering grace – Christ intercedes for us with His Father; “Father, “…leave it alone for one more year, and I will dig around it and fertilize it”.
Today, I believe that through “I Tell You No! But Unless You Repent…” God has spoken to both of us; both of us, first to those who may be going through hardships, sufferings, shame, lose, etc and secondly to those who are standing on a safe ground – because it has not happened to you; probably celebrating the predicament of those Galileans and the eighteen men. Remember, we are all sinners but it is only through God’s suffering grace that we are still standing in order to repent.
I call each one of us this evening to the altar of self-abasement and to repentance. Remember God’s suffering grace is TIME-BOUND, it is not an open ended freewill and free control: “…‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
The Rev. Simon J. Oriedo