You All Likewise
Rev. Kurt Lantz Lent 3 C Luke 13:1-9
March 20, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people at this time and place,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you think that those who have been killed in the war in Ukraine were worse sinners than all the other Ukrainians and Russians? Do you think that those who have died from COVID-19 were worse sinners than all other people? I don’t think any of us would answer, “Yes” to those questions. Sometimes we do have a “people get what they deserve” attitude about things, but probably not in these two situations.
Perhaps Jesus is confronting such “people get what they deserve” attitudes with His answers about those Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices, and those 18 upon whom the tower in Siloam fell (Luke 13:1-5). “What goes around, comes around,” and “karma” are not Christian concepts equal to the justice of God. Karma is a Hindu and Buddhist concept teaching that a person’s actions in the present determine their destiny in the future. Were those Galileans political activists who marched into the capital city making demands for political change? Is there some possible way in which they did get what they deserve?
I catch myself thinking that way sometimes. After all, God does threaten to punish all who break His commandments, but that is only the Preface to the message of the Christian Gospel. A person’s life is not always determined by their past actions. There is plenty of inequity in suffering and violence in our fallen world. I’m sure that each and every one of us has seen that among our family and friends, if not ourselves. Even the good die young, and some very evil live a long life. Suffering comes upon the good and evil, just as the rain that falls from heaven. So, we cannot answer “Yes” to those questions of Jesus. Our secular and pagan ways of thinking are proved wrong.
But dare we answer, “No”? No, those who have been killed in war are not worse sinners than other Ukrainians and Russians. No, those who have died from disease are not worse sinners than those who haven’t caught COVID. If we do answer, “No,” then what does that mean?
We might assert that they were all innocent victims. No one deserves to die from violence or disease. That is not their fault. They did nothing to deserve that. Wouldn’t we be cruel to suggest otherwise? Are not these examples of people being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time? Who could have known that the tower would fall on that day? How could they have known that the person beside them on the bus was carrying a virus?
Well, Jesus answers “No” to His own question, but for a different reason than we might. No, those who have died were not worse sinners. And then, the next part is shocking. For He indicates that although they were not worse sinners, they still deserved to die. They were not worse sinners, but they were sinners. And what is even more offensive to us: They were sinners just like all of you. So “unless you all repent you will likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5)
This is not Jesus teaching karma concepts. This is Jesus stating God’s justice. For karma would say that your destiny depends on the degree of your present conduct whether good or bad. Jesus says that the degree of your sin doesn’t manner. If you sin, you deserve to die and go to hell. That is God’s justice. So those Galileans were not worse sinners, but in God’s justice they deserved to die because they were sinners, and you deserve to die likewise. Those 18 on whom the tower fell were not worse sinners, but they were sinners and so they deserved to die, and unless you all repent you will likewise perish.
Who wants a God like that? No one. We want a God who will give preference to our situation; who will look upon us as better than other sinners; who will not give us what we deserve, but give to others as we think they deserve, some better, some worse. That is not justice. That is sinful selfishness, pride and arrogance, bigotry and prejudice. And for that, O sinner, you deserve to die just like all others.
But this is just the Preface to Jesus’ message. It is true that we are all sinners in need of repentance. It is true that none of us are innocent. It is true that destruction is coming upon everyone because of our sins... unless you repent. Then the message is quite different. That little word “unless” unleashes a world of hope for sinners like you and me.
For if you repent of your sins, if you are sorry for them and, knowing that you deserve death and hell for them, flee to the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, then you will not likewise perish. And even if you do die in violence or disease, you will live in Christ Jesus. You will not be destroyed in hell. You will rise again to everlasting life in paradise with God.
This is God’s justice, that somehow you don’t get what you deserve for being a sinner like everyone else. You get forgiveness. You get eternal life. You get salvation from this world of wickedness and evil. This is God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ and it remains His justice. It does not show favouritism or partiality. Rather, it does away with those things, for we are all saved the same way, through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to be the Saviour of all.
Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. But if you repent, you will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). For Pilate mixed the blood of Jesus with His sacrifice for your sins. By executing the innocent Jesus of Nazareth, Pilate unleashed the blood-price for the sins of the whole world. And now, that blood is mingled with our sacrifices of praise and good works to purify them of our sins and make them and us holy and acceptable to God.
Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. But if you repent, you will not be destroyed but be raised from death to life. For Jesus died outside of Jerusalem on a cross towering above those who passed by to look on the spectacle. To those who do not repent of their sins that cross falls upon them and crushes them. But to those who look upon the One on the cross lifted high for their forgiveness, they find shelter from the crushing weight of their sins.
Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. But if you repent, you not be cut down and thrown away like a fruitless tree. For Jesus has interceded for you to spare you from the master’s wrath. He has ascended to the right hand of the Father to plead for you, that God’s just wrath against your sin be stayed and you be given another chance to turn from your fruitless dead life. That chance is now. “Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
From heaven on high, He pours out upon you His life-giving Word and Sacraments so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you produce the good fruits of faith in His redeeming love and give glory to your Father in heaven. Such a splendid tree planted by the waters of your Baptism and fertilized with the body and blood of the Saviour, cannot help but blossom in the beauty and splendour of Jesus, giving joy and pleasure to the Master by the fragrance of its flowers and the sweet savour of its fruit.
Do you think these were worse sinners? You know it is wrong to say “Yes” and you don’t need to be afraid to say “No.” There are no worse sinners than you. With such repentance you can be assured that you will not perish even though you deserve it. For Jesus has died in your place and in the whole and complete justice of God, your sins are paid in full by the sacrifice of His blood and you have life everlasting in His name.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.