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Third Sunday in Lent

Luke 13:1–9

James T. Batchelor

Lent 3, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Feb 28, 2016 

We live in a dangerous world.  Every day the headlines tell us of the evil in the world.  Nature is dangerous and people are dangerous.  We do not even need the Bible to tell us this.  We can learn this from our own experience.

The danger of nature is obvious.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, and so forth all threaten lives around the world.  Yes, there is the beauty of sunsets and sunrises, the stars in the sky, views from mountaintops and ocean beaches, and so forth, but nature also has its violent side as well a violent side that brings pain and death to many.

The human race is just as bad.  Every day we learn about murder and mayhem on the individual level as well as the level of conflicts and wars between nations.  Gunman, bombers, and knife wielding lunatics attack schools, shopping malls, subways, buses, and neighborhoods.  The depravity of the human race is something that is obvious just from experience.

In this mornings Gospel, we heard about some people who came to Jesus with this exact same problem of evil in the world.  There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1) These people wanted Jesus to explain why God allows such evil in this world.  Instead of bringing comfort to them, Jesus brought another example to their attention.  He answered them, Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:25) Jesus was telling them that, sooner or later, everyone will come to the end of his time in this world.  It might be sudden like these people, or it might come after a long life.  Either way, if you come to that end without repentance, you will perish eternally.  The implication is that with repentance that is with the faith that trusts in Gods promises of the forgiveness of sins, you will be ready for such tragedies.

Many people wonder why God allows such evil in this world.  In fact, many people insist that the existence of evil is inconsistent with the God of the Bible.  A God who loves would hate evil and want to get rid of it.  A God who is almighty would have the resources to rid the world of evil.  So, if God is almighty and loving, then there should be no evil.  The evil in the world suggests that if God is almighty, then He doesnt care, or if He does care and evil bothers Him, then He cant be almighty.  In either case, this does not match the Bibles description of God.

The answer to this problem comes in several parts.  The first part is to realize that God is not the source of evil.  The Bible clearly states that God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31) God created a good earth and gave it to us as a home.  However, we soon discover that the first people, Adam and Eve, fell into sin.  When they fell, they broke Gods perfect creation.  They let evil into the world and they passed that evil down to us through all our generations.  As the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle Paul, Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

The Bible also teaches that when Adam and Eve sinned, they didnt just mess up the human race, but they also messed up creation.  The Lord God Himself gave this diagnosis to Adam, Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:1719) These words explain the reason that nature fights our efforts.  These words teach that even the disasters of nature are the result of the rebellion of humanity.

A reasonable person will see that the God described in the Bible is not the source of evil in the world.  Instead, it is the creatures that God created that are the source of evil first the fallen angels, and then, Adam and Eve.  But this causes us to ask another question.  Why did God create beings who could be so evil?  Why didnt He make us so that we could never sin?

The answer to this question actually shows us a God of love.  The God who is love created us with the ability to enjoy the blessings of love as well.  The thing about love is that it cannot exist without free will.  For genuine love to exist, there must be the possibility of rejection.

Suppose God had created us with no choice, but to do what He commanded.  Then we would be like machines running computer programs.  A clever computer programmer could write a program that would give this machine the appearance of love the appearance that it really cared for others.  Of course the machine wouldnt really love anyone.  It would just be executing code.  The love would not be real.  In fact, the machine wouldnt have a choice.  It would simply be following its programming.  That is not real love.

God did not create robots.  He created us in His image.  The God who is love created us with the ability to love.  Therefore, He created us with free will a free will that can fail.  An almighty God of love is consistent with the existence of evil on the basis of the free will we need in order to experience love.  The Bible teaches exactly that that God created us with the ability to love, but we used the free will that comes with love to do evil instead.  The evil in the world does not indicate that God does not love us.  Instead, it shows that it is the human race who has rejected Gods love and chosen evil instead.

But then the question becomes, Is that it?  Is there no more?  Are human beings doomed because they used their free will to sin instead of love? Here is where the God of love transcends the evil choices of His creatures.

Even though He already knew that we would rebel, He still created us.  He already had a plan in place to save us from our own evil choices.  Even though we are sinners, God sent His only begotten Son to die for us as the Apostle Paul said, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

The natural consequences of our evil would have destroyed the human race long ago.  Our own evil should have caused our own extinction, but God put His plan of salvation into effect.  He limited the consequences of sin until the time was right for Him to send His Own Son to take up our human flesh and take our place under the judgment of the law.

Jesus, as both true God and true man, took the eternal consequences of our sin onto Himself and He suffered the punishment for them as He hung on the cross and died for us.  As the Apostle Peter said, You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:1819)

Through Jesus, God the Father not only relieved us of our eternal suffering, but He has also assured us of eternal life.  For Jesus did not remain in the grave after He died on the cross, but He returned to life in an immortal body.

In this resurrection, God has given us eternal life as He promised through the Apostle Paul, But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:2023)

Not only has God given us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, but He has also transformed the evil consequences of this world.  In the parable of the fig tree, the vinedresser pleaded with the landowner, Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down. (Luke 13:89) The evil things of this world, like digging around the root and applying manure, discipline us and make us stronger.  God transforms them from curses into gifts for our blessing.

Just as the gardener worked with the tree in the parable, God the Holy Spirit also works with us.  He overcomes the evil in this world and uses it to strengthen us.  He works to produce repentance and faith in us.  That faith receives the gift of the forgiveness of sins that Jesus earned for us.  Jesus earned that forgiveness when He suffered and died for us on the cross.  Jesus allowed all those bad things to happen to Him so that He could give His good things to us.  Through His life, suffering, death, and resurrection, we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Amen



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