At that time some people reported to Jesus about some Galileans whom Pilate had executed while they were sacrificing animals. Jesus replied to them, “Do you think that this happened to them because they were more sinful than other people from Galilee? No! I can guarantee that they were not. But if you do not turn to God and change the way you think and act, then you, too, will all die. What about those 18 people who died when the tower at Siloam fell on them? Do you think that they were more sinful than other people living in Jerusalem? No! I can guarantee that they were not. But if you do not turn to God and change the way you think and act, then you, too, will all die.”
Then Jesus used this illustration: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He went to look for fruit on the tree but did not find any. He said to the gardener, ‘For the last three years I have come to look for figs on this fig tree but have not found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up good soil?’
“The gardener replied, ‘Sir, let it stand for one more year. I will dig around it and fertilize it. Maybe next year it will have figs. But if not, then cut it down.’” – Luke 13:1-9
Repentance! That is one of those Christian words often spoken by preachers – but few people take literally. Who wants to talk about such a subject? Surveys of Christians seem to indicate that there is really no need to repent, for we are all basically good anyway. Therefore, the subject of repentance is considered obsolete or meaningless. After all, if I am OK and you are OK, who needs repentance?
However, the Scriptures beg to differ. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah writing to the Jews in exile and Jesus in the Gospel reading both insist that repentance is indeed necessary – not an option. Both say that today is the time to repent – not a matter to be put off. Martin Luther wrote that every day is a day in which repentance is needed.
A major weakness we sinful human beings have is that we love to live in denial – experts at procrastination, putting off that which we consider unpleasant, with the hope that it will take care of itself or just go away, if we delay it long enough. The Bible tells us that we cannot procrastinate. Isaiah put it this way: (Isaiah 55:6-7 GW) Seek the LORD while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near. Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to the LORD, and He will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because He will freely forgive them.
Jesus, in answering the question about whether the Galileans killed by Pilate while they offered their sacrifices in the temple; or whether the 18 killed by the falling tower of Siloam got what they deserved because they were worse sinners than other people: Jesus said: “No way! God does not work that way. Jesus then went on to tell them to look at themselves and their own lives, rather than the lives of others. He said, “No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” The parable of the fig tree bearing no fruit is repeating of the same point. After 3 years of not bearing fruit, the gardener appeals for a second chance, by giving the tree one more year of attention. After that if it fails to bear fruit, then it will be cut down.
Our lives are like that fig tree. God gives us only a certain amount of time to live on this earth. We do not know when we are going to die. Therefore, we are given the opportunity right now, every day, to repent – to make peace with God and one another and be prepared to meet our Maker, if our time is now.
This story illustrates how important that is for us to do what needs doing right now, rather than procrastinating:
There once was a couple who won a great prize – a two week trip to Ireland. They had a whole year to make the trip. The wife said, “Let’s NOT do it this summer, because we do not want to interfere with our summer at the lake. And we can’t go in September because that is when the kids go back to school.” So they waited and before they knew it along came late October. The husband said, “Well, we can’t go over the holidays.” And his wife agreed, “Let’s wait till after the first of the year.” Then someone told them that in January and February the days were short and the weather was not very good. So they decided, “Let’s wait till spring when we know there will be better weather, and we don’t have to worry about snow closing airports in this country.” They finally made reservations for the first week in May. That seemed to them the best time of year to go. They admitted that they were cutting it close because their prize ran out on June 1, but they were sure nothing would go wrong. Then the husband had a gallbladder attack requiring surgery. The doctors said he would be able to travel by about the middle of June.
The season of Lent is a good time to act on the urgency of repentance. Today is the time to do what needs doing, rather than putting it off or hoping falsely that it will go away. Seize the opportunity while it presents itself, otherwise it may never be there for you again. We are not God. We are given only a certain amount of time to act now. Some opportunities in life run out for us. We could be here today and gone tomorrow.
Yet, in our sinful state, we often deny this truth. We say to ourselves, to others and to God things like:
“I’ve got to get everything in my life in order before I can start becoming involved in church.
When I get that promotion at work, then I will have more time to spend with my spouse and children.
I don’t have to study for that exam until the night before.
I can put off visiting my parents or grandparents until next summer.
Tomorrow I will quit my bad habit. After all, I can quit anytime.
There is lots of time for me to get involved in the church. Right now I have to work on Sundays to make a living and keep my job. When I retire there will be plenty of time and opportunity to serve God and the church.
Of what do I need to repent? I live a good life, look after my family, pay taxes, and stay out of trouble.
I am going to hold a grudge once in a while because they do not deserve my forgiveness. Let them come to me and ask for forgiveness.”
Do any of those comments sound familiar?
Isaiah and Jesus invite us to make the most of our time, which God has given to us. Every day is a gift of God. We do not know when our time on this earth will end. Our lives are in constant need of returning to the Lord – that is the literal meaning of the word REPENT. Some days, our sin makes it necessary for us to turn our lives in the opposite direction to return to God from the way we are going.
May this Lenten Season be a time for us to return to the Lord; to confess our sins; to forgive one another and be reconciled with one another. Our Lord is a God of grace; “He will freely forgive.” Repentance is God’s gift of grace offered to us every day. May each day be one of thanking God for all of the opportunities we have been given to love and serve God and each other in Jesus’ name.