I was going to put up a series of links to stories about tragedies in recent news…but honestly, I just didn’t have the heart to do it. There are so many, and re-reading them is hard to bear.
Tragedies and hardships and difficult times are some of the most perplexing things we have to face as people who believe in God. Our most common and reflexive response to them is to look up to heaven and ask “why?”. The why’s of the thing are the biggest wrestling matches we can have in our faith.
Jesus is confronted with senseless suffering, and offers some insights for us in the passage we’ll be looking at in Luke 13:1-9 this Sunday.
What do you think Jesus is getting at when he says “unless you repent, you will likewise perish”? I would like to challenge you to think outside of the box a little on this passage. There is a very common and accepted understanding about the point that’s being made…but are we sure about the point? Think long and hard about the context before you answer.
Even the parable Jesus tells about an unfruitful fig tree can be a little challenging to grasp the meaning of. We want to say that God is the vineyard owner and Jesus is the gardener…God wants to chop the fig tree down (because, heh heh…God hates figs) but Jesus intervenes and keeps God from judging so harshly…but does that concept really make a lot of sense? Is God really at odds with himself when it comes to Israel, or humanity for that matter? What other possible meaning could this parable have, as you think about it?
Ok…that’s pretty heady stuff to ponder just before the weekend. But I hope you do…AND I hope you have a great weekend, and hopefully I’ll see you Sunday!
5 thoughts on “When Bad Things Happen”
For most of my Christian life I have been like the guys that came to Jesus in this section of Luke. I always thought that what I had or didn’t have or what did or didn’t happen to me depended on me and my current standing with God. If I lost a bonus at work maybe it was because I didn’t given enough in the offering that week. If I got the new job, it was because I had gone to that Saturday night bible study. If my car broke down maybe it was because I hadn’t prayed enough or read enough scripture. To this day, this type of “pay for play” thinking still rears it’s ugly head when stuff in my life goes sideways. If God is happy with me then I will be safe and protected or if God is somehow displeased with me I’d better watch out, right? It’s a horrible way to live. But these verses (thankfully) demonstrate a different kind of God with a more urgent understanding of the world.
Life is fragile and the world is dangerous. You could get hacked to death by overzealous Roman soldiers or have that new addition to the city wall collapse and crush you. This didn’t happen because you sinned or needed judgment but because the world is dangerous and life is fragile. The question instead seems to be, now that you understand that life is fragile and the world is dangerous, how will you live the life you get to live? Will you repent (and find true safety) or live your life to your own ends and die like these? This is one of the foundational “questions” of the Gospel. The difference here is that Jesus seems to force us to confront the urgency of the question. We really need to answer the question now, because the world is dangerous and life is fragile.
As to the Parable of the Fig Tree (or the Apple Tree in The Message), it would seem that there has to be more to the story than the “traditional” understanding. It doesn’t seem right that Jesus (in the part of the Vinedresser) would try to keep God (in the role of the Owner) from making firewood out of the fruitless tree that is really a type of Israel (in the role of, well, the fruitless tree that is really a type of Israel). If that’s actually the way it’s to be understood then God must love playing good cop/bad cop or he needs some psychiatric help for his multiple personality disorder. Neither conclusion seems right. I’m looking forward to reading and hearing everyone else’s ideas on this section.
Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die.”
This exerpt really stuck out to me. It seems like Jesus was trying to explain to them that they didn’t die because they were sinners, they died because they died. The only way to truly live eternally is through God. He went on to use the parable of the fig tree to further emphasize that just existing is not want God wants us to do…He wants us to produce His fruit instead of just taking up space and it’s through acknowledging Jesus that we cultivate good fruit.
Without Jesus we are hopeless sinners and the only thing we are good for is firewood.
I love that God was revealing to them that He is not the God who waits for bad sin then brings down the hammer on people. He seemed to be saying in life “stuff” happens. He was pointing to two tragedies specifically, possibly to show that life can be cut short, they too could die while worshiping or walking down the street. Maybe trying to get them to contemplate their own lives and repent before it is too late for them and they are eternally separated from Him. The fig tree is an interesting piece to contemplate. Maybe the digging around and throwing some manure around the tree to get it to produce fruit represents God allowing the trials and “stuff” to happen in our lives to see if we will indeed cling to Him and grow fruit in our lives. When times are good it seems we humans have a tendency to stray and loose our focus on eternal things. When crisis arise we quickly run back to our deliverer for help. Just a thought… Looking forward to Sunday!!
Another thought on this fig tree parable. Maybe God is trying to reveal more of Himself to us through this. The people were recognizing that he was the just Judge as He is and it is easy for us all to imagine Him as so, but do we know Him as the God of another chance. I don’t believe He is at odds with himself here but rather revealing the “Jesus” piece of the Godhead. In Romans it talks about Jesus always making intercession for us before the throne of God. God showed us his great love and mercy through not withholding His own Son who died for us always providing a way back home, another chance, even in our worst of failures if we will embrace him, forgive ourselves and trust in His sacrifice. The fig tree was given another chance, we are given endless chances through Christ. In Romans it reminds us that nothing can separate us from His love not tribulations, etc. In these tribulations he wants to reveal Himself to us and show His great care and compassion in that He is with us holding our hands through it..never leaving only loving us through. He is justice and Mercy…A God of another chance and for this I am forever grateful!
Next time I’ll get all my thoughts together before posting, sorry but this is fig tree parable is too cool… one last thought.. just as the gardener changed the soil around the bottom of the tree with digging and dung to produce figs, God allows changes in the circumstances or soil of our lives (trials, etc)to hopefully produce the fruit of the Spirit in us.