A sermon for Sunday 3rd March 2013. Read Isaiah 55:1-9, Luke 13:1-9
In Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the emperor wanted everyone to tell him how good he looked in his new clothes. He’d employed the best tailors, spent a load of money and he was convinced he was the envy of the world – a man to be admired.
Yet we all know he was naked! No one would tell him the uncomfortable truth, that he’d been tricked, that he was as naked as the day he was born, except for one little child, who naively called out: “Look, he’s not wearing any clothes!”
Most of us shy away from speaking the bad news, the uncomfortable news so bluntly – and when someone else does it we don’t know where to look.
Yet Jesus tells it like it is and I’m sure offended some, indeed his words are still found offensive to many. Yet we need to hear the truth.
Even if it does make us squirm.
This is Lent, the Christian season of examination a season in which we are often confronted with Uncomfortable Truth.
The uncomfortable truth that we are naked.
Two weeks ago we discussed temptation – remember what happened to Adam and Eve when they succumbed to temptation – they sinned and they realised their nakedness, embarrassed, shamed they tried to cover up.
But try as you might you cannot hide from God.
Our nakedness is plain to see.
In Jesus’ day it was the same – sin, an unpopular word then and now, had left the people naked yet no one wanted to admit it.
Yes maybe they could acknowledge their clothes were wearing thin; a few holes here and there were a little unseemly but at least “we arn’t as bad as those others who must be really bad sinners”.
Why the others who were punished of course.
It stands to reason, does it not? That people bring suffering on themselves.
And this is what we do to pretend we aren’t naked, we look elsewhere.
Disasters strike and it’s all too easy to assume that came about because of their sin and the reverse we’re obviously not really sinners ourselves because well look at us: we’re here, the sun is shining, God smiles on us.
In this way we’re the vain emperor – strutting our stuff down the walkway, mocking the shoddy clothes of the crowds while we ourselves are naked.
And this is what Jesus is driving at in these opening words.
A group of Galileans have been murdered by Pilate – the common assumption is that they must have been really sinful for that to happen. But NO Jesus says, but unless you repent equal disaster is heading your way.
Effectively Jesus is saying these Galileans are just like the rest of you, no more guilty, no more innocent. All people are equal.
They knew this: it’s what Isaiah had taught:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53.6)
We know this it’s what Paul taught:
… there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
We know it intellectually but the truth hasn’t got into where it really matters, and we continue to walk tall while all the time we, and everyone else, are naked.
Jesus emphasises the point, asking what about those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? Or we might wonder what about the 115 who died when the CTV building collapsed in Christchurch, or the 29 trapped and killed in the Pike River Mine – were they worst sinners that the 2 miners who escaped, were they worse sinners than you and I.
NO – of course not; they are not bigger sinners, no worse, no better.
BUT Jesus says take notice YOU are all guilty. These disasters are not judgment, but be warned judgment is coming.
All are guilty and unless you repent you are heading for disaster every bit as horrific as what befall these Galileans and citizens of Jerusalem who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Repent!” Jesus tells us. “You have sinned. You have done things you shouldn’t have, and you have failed to act when you should have, each of you have ignored God and gone your own way.”
Jesus speaks the truth, the uncomfortable truth, and it leaves us exposed and naked before God, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
To restate the point, Jesus tells a parable. This is not a warm fuzzy story it is a story of judgement; it is a story that invites repentance; and it is a story that offers hope.
There’s a fig tree growing in a vineyard – apparently a common thing. This tree has been there for 3 years and 3 years should be enough time to start producing plenty of fruit. But there are no fruit.
The tree exists for one reason only — to produce fruit! The equation is simple for the grower – remove it, all it’s doing is draining the soil and taking space that could be used by a productive tree.
However the gardener intervenes and asks for a years grace. A year in which he will tend the tree and ensure it get’s every opportunity to produce fruit. It will be fed and no doubt watered and protected from the worst of the elements. It will be loved to fruitfulness.
Give the tree one more year is the plea.
Those hearing this parable must have been shocked, especially as they had just heard Jesus say ‘unless you repent you shall all perish.
The fig tree was a symbol of Israel – is Jesus really saying Israel must repent?
I am sure that is what he is saying, even Israel was under judgment. Israel had been planted to produce fruit yet because of her sin fruit was not seen.
Israel would be judged and cut down, unless she repented.
The Fig Tree also represents every person – you and I are not put on this earth to take up space and look pretty, we too are to produce fruit.
The truth is, without God, we fail in this, we have sinned, and we are deserving of the consequences of our rebellion against God. Death is the final consequence but not yet.
Opportunity will be provided, God will ensure we have no excuse and will feed us and provide for us in every way we need – God will give time for us all, Israel as a nation, you and I, to repent.
How much time we don’t know? One year is stated here, but who knows if that is extended or not. And we pray it wasn’t needed!
The point being why wait: now is the time to turn to God, now is the time to produce the fruit called for.
Isaiah 55:1-9 gives the invitation positively and lavishly, notice no one is excluded from the invitation to come to God.
1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
What God offers is freely offered! – to everyone!
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found,
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Arohanui - Ian