What is the kingdom of God like?
Luke 13:1-21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. 14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.
18 So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
20 And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
Today’s text begins saying: Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” There are two misconceptions that Jesus points out in this portion of scripture which are prevalent today in both the world and also within the church. First is the idea that the sins of some are greater than the sins of others. We have a tendency to view and judge others and their sin much more harshly than our own. Even in the church we often think that there must be a reason that people are suffering this fate. The truth is that: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) While it may be true that God sees some sins as more grave than others; there are some that He says are abominations. We are not to judge others. Jesus says: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5) If we judge others harshly, we too will be judged harshly. The way to remove the log from our own eye is through acknowledging its presence, through confessing that it is there and then repenting, determining to change. Hebrews 4:14-16 says: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Our help, our forgiveness, is found at the throne of grace. It is only through the overcoming power of the cross that we are forgiven of our sin, by grace and it is from that place, from the throne of grace that we should view the sins of others.
The other misconception is believing that grace means there are no longer consequences for sin, either ours or others. Some believe and promote a doctrine that says that since Jesus paid the price for sin, once for all; sin no longer matters. They believe and say that grace has eliminated the consequences of sin. Two times in today’s text Jesus says: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” In Matthew 9, there is an account of a time when Jesus said that the sins of a paralyzed man were forgiven. The religious leaders took offense at what He said. In verse 6 Jesus replied to them saying: "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins "-- then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." Indeed Jesus does have the authority to forgive sin and on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Even the sins we are unaware of are forgiven. On the other hand, we need to repent of any sin we are aware of. Still, it is not our job or responsibility to make others aware of their sin. Jesus says: “I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:of sin, because they do not believe in Me;of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11) It is the Holy Spirit, who causes conviction, not our judgment or condemnation, which will lead others to repent. After ourselves repenting, we are to help other see more clearly. The way to do that is not to point out the darkness, but rather to shine a light. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
There is a third misconception that Jesus addresses in today’s text. He tells a parable saying: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” It is not enough that we only believe in Jesus and are saved. It is not enough that we repent of our sins and live righteously. We are to be light to the world and we are to produce fruit in and for the kingdom. Jesus says of the fruitless tree: Why does it even use up the ground? How many today, in our society, our culture and even in our churches think that it is enough to simply be saved, to believe in Jesus, but to do nothing for the kingdom. Many of our churches have become places where people gather to be fed or entertained. They desire good fruit to eat from the pastors and from the worship leaders, but they produce none of their own. Jesus says: “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” If we would be bearing fruit for the kingdom, then we should be planting seeds that provide shelter and safety for others. We should do something, even little things, like the woman who put the leaven in the flour. The little things we do, even the unseen things, will work into and through the lives of others, until many are touched and affected, changed by the presence and the power of the kingdom of God.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that I am forgiven by grace. On the cross I was forgiven of every sin, even those I am unaware of. Holy Spirit I ask though that You will continue to reveal to me the things in my life that keep me from seeing clearly. Bring conviction that I might repent. Help me to see others from the perspective of the throne of grace. Holy Spirit I also pray that You would enable and empower me to live as light, to bear fruit for the kingdom, to provide places of safety and security for others and to affect those around me, for the sake of the kingdom. Amen.