Third Sunday in Lent: “Walking in Repentance with Productivity”
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
One day, Jesus was walking with His disciples and they found a man blind from birth, and His disciples asked Him, “Who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus responded saying, “Neither did this man sinned nor his parents, but this is so that the works of God may be displayed in him.”
The Jews, specially the Pharisees, believed that health is an indication of blessing, and sickness is an indication that there might be something wrong with the person who is sick. This is also the way they interpreted wealth. If you have money, it means that you are good persons; if you have nothing, it means God may be punishing you.
There is a truth that saying, “What you sow is what you reap.” Based on this, we try to make sins a logical or a theological sense of misfortunes and disasters and tragedies, and we asked, “Who sinned? We say, “Everything happens for a reason, and bad things happen to people because they deserve them.” It is true except when it is not true because sometimes, a person does evil and he prospers. Sometimes, a person does righteousness and he suffers. Like Job, he was a blameless man, and yet, he suffered many things. Jesus was sinless and yet, He was persecuted. In fact, He says, “Blessed are you when men persecute you for the sake of righteousness.”
When Jesus was asked, “Are they a few who are being a slave?” He did not say a number, but just said, “Instead of asking that question, you should be focusing on making sure that you take the narrow door that takes to life.” As it is, we live in a world in a devil’s field and the ultimate enemy, his craft and his power is great and is armed with full hate to destroy us. He doesn’t want God’s will to be fulfilled in our lives.
God doesn’t punish us for our sins. Psalm 103:6,10,12 says, “The Lord performs righteous deeds. He has not dealt with us according to our sins. He has removed our transgressions from us.” The Psalmist said that it is a righteous deed that God does not deal with us according to our sins. The Pharisees dealt with people according to their sins. They wanted to stone the adulterous woman, but Jesus did not condemn her because God causes all things to work together for good.
God put systems, laws in place that had consequences. If we go against these, it will destroy us. God does not have to destroy us. It is like He doesn’t orchestrate the destruction of the liver of somebody who is an alcoholic. One day, it will affect him and ruin him, but it is not God. God’s part is He tries to cause things to work for good for us even if we make a mess of things. Laws are laws and consequences are consequences. This is why Jesus says to repent or we will perish and suffer the consequences. Let us not, in the first place, judge. Let us do what God does, and pray for the turning around of things to turn into good for the mess that we might be in because this is the heart of God.
In the gospel, people reported to Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. The Galileans were notorious for being revolutionary and the question to Jesus could have meant that the Galileans did something wrong that they have this fate. Jesus tells them, “Don’t think that they are worse sinners than you because unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” He added, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” It was repenting from what? These Galileans were revolting against the Roman government but Jesus was saying, “Don’t do this but seek and embrace the things which make for peace. If you don’t change your mind of your idea of how Israel will be freed from the Romans, which is violence, remember, “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. Unless you repent, in the same way, you will perish.”
Jesus was not talking about an after-life hell that is eternal but an impending doom that was awaiting the Israelites because they put themselves on a path towards destruction, on a trajectory that leads to their ruin. Jesus says to them, “Love you enemies, pray for persecutors, forgive and bless them,” Jesus referred to the Roman government as the enemy. They are to strive to go through the narrow door, and the things which make for peace. Jesus says, “I am the Prince of Peace and I come to establish My kingdom, and there is no end to the increase of this kingdom or of its peace.”
However, the Jews, including the disciples were hell-bent on retribution, vengeance and in destroying the enemies saying, “God is on our side.” But Jesus says that this is not the way, “You may have heard that an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life, but what I am saying is to love your enemies. Forgive them, pray for them, and bless them because unless you repent, that is, to renew your mind about things of peace, selflessness and loving your enemies, you will all perish.”
Today, we maybe have made up our mind about certain things, and this mind leads to destruction. We must be humble enough to say to God, “Lord, I need Your deliverance.” The wide path that leads to destruction that is comfortable and that which feels good. A drug addict feels good in the beginning when he starts taking drugs, but soon, the high diminishes and he find himself aging faster than he can imagine. This then leads to ruining his life.
Jesus says to repent and to renew our minds. Psalm 103 uses the word fear which means to revere, to hold in high regard. It reiterates what Isaiah says to acknowledge the ways of God which are better and higher, and following His ways. We must acknowledge His ways of peace and mercy is higher than our ways of vengeance and retribution and hatred. Otherwise, we will perish.
Jesus says, “In the same way, you will perish. You will die like the Galileans by the sword, and you will die like those in the tower of Siloam falling and stones and building collapsing on you” On Palm Sunday, Jesus prophesied, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how long have I wanted to gather you to Me as a hen gathers her chicks around her wings, but you were unwilling? Behold, your house is being left to you desolate. If only you knew the things which make for peace; but now, they are hidden from you. Behold, your enemies, one day, will put a barricade around you and will hang you on every side, and will raise your city to the ground so that not one stone will be left upon another.” Jesus added, “All these things will happen within this generation.” Sure enough, before forty years was over, it happened to them and the Roman General Titus led an army that destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70AD, and almost one million Jews died during this time. Jesus said that these were the days of vengeance and great tribulation. They were killed by swords and catapults.
On Good Friday morning, the mob was presented with two people: Barabbas and Jesus. The people were asked, “Who do you want me to free for you?” Barabbas was the son of Abbas, and his first name was Yeshua (God saves). Barabbas was a revolutionary, a freedom fighter, and he led a mob who went against the Romans that was quashed, and he was imprisoned. Barabbas’ way was of revolution; Jesus’ way was to establish His kingdom on the foundation of peace, of love, and giving your life for somebody else. The Jews was given a choice: revolution or peace. They chose “God saves” through Barabbas. They did not repent, and so they perished. Their house was left to them desolate, and they lived by the sword so they died by the sword and their enemies razed them to the ground.
Jesus tells us to repent or we will perish. People thought that they would repent, say the Sinner’s Prayer so that they would escape the consequence. The point is not to escape the consequence. Our goal is not to perish or to go to prison. Our goal is to flourish. Our goal is simply not to exist but to live. Our goal is not to survive but to fully be alive; to be fruitful and to be productive. If the goal of a Christian is to go heaven to escape hell, it is like a parent raising a child with a purpose of making sure that he will not get imprisoned. The goal of a parent it to make their children morally right, training them in the way that they should go according to Jesus’ teachings because these will keep them out of prison. Our goal is to be conformed to the image of the Jesus, not to merely to escape death. If we go the way of life, we will not go the way of death. Sin is missing the mark. Our goal is not to miss the mark, but our goal is to hit the target. Our goal is to be fruitful, to multiply, and to be productive.
In our gospel last week, Jesus called certain people evil doers. Those evil doers said, “But we ate and drank in Your presence. We listened to Your teachings.” But Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you evil doers.” Obviously, they did sit and drink in God’s presence, but after that, they did evil.
In 1Corinthians 10, it says that they ate and drank and they rose up to play. They became immoral even in the presence of God. Let us beware because we will eat and drink in the presence of the Lord and listen to His teaching. What do we do after this? This is not an extracurricular activity that we do once a week. Are we just clouds without water? Are we good looking clouds on Sunday – spiritual, dress in our Sunday’s best but without water? Are we are a tree in leaf yet we have no fruit?
Jesus warns us to renew our minds because God’s ways are higher than our ways. 1Corinthians tells us not to be idolaters. What does idolatry have to do with eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord? Idolatry simply means that God is not number one. Something or somebody else is number one in our hearts and in our lives. Many times, it is our way that is our idol to say that our ways is superior than God’s ways. It is like Barabbas is superior over Jesus’ way. This leads to destruction and Jesus is warning us because His desire for us is to find the narrow door that leads to life. We do need to strive for this door. But before us, God lays life and death and then, He tells us to choose life. This is His will for us and He has gladly given us the Kingdom. Jesus came so that we can have abundant life. Take it, choose it, and enter it, because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.