Study Notes

Luke 13:1-21

13:1-5 Was it judgment?

Some guys came to Jesus and told of something that had just happened in Jerusalem - Pilate had sent out a company of soldiers to execute some Galileans who had broken Roman law. When the soldiers arrived, the Galileans were worshipping and offering sacrifices - and the soldiers killed them where they stood. These clashes between the Jews and the Romans were becoming frequent. The historian Josephus tells us that that at one Passover, 3,000 Jews were killed in the temple courts. Another similar incident resulted in 2,000 Jews being killed. Those reporting this weren't saying it in sorrow, but rather in self-righteous judgment. They told Him with the tone, "These sinful Galileans got their just desserts, didn't they?"

How many of us, no matter how much we read, learn, and study otherwise, still believe this? In our hearts, we believe that God makes good things happen to "good" people, and bad things happen to "sinners"? Yes, God judges sin, and He also rewards goodness. But most of life's circumstances cannot be interpreted as rewards or judgments. In fact,

Matt. 5:45 ...He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Very often, wicked people prosper, and good people suffer. Although we think that if look at the circumstances and incidents of life, we can figure out what's going on. that's not the way the Lord works. In Isaiah we read that God says,

Isa. 55:8-9 ...My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

So why do wicked men sometimes prosper and righteous men sometimes suffer? The highest explanation is ultimately His sovereignty, His right to do things the way He wants, without any explanation or accountability. Psalm 103 says that

Ps. 103:19 ...His sovereignty rules over all.

It is not up to us to interpret circumstances as blessings or curses. We are simply called to trust that

Rom. 8:28 ...God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

So, if you're in a great place of blessing right now, don't assume it's God's stamp of approval on everything that you're doing. Conversely, if you're in a place of great trials and tribulations, don't assume that God is angry and judging you.

Unless You Repent

Now, notice that Jesus does say, "No, this didn't happen because they were worse than anybody else, but the fact is, everyone who does not repent of their sin will perish." To repent means to change your way of thinking about sin and turn the other way. Repentance, turning from your sin, is ESSENTIAL to the gospel of salvation. The beginning of the gospel is not, "Wouldn't you like to go to heaven?" It is, "You have sinned." Look at those who preached the gospel. John the Baptist said

Matt. 3:2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

And Jesus was no different in His message. He said it word-for-word Himself...

Matt. 4:17 ..."Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Mark 1:15 "...The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Luke 5:32 "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

Then when Jesus sent the disciples out,

Mark 6:12 ...They went out and preached that men should repent.

And the apostle Peter wrote,

2Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Repentance is the foundation of the gospel. We must acknowledge that we have sinned. Jesus can not and will not save us from our sins unless we acknowledge that that we in fact have sinned. If you won't admit you're a sinner, you certainly have no need for a Savior. But we've all sinned, and we all need a Savior. John wrote,

1John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.

And repentance is a continuing work. We constantly sin and constantly need to repent. You need daily repentance in your life, because you daily have sin in your life. The Bible says,

Rom. 14:23 ...Whatever is not from faith is sin.

Unrepentant sin will harden your heart and drive you away from God.

13:6-9 Put in fertilizer

Now in telling them this parable, He is not leaving the subject of repentance and judgment, but rather expounding on it - Remember, this fig tree had already been planted. The seed had gone in, been watered, and the plant had grown up. Problem was, there was no fruit.

The fig tree is a picture in parables and prophecy of the nation of Israel. And we will discuss that in depth when we reach chapter 21. But this morning, I'd like us to apply this personally in regards to repentance. This tree is also a picture of the believer who has had the seed of the word of God planted in his heart. The seed and the soil have been watered with the Word of God, and it germinated and grew, and became a plant. But this tree bears no fruit! John the Baptist said,

Matt. 3:8 "...Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance"

Since it's not bearing fruit, since the believer has not been producing fruit in keeping with repentance, the Master says, "Why does it even use up the ground? Cut it down!" You see, we can be all leafy and green, looking like we've got it all together, but if we're not walking in repentance, we serve no function, we're just taking up space in the Master's field.

Fortunately, we have a mediator, Jesus Christ, who says, "Father, don't have it cut down yet. Let me work on it. I just know that I can help this tree to produce fruit in keeping with repentance." How is He going to do that? He's going to dig to the root of the problem, and expose what's been covered up. Then He's going to put in fertilizer. The word "fertilizer" here literally means in Greek, "dung", or "manure".

You see, when we've covered up our sin, which is the root of our problems, it makes us unable to bear fruit. To help us, Jesus exposes the roots and covers them in dung. What is the dung? Trials, tribulations, bad situations, sickness, etc. All these things will bring sorrow. Why would Jesus want to cover us with dung and bring sorrow into our lives? To produce fruit.

2Cor. 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

If there is a godly sorrow, the dung that we get surrounded with produces fruit in keeping with repentance. You will see that pattern over and over in the Old Testament. When the Israelites became hardened in their hearts towards God, and refused to repent, God exposed the root of the problem and covered it in manure. Soon after, they would cry out in repentance to God, and their relationship with Him would be restored.

But if there is only worldly sorrow, there will be no fruit. And after a period of time, bearing no fruit will result in the Master saying, "Cut it down!" Does this mean you lose your salvation? No, the apostle Paul had to deal with a believer in the Corinthian church that had horrible unrepentance in his life. Paul said that he had decided to cut him out of the church...

1Cor. 5:5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

We also read in 1Corinthians of the fruitless person whose works are tested by fire. He receives no reward...

1Cor. 3:15 ...he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

What a place to be in... making it to heaven by the skin of your teeth, with nothing to show for your life as a Christian.

13:10-17 Healing a Woman

Notice that verse 12 tells us that she didn't ask, it was He who saw her. Oftentimes, the Lord will set you free from an affliction or situation when you didn't even think to ask Him for deliverance!

But the synagogue official was so hardened in his heart, that he tells the people, "You want to be healed, fine, but do it on some other day of the week!" Isn't that amazing? This wise man, so educated in the Jewish law, had forsaken all moral and common sense in regards to his fellow man. This is what happens when men reject and harden their hearts toward God - they become foolish in their wisdom. The psalmist wrote that...

Ps. 14:1 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God."

And Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said,

1Cor. 1:18-20 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Man has become so wise in his own eyes that he has been made a fool. This synagogue official had been made foolish by his great wisdom - "Come get healed some other day - but not on Saturday." Ridiculous!

13:18-19 Therefore

There is the word "therefore". Anytime you see the word "therefore", stop and ask yourself, "What is it there for?" "Therefore" connects what came before with what's coming now - it means, "Because of everything that has just been established..." What is the "therefore" there for this time? Remember that two things had just happened: 1) A religious hypocrite and legalist had spoken against His merciful work, and 2) the entire multitude was rejoicing over not His teaching, but over all the glorious works He was doing.

The religious, legalistic hypocrites believed they were part of the kingdom of God, and the multitudes were all sold on Jesus because of His wondrous works. Therefore, Jesus tells them two parables that talk about how narrow the gate really is. About how not everything that comes under the name "Christianity" is really part of the kingdom.

Parable of the Mustard Tree

First, He gives the parable of the mustard tree. The mustard seed, when planted, grows to be a yellow-flowered bush about 3 1/2 feet tall. "A grain of mustard seed never develops into a great tree, unless it becomes abnormal." (Morgan) But this seed grows up to be a mutated monstrosity, much larger than it was ever supposed to be. It actually becomes a tree that is large enough for the "birds of the air" to nest in its branches. What do the birds in the parable symbolize? There is no need to speculate, for Jesus Himself told us in the parable of the soils, that birds were what came and snatched away the seed of the Word of God in a man's heart. And when He interpreted the parable to His disciples, He said that

Matt. 13:19 "...the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart..."

Yes, in the kingdom of God, which is much larger than it should be, the evil one has emissaries setting up shop in the branches. Never forget that the church's greatest threat is not from the outside, but from the inside. Paul warned the Ephesian elders,

Acts 20:29-30 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."

Think it not strange at all when these things happen in the church. The kingdom of God has become a mutated monstrosity, having grown much larger than it ever was supposed to. Churches and ministries are filled with not only the unsaved, but with the unholy messengers of satan as well.

13:20-21 Parable of the Leaven

Many Bible teachers interpret this to mean that the leaven is the gospel, which will spread to the whole world. But notice that Luke says "Again He said". Jesus is giving this parable to repeat what He had just taught about the kingdom. The leaven is not the Gospel, for we saw back in chapter 12 when Jesus said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees", leaven in the Bible in always represents sin, because it corrupts by puffing up. Leaven is never a symbol of something good. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

1Cor. 5:7 Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened...

Now the three pecks of meal in that culture is the fellowship offering. This originated way back in Genesis 18 when the Lord and two angels visited Abraham.

Gen. 18:6 ...Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it, and make bread cakes."

Again, the point Jesus is making is of large-scale corruption in the kingdom. The sin of pride and hypocrisy has also spread throughout the kingdom of God, corrupting every corner of every part of Christianity.

Are you discouraged when you see a prominent minister busted for embezzlement? Are you outraged when the news shows Christians barking and rolling on the floor? Are you discouraged when you heard of a pastor running off with the church secretary? Jesus foresaw all of this and warned us about it. Most importantly, He told us to stay away from it. That is why daily repentance is so important to a victorious walk with Christ. One sin leads to another, your heart gets harder, your light gets dimmer, and pretty soon you're the one getting a divorce, or being arrested for stealing from the company, or becoming an alcoholic.

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