Text for the Sermon:
[Luk 13:1-5 ESV] 1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
In our text today we find reference to two horrendous calamities, each of which resulted in the deaths of a number of a people. The first of these calamities was the murder of a number of Galileans committed by the Roman ruler Pontius Pilate. The second calamity was that of the fall of the tower of Siloam upon eighteen persons in Jerusalem. Jesus uses these two calamitous events as an opportunity to command all to repentance. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
THE FIRST CALAMITY
The first calamity, described in chapter 13 verse 1, is that of murder. Mass murder. Certain people from Galilee came to the temple in Jerusalem to make sacrifices to the Lord. The Roman ruler Pontius Pilate — the same man who later sent Jesus to the cross — had these Galileans killed, their blood mingled with the blood of the animals sacrificed at the temple. This mingling may have been physical, the actual blood of the men mixed with the actual blood of the animals. Or it may have been mingled in that the deaths of the men occurred at the same time and in the same place as the deaths of the animals. While the Galileans sought to do good, Pilate brought evil upon them.
The people who were present with Jesus told him about this murder. And Jesus responded saying, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?”
There has long been, and continues to be in our time, the false assumption that horrendous things happen only to people who have upset the Lord God in some extraordinary way. If one is murdered, it must be because he has done something terrible himself. (So the error goes) Jesus renounces this opinion and answers his own question with a resounding “No!” Did these Galileans die in this way because they were worse sinners than others? Certainly not.
We should never assume that an evil has come down upon someone because they have sinned more than others.
For Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
All have sinned, and so opposing God’s law, all deserve death.
But Jesus turns the minds of his audience away from those who have died, and brings them to think about themselves, and their condition.
“No, I tell you; but unless YOU repent, you will all likewise perish.”
For the wrath of God comes upon all sinners. And, as indeed all are sinners, all need the grace of God to save them from the wrath that is to come.
THE SECOND CALAMITY
The second calamity in our account is, in some ways, like the first. But in other ways different. Again some persons have died. This time we know exactly how many – 18 in total were killed by the fall of the tower at Siloam. These persons were not killed by other men, but solely by what an insurance man might call “an act of God.” Bringing up this example of the fall of the tower, Jesus shows that terrible deaths occur not only to foreigners like the Galileans but to full-blooded Jews themselves who live in Jerusalem. Jews, just like Galileans and all Gentiles, do also sin and deserve the wages of sin which is death.
Jesus asks “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?”
Again, he answers with an emphatic “No!”
We should never assume that a NATURAL evil has come down upon someone because they have sinned more than others.
Again, Jesus turns the mind of his audience away from those who have died, and brings them to think about themselves, and their condition.
“No, I tell you; but unless YOU repent, you will all likewise perish.”
ONLY TWO OPTIONS
Jesus has given his audience, and he has given us, only two options. Repent or Perish.Thus, we must all, absolutely and necessarily repent. [Thus, we must all, absolutely and necessarily repent.]
A story is told of a Christian student who at a Christian mission spoke to a man about his soul. And the man said “I don’t believe the Bible. I am an atheist.” And so the student quoted Luke 13:5 – “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” The man said “I told you, I don’t believe it.” So he quoted the verse again. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” The man by now was furious with rage and punched the student right between the eyes, knocking him down. He got up again and said graciously, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” The next night the same man was back at the mission. Before a meeting was scheduled to begin he told the people there, “I haven’t been able to sleep. No matter where I looked I saw this text. On my pillow. On the wall above my head. All over my room. I even saw it inscribed when I came down to the breakfast table. It was there.” And so he had come down to the meeting to get the matter settled and to kneel before God in sincere repentance. He had found the absolute necessity of repentance.
But, you might ask, what is repentance?
Our catechism answers that question for us
WSC#87: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”
Repentance, following the catechism definition has 3 parts:.
1. There is the realization of sin. [REPEAT: The realization of sin]
This is where you come to an acknowledgement that you have sinned. And you acknowledge that it is sin again God, for all sin is sin against the Lord Almighty.
2. Then, there is a regret of sin. [REPEAT: A regret of sin]
The sorrow we have in our sin dwells up in our hearts so that we truly regret sinning.
3. Then, there is a repudiation of sin. [REPEAT: A repudiation of sin]
Here is where we are are to turn away from sin. In the Hebrew the word for repentance means “to turn.” Repentance is to turn away from our lives apart from the Lord and to turn back to Him.
Repentance, it has been said, is a change of mind and change of heart of such a scale that is causes a man to hate what he once loved, and to love what he once hated. [REPEAT: Repentance, it has been said, is a change of mind and change of heart of such a scale that is causes a man to hate what he once loved, and to love what he once hated.]
REPENT OR PERISH
Jesus then gives this option. Turn back, repent or perish.
One Biblical commentator explains “To perish is to be banished from God forever and to be shut up with devils and damned spirits. It is to be excluded from heaven and to be confined in hell. It is to be driven from the rivers of pleasure which are at God’s right hand to be doomed to the lake of fire, to dwell in everlasting burning. It is to be thrust into blackness, darkness, and eternal woe.” This is what it is to perish.
We often see in the Scripture—and often hear in sermons—that we must BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. This is a great truth. But what we should never forget is the absolute necessity of repentance. Believing in Christ requires a turning away from the will of the flesh and a turning towards God and following the law of God.
The Scriptures indeed put “belief” and “repentance” side by side. The very first words of Jesus recorded in Mark’s Gospel are “repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus then preached “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) And Peter said “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38) And John the Baptist, it is said “baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” (Acts 19:4) Finally Paul “testified both to Jews and to Greek of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Repentance is absolutely necessary, and God has told us so repeatedly. You cannot believe in Jesus and continue to live in opposition to him. Unless you repent, unless you turn away from your sinful ways, you will perish.
So ponder your own lives, for Jesus brings the attention of his listeners to be concerned with their own situation. When I die, where shall I go? Are MY sins forgiven? Have I repented and do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? [REPEAT: Have I repented and do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?] EXCEPT YE REPENT YE ALL SHALL LIKEWISE PERISH.
But, there is hope in the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because, by the Grace of God, repentance, like faith, is a gift from Him. [REPEAT: repentance, like faith, is a gift from God]
That faith is a gift from God we see in Ephesians 2:8:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
And that repentance is a gift from God we see in places like Acts 5:31 and 2 Timothy 2:25.
Perhaps the clearest of these examples is from Acts 11:18. There the early Christian brothers heard from Peter that Gentiles as well as Jews were coming to the faith, and they glorified God and exclaimed, “Then to the Gentiles also God has GRANTED REPENTANCE that leads to life.”
Repentance is not something we do of our own accord and which earns us merit. Repentance, like faith, is a gift from God.
Knowing that repentance and faith are both gifts from God, we who believe in Jesus Christ know that we are saved not because we sin less, nor because of anything we have done, but solely because God has been gracious us.
He sent his son Jesus Christ to take sins upon Himself on the cross. He gives the gift of faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. And to the same he gives the gift of repentance. Salvation is all by God’s grace.
We should therefore pray for repentance, knowing that it is a gift from God. And our prayers, while certainly including thanksgiving and requests to God, must also include confessing of our sins and our lives must include the repentance that turns away from those sins and turns to the Lord Jesus Christ.
When this happens we are promised there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine (self)-righteous persons who (think they) need no repentance.
The Lord forces us to make a choice. Repent or perish.
There should be no delay. Your dare not postpone repentance. The Galileans who were slain by Roman swords and the people who were crushed by the Tower of Siloam. They had no warning. And repentance cannot be exercised in the grave. Is it not an act of wisdom to repent now?
A preacher once said “You cannot repent too soon, because you know not how soon it may be too late.” So I appeal to you, as this is a very serious issue. Nothing less than life eternal.
Come to the Lord. Turn away from your sins and turn to Him. For The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Come to the Lord.