Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon

Repent Or Perish

October 16, 2022

Repent Or Perish

Passage: Luke 13:1-9
Service Type:


LUKE 13:1-9

Main Point: Tragedy is part of living in a fallen world. It may happen to you at some point, so get your own house in order. 


I wanted to add a few announcements here as well to what Andrew said before I send out the kids to class. Grace Marriage is something we basically only talk about once a year, because it’s something you sign up for a year at a time. Basically, every 90 days or once a quarter, couples meet to invest in their marriages. While God doesn’t call everyone to be married, we believe healthy marriages are important to the church. 


A lot of marriage conferences out there feel like you’re just getting beat up for 2 days, and each session points out something else you’re not doing well. This isn’t like that. This is based on grace, humility, and thankfulness. I think it’s safe to say most couples leave feeling encouraged instead of beaten down. 


There typically is some investment that goes along with Grace Marriage, but if you would like to kick the tires and just check it out to see if it’s something you want to invest in next year, I’m inviting you to join us for two hours this Saturday. Check it out, see what you think, and then you can decide if it’s something you want to pursue next year. 


Secondly, As many of you know, River City belongs to a national church planting network called Harbor Network – they were very instrumental in helping get River City started and off the ground, and were very instrumental in helping me as a pastor. 


1) Last week we prayed for The Vine a new network church that was launching in Blacksburg Virginia, which is where Virginia Tech college is. Here’s a picture of their first service – 175 people! Every month we give a percentage of our budget to Harbor Network to help churches like this one launch, so your prayers last week and your faithful financial giving to River City Church each week helped pave the way for this to happen. Pretty cool! 


2) A lot of the help that our planting team received from Harbor Network came from Summit Church in Naples. They put a lot of hours into our team back in 2018-2019, and as you probably heard, a Hurricane just decimated that area a few weeks ago. I believe their meeting space itself isn’t in too bad of shape, but they are non-stop every day working on cleaning up all around them.


I was in Louisville KY at our annual Leaders Summit this week, and I spoke with the pastor of Summit Church about bringing a team from River City down to the Naples/Ft Myers area sometime over the next month or two. If you would be interested in a work trip to help a fellow Network Church serve their people, there will be a sign up paper on the back table today. You’re not signing up to go, necessarily, but signing up to be informed as I learn more information about that. 


Alright, this morning we start into chapter 13 of Luke, so if you have a copy of scripture with you I would love for you to turn there. At the end of chapter 12, Jesus was speaking with a crowd, and he told them how they were really good at being able to predict the weather by interpreting the sky, the ground, etc to know what was coming, but they weren’t very good at interpreting the fact that Jesus was God’s Son, standing on the planet in front of them. He told them they needed to make sure they settled accounts with God before the judgment day, or else they would pay the price for their sin. 


On the way to the Network conference this week, I was traveling alone, so I thought this is a good opportunity to listen to some podcasts, which I don’t have the opportunity to do very often. One that I listened to was a popular podcast show host named Joe Rogan, and he was interviewing a woman named Tulsi Gabbard who you may remember ran for President in 2020. 


Their entire conversation was 2 ½ hours long, and on a scale of joy, if 10 is the most incredible experience of excitement you ever had, and 0 is I want to eat fish hooks for breakfast, it was about a 1 ½ – 2. 


They spent over two hours talking about the new sexual identity conversation to possible nuclear war with Russia, to what is wrong with American politics, and what not. And no matter how much they circled the wagons around Democrats doing this, Republicans doing this, blah blah blah – they were both pretty clear that they are what is right with our country, and everyone else is what’s wrong. That if everyone else would just think like they do, the world would be in better shape than it is. 


And I respect both of them on some level which was why I wanted to listen to their conversation in the first place, but isn’t that what Jesus is talking about? Isn’t he saying you’re pretty good at predicting weather, you spend a lot of time and research predicting all the bad things that are going to happen – war, recessions, even things like Fantasy football – and yet give very little thought to what happens after death. Neither Joe Rogan nor Tulsi Gabbard said a single word about being prepared to die. Neither one said, hey, the threat of nuclear war is possible - everyone should repent of their sin so that if something major happens, we’re prepared to stand before God and give an account for our lives. 


I doubt any coaches (at any level) wrapped up their practices this week with, hey good job there defense, good job taking care of the ball offense, everybody bring it in… hey get a good night of sleep, eat a good breakfast tomorrow, and listen – Jesus could return before we play the game tomorrow, so guys…be sure you repent of your sin and get right with God tonight too. Alrighty, Huskies on three. 


The reality is, Jesus could return at any moment. He’s made that clear over the last two sermons. But also a reality to be considered is that an unexpected tragedy could take us out before he returns! So let’s look at chapter 13…



1 At that time some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.


Pilate was the governor of the region, and while we don’t really know exactly what happened here, we do know Pilate was a bit of a loose cannon. Galilee is nowhere near Jerusalem, so these are all Isrealites who have traveled 100 miles to worship, possibly for the Passover Festival, and never made it home. 


Something happened that sparked Pilate’s temper, and he apparently killed some of these Galileans either by marching into the temple and killing them or at least severely injuring them as they worshiped, or while they were on the way there. 


Somehow their blood ended up on the altar, mixed together with the sacrifices they were offering. It was a major atrocity. Defiling, disgusting, etc. The crowd brings this news to Jesus and wants him to comment on it. So he does. 



2 And he responded to them with a question, like he often does: “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? 


It’s a rhetorical question. He knows what they are thinking. They want to know – was this God’s judgment? Is this some version of Karma, where what goes around comes around? That was a typical Jewish reaction to something like this (Bock, 1206). 


In fact the entire book of Job in the OT is one giant argument between one guy and his three friends, and they are arguing this exact question. Job had experienced some incredible trauma – lost all of his children, his livelihood, and his servants all in about 30 minutes, and shortly after, lost his health. And his three friends tried their hardest to convince him that he must have some sin in his life somewhere he hadn’t confessed. God is getting you back for something you did. And Job tried equally as hard to try and convince them that no, God was giving him something he hadn’t deserved. 


And so, while the crowd would say YES to Jesus’ question, he catches them off guard with his reply –3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. 


Then, Jesus continues with another tragic news story of his own – 4 Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed ​— ​do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.


We’re not told anything more about either of these events in Scripture or in any other writings. There are no details on what happened in the temple with the Galileans, and there are no details we can know about why the tower fell. But there are a couple things we can learn from these two stories:


  1. Jesus accepts that tragedies are the consequences of living in a fallen world (Hamrick). If you are new to church or the Bible and you don’t know what I mean when I say “a fallen world,” what I mean is that, thanks to Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, the world doesn’t function like it was designed to function. It is fallen from the glory God created it to have in the beginning. One of the consequences of bringing sin into the world is that everything dies at some point, and sometimes, by our own definition, it is a tragedy. 
    1. Sometimes that happens at the hands of someone else, like the Galileans who were killed by Pilate. Sometimes that happens in things that we would call accidents, like a tower falling on 18 people.
    2. Jesus is not heartless about this, though. He’s not a cold-hearted guy who’s like, oh they shot up a school in Texas? Well (*Shrug) it happens. 
      1. In one chapter of scripture alone, John 11, you can see Jesus being deeply moved, even angry over death, and weeping beside the grave of his friend. So when you lose a family member or a friend, Jesus walks through it with you, knowing how you feel. He’s not someone cold and unmoved, but someone who feels deeply with you. 
        1. Psalm 34:18 - near the brokenhearted, saves those crushed in spirit
        2. Psalm 23 - Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I won’t fear because you are with me. 
      2. So he’s anything but heartless. But he also knows that tragedy and death are the consequences of living in a fallen world.
  2. But he also knows that a tower falling on you is not the greatest tragedy that can happen to you. Not sure if this makes me a good parent or not, but when our kids were young, and said they were afraid of messing up in the school play or something like that, we would often encourage them to think about “What is the worst thing that could happen?” We figure they’re going to all need counseling no matter what we do, so let’s at least make it worth the counselor’s time. So we’d ask them, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” 
    1. According to Jesus, forgetting your lines, or singing off key is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Forgetting to study, and failing the test isn’t the worst thing. Your spouse walking out on you; your retirement funds collapsing; a child killed in an accident or by illness; even us being bombed with nuclear weapons is not the worst thing that could happen. Those are definitely tragedies, but there is one tragedy that is worse.
    2. Revelation refers to it as the second death. The first death is when your heart stops. That kind of dying will get you an audience with Jesus; the second death separates you from his goodness, his mercy, his patience forever. That alone is the greatest tragedy of all. 
  3. The way to avoid perishing is to repent. Jesus said the only people who perish, the only people who see that second death, that dying that never ends, are the people who refuse to repent. 
    1. I could be wrong here, but I don’t think most people have a problem with the idea of eternal punishment for really bad people, whether they call it hell or not. But that’s where people like Hitler should be. There aren’t many people who think a guy like him made it to heaven. 
    2. But the reality is, we don’t know what his last moments were like. There is a chance that he cried out to Jesus in his last breath, and repented. If he did, he would have avoided perishing, or the second death. 
    3. And for some of you, the idea that I would suggest Hitler could be in heaven simply by repenting with his final breaths is absurd, and you resent the very thought of it. That’s the other thing we learn with these two stories…
  4. We learn that humans (you and me) are quick to develop a hierarchy of sin (Butler, 220). Hitler deserves to burn in hell for what he did, no one disagrees with that. But you? Me? Sometimes we’re not even sure we can explain why Jesus had to die on a cross for our sin, because it seems like overkill. Seems like a lot of pain and suffering for just a tiny little jar of sins that I bring to the table. That is a hierarchy of sin. 
    1. Parents do this with our kids all the time. Our kids’ disobedience is WAAAAY worse than our angry response. Their mouthing off to me is much worse than my language around the guys. It’s a hierarchy of sins. 
    2. My wife’s sins are worse than mine. The way she reacted to that situation yesterday – way out of line. However, I handle pretty much every situation like a champ. Even when I happen to lose my temper, I can justify it pretty easily. 
    3. On my rec league basketball team, when the other team is dropping f bombs and playing dirty, well they are sinners. My own language is justified.
    4. I know I’m impulsive and undisciplined with my money, and my eyes tend to travel a little too much when I’m in certain places, but at least I’m not as bad as some guys I know.
    5. What’s implied in Jesus’ answers is that there are not some sins that deserve a tower to fall on you, and some that don’t. No one deserves to die in an accident because they sinned so much, and yet on the other hand, we all deserve to die because of our sin. 
  5. Lastly, what we learn from this story is that the Father is patient and kind. Unless you repent you will perish. That means right now, the door is wide open to repentance. God’s kindness, Romans 2:4 says, is meant to lead you to repentance.  


To illustrate this point, Jesus tells a story.  



6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ 8 “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 Perhaps it will produce fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”


Here are a few more scriptures to help make sense of this story. 


Leviticus 19:23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you are to consider the fruit forbidden. It will be forbidden to you for three years; it is not to be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit is to be consecrated as a praise offering to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way its yield will increase for you; I am the Lord your God.” 


So in the fifth year, you can start eating. The man said for 3 years he’s come looking for figs and hasn’t found any. So, year 5, year 6, year 7, not a single fig. No fruit at all. This man has been very patient. By him saying, Cut it down, he is not a loose cannon with a temper problem… he has a tree problem. It’s not producing fruit! And after being patient for 7 years, he says cut it down. But I call your attention to the patience of the master here. 


  1. 2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentanceHe doesn’t want anyone to perish, but he knows some will. He wants everyone to repent, but he knows some won’t
  2. Exodus 34:6-23: The Lord ​— ​the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.


In Jesus’ parable, we are the trees, and God is the master looking for fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, endurance, faith, compassion. These are the things he’s intending to grow in us. Yes God could just chop down those who don’t produce fruit, but it’s not his first reaction. He is patient. Compassionate. Slow to anger. And then he is patient some more. 


Sometimes he allows the discomfort of suffering in our lives in order to break up the hardness in our hearts and produce more fruit in us. 


This is where Jesus leaves the story hanging. We don’t know if digging up the ground and using fertilizer worked for the fig tree or not. We don’t know if the tree responded and produced fruit, or if it still produced no fruit and got cut down. One commentator reflects on that ending this way:


“The question is not ‘What happened to the tree?’ The better question is, ‘What will happen to me?’” (Wiersbe, 225). 


It reminds me of the parable of the farmer that we talked about last year in Luke 8, one of the more famous parables, where a farmer goes out to plant seeds, and when he scatters seed, which is God’s word, it lands on several different kinds of soils which represent the hearts of humans. But think of it from the perspective of suffering and tragedy for a minute.


Sometimes God’s word lands on a hard heart that refuses to repent, and the devil snatches up the word and it doesn’t even take root much less produce anything. This person may look at the tragedies and suffering in the world or hardship in their own lives and just say everyone else is the problem, God is the problem, and they refuse to look at his or her own heart. Maybe some of you in the room are feeling that way right now. 


Sometimes God’s word lands on hearts that are excited about Jesus until something tough happens, like tragedy. Like suffering. Like sorrow. Like sickness or loss. And then the joy is gone, the life is gone, and there is no fruit. You were excited about following Jesus once, but man, that one thing rocked your world and you haven’t been able to look at Jesus the same ever since. You might even still show up here in church and kind of run the routines, but your heart is far from God. Maybe some of you feel like you’re there.


Sometimes God’s word falls in a heart that is full of the cares of the world. They’re worried about money. Worried about food. Worried about safety. Worried about what could happen here or there. Worried about all kinds of things. The word takes root for a little bit, seems like it’s starting to show some growth, but because it lives in fear, always worried about everything in life, true growth gets choked out and the fruit it produces never matures. Maybe some of you are there. You want to follow Jesus. You want to be free, but you just can’t imagine how you would go on without your spouse, your kids, your parents, your job, your pets, your house, your finances, your health if you lost them. You can’t imagine God being good in that kind of situation. And so you live in constant worry. 


But sometimes God’s word lands in a heart that has good, soft soil, and it grabs hold of that seed and produces good and delicious fruit. And the question is just how do you suppose that soil became ready to receive the seed of God’s word and bear fruit? 


This person, according to Jesus, will not sit around pointing fingers at the sins of the hard hearted people, or the choked out by fear people – they will repent of their own. They will not allow themselves to imagine they are less sinful than anyone else. They won’t say, “I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not like THOSE people. They will say, like the apostle Paul, Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and I’m the worst one. 


Their greatest joy in life is not that they are safe, it’s not that they are healthy, it’s not that they are wealthy, it’s not that they are comfortable, though there is nothing wrong with any of those things. Their greatest joy in life is that they are united to Jesus – not simply a set of doctrines or ideas – but united to a person, like a branch is united to the tree trunk. The goal is to be so united to Christ that anything good we do is just his life living in and through us.  


Of course, every single one of those seeds, whether the hard hearted, the shallow roots, the choked out, and the good soil seeds, will still all die someday, maybe by the hands of another person like the Galileans; maybe by an accident of some kind like a tower falling on them, maybe through a terminal illness, maybe through their heart eventually stopping as they sleep. 

But I love how Moses writes in Psalm 90:12, Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.


Moses is basically saying what Luke 12 and 13 have been saying. Teach us, Lord, to be aware of the time. Teach us to carefully consider the fact that today could be the day we die or the day the Lord returns. And, while most of the world, when they think about death might develop fear or concern, Lord, let the truth about death develop wisdom in my heart. Let it motivate me, not to fear, but to discernment. To rethink what is most important to me. To seek first YOUR kingdom. Teach us to remember you are not slow like we think about slow. You’re not late. You are patient, both with others and with me.


And Jesus guarantees that those who live in repentance, who remain connected to the life-giving vine that is Jesus, will never perish. 


I invite you to stand as I read this prayer for you from Colossians 1: We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 




Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996). 


Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51–24:53, vol. 2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996).


Gary Hamrick, The Theology of Tragedy, November 7, 2021: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf0xt4j81M4)


Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).