Introduction: Welcome to Expound our verse-by-verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Father, I am trusting, as I have prayed and continue now, that you would speak a word in due season through your already revealed Word, as we consider together the works, and the words, as well the wonders of the Jesus that we love and have committed our lives to because of his commitment to us. As we consider what we're about to read, I do pray that you would translate the principles into practicalities for us, that they would mean more than just words on a page, but these would be life-changing truths. Father, I think back over the many years as this church has grown from a home Bible study, but always built around what we're doing here tonight, going through all of the Scripture, considering what your Spirit has spoken through the ages as recorded here.
Lord, you know us. You know this point in time. You know the issues we deal with. You know the problems we face. You know the challenges that we're working ourselves through at this very stage of our lives individually. You know all of that. And what's more, as we're about to read in the next few seconds, you really care. So I pray, Lord, we would learn to relax a little bit more and enjoy the ride a bit more. And to even dare to roll down the window and look at the scenery on both sides, because we may not pass this way again. We commit this night to you, as well as our lives, and this church, our friends, our families, in Jesus' name, amen.
You may want to test your memory. Let me try this. Can you remember what you were worried about exactly one year ago today? Now, some of you will be able to say, "Yes. I know exactly what I was going through one year ago today, and I remember the issue and the trial." But you would be in the minority. Most of us don't really remember. Now it was huge then, but we go, "Oh, man, what was that thing that was so bothersome to me then? I can hardly recall." That's an apt introduction, really, into the words of Jesus here in chapter 12 of the gospel of Luke where he tells us that we needn't worry because of our Father in heaven who cares for us. And he's going to make a very powerful argument, and the argument is simply this: we were made for eternity.
We are immortal, unlike other creatures that he has made, the birds of the air, whom he will take care of and he knows when they fall. But no bird was ever created in the image of God. No bird was ever recreated into the image of Christ by a new birth, and yet your Father has managed to take care of all of them in creation. And then so he will challenge us to consider them and to look at them and notice them. And ever since I first read this passage, which was back in 1973, I started doing this. I started considering birds. I'd look at them in the middle of day, and I'd try to look at them and see if they were sweating, [laughter] or if they were frowning, or if they looked worried and overwrought.
And I have yet to find a bird who has had that kind of an experience, but rather they seem to kind of flit from branch to branch, and whistle and sing, and they're taken care of. Well, we left off around verse 21. So, we're going to pick it up in verse 22 where "He said to his disciples, 'Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes.' " Don't you find it interesting, even humorous, that the very things Jesus says don't worry about are the things that occupy so much of our attention? "Well, how does this look?" and "Is this the right fashion for this year?" and "Is this, what I'm going to eat, is this in my diet plan? Is this in the schedule?"
And I'm not going to get too specific, but it's just interesting that the very things Jesus says don't even consider or worry about, those are the things that spend so much of our---take so much of our attention. He says, "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouses nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?" You are a human being. You are made in the image of God. Birds are not made in God's image. They're wonderful creatures, but they're birdbrains. [laughter] But you are a man or a woman made in the very image of God, in his likeness. You are the crown of his creation. You are of much more value than a bird.
And I've always loved that little poem, it's called "Overheard in an Orchard," written by Margaret Cheney way, way, way back when, eighteen hundreds, I believe. It's been one of my favorites all these years. "Said the robin to the sparrow, 'Friend, I'd surely like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.' Said the sparrow to the robin, 'Friend, I think that it must be they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.' " You have a relationship with God, and because you are not only his child, you are a special creation, but you're his by redemption. Really, if you frame it that way, it makes perfect sense. It's a compelling argument---of all the creatures that are on the earth that ought not to worry, it's the children of God, it's believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We ought to be carefree. "And which of you," verse 25, "by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" The word that Jesus uses for "worry" is an interesting one. I've told you the meaning of it before, but let me refresh your memory. The Greek word here is a word merimnaó. Merimnaó comes from two Greek words that are put together to make one: Merizó is the first word; noús is the second word. The first word, merizó, means to cut or divide; and noús is the mind. So the word "worry," merimnaó, means literally the dividing of the mind. It's where your mind is torn. It's divided. You are not able to focus, because you are worried about something over there, or something else has your attention. You have a divided mind.
Our word for "worry" comes from the old Germanic word würgen/wyrgan, which means to rip or to tear. And both of those are very descriptive words, either the old German word or the Greek word. Because that's exactly what worry does---it tears at you, it divides you, it shreds you. A day of worrying will leave you far more tired than a good, hard day at work. And so Jesus says, "Don't worry." First of all, because of who you are. You are a child of God. God is your Father. As we'll read, as we continue to go, he will say "your Father." You can't say that of the birds. God is not their Father. He is their God, he is their Creator, but when you say "Father," now you're speaking in relational terms. He is your Father. You have a relationship with the living God. Your Creator is now your Father.
If you ever walked down this aisle and gave your life to Christ up here, when we take people back to the prayer room, we let them know that there has been a change. You may not know it, you may not feel it, but you walked in here as human being, you're walking out as child of God. When you came in this evening, God was your Maker, your Creator, but now he's your Father. And that's different. Now he accepts you in his family. And because of who you are, that's a very important reason not to worry. You're a child of the living God, of the King. And I've always loved verse 25. "Which of you by worrying can add one cubic to his stature?" A cubit is eighteen inches.
Would it help if a person was very short to just get so worried because he wants to grow another, you know, just, just---"Lord, I'm praying for eighteen inches. And I'm so worried. I'm just torn up that I can't grow." I often have people say to me when they meet me, "Wow, you're so tall." Well, let me just tell you that being six foot five, it's hard to find cars that you can fit in. It's extremely hard to get on an airplane seat that will accommodate you. And woe to the person my height if you're sitting in front of somebody who decides to put the seat back even an inch. [laughter] So I am who I am. You are who you are. The point that Jesus makes here---"Which of you by worrying could grow taller?"---is a second reason not to worry.
The first is because of who you are. The second reason not to worry is because of what it does, what worrying does. You know what worrying does? Absolutely nothing. It's helpless. It doesn't provide any help for you. It will produce nothing but bad health. Somebody once calculated that 40 percent of the things we worry about are things that will never happen anyway. And 30 percent of the things that happen to us are things that happen to us in our past that we can't change at all. Twelve percent are things that people have criticized us about. Ten percent is---are things that we worry about in regards to our own health, which last time I checked doesn't improve by worrying, but will worsen by worrying.
And only 8 percent of all the things you have ever worried about are legitimate things to worry, only 8 percent. So lighten up, so worry less, because of who you are---a child of the King; because of what it does---absolutely nothing. It will produce nothing but harm. And so he continues, "If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies," these little flowers in the field. And if you take a tour in the springtime with us to Israel, and you see these little wildflowers up in the Galilee, simple but vibrant, beautiful, and they're there, they grow, and the next day or a couple days later they're gone. The sun just beats them up and scorches them, but they're beautiful to look at.
"Consider the lilies how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothes you, or you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things." Here's the third reason not to worry. The first is because of who you are, the second is because of what it does, and the third is because of who you're not. You're not part of this world any longer.
You're not an unbeliever like the nations of the world that do these things that Jesus says you ought not to do, you don't need to do. You're not that anymore. You have entered from creation into relation, from person into child of God. So you're not that anymore. And because of who you're not, Jesus would say to you and to me, "Don't worry." But look at verse 31. I love this because it is the cure. Now we come to the antidote. Now we come to the thing that solves the problem. If you're a worrier, listen up, here's your cure. "But"---and that's a word of contrast, right? "But," or "Instead of doing that, worrying, do this." "But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things should be added to you." That's the cure for worry.
If you don't want to worry, then work, then seek the kingdom of God. Instead of worrying about your kingdom, start working for his kingdom. Instead of sweating your condition, start being a servant of the King of kings, start getting busy at the things that really matter in life. Take your focus off your kingdom, your comfort, and put it on his kingdom. Now, so often, too often, most often we reverse this. We seek first our comfort and we seek first our kingdom, and we expect the kingdom of God to be thrown in. What Jesus says is, "No. You seek my stuff. You seek my glory. You seek my kingdom and spreading my kingdom, my fame, my glory.
And you know what? If you just do that, if that's your number one aim, if you think, 'I'm working now for God. I'm in his outfit,' then I'll take care of all these other things you need: your food, your clothing, your shelter. If you seek first my kingdom, I'll make sure that your comforts are in order. I'll give you what you need." That's a good deal. And that's the cure. That's the antidote. Instead of worrying about your kingdom, seek his kingdom. "Seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." I loved what one person said: "Blessed is he who is too busy to worry during the daytime and thus too tired to worry at night." [laughter] That's a---it's a great, simple way to look at it.
Just stay busy in whatever occupation you have and whatever people the Lord puts in your place, and see yourself as an ambassador in the moment at that time to further his kingdom. And it's fun. Listen, it's an adventure. When you step into a Starbucks, or go to a gas station, or meet somebody on the street, and you wonder, "I just am curious if God has me here for a purpose, if there's somebody I need to talk to, encourage, help, bless?" Whatever it is, life becomes an adventure. And if you are just open to that, your routine will become less routine. It becomes exciting, because you just wonder, "What's the setup? What's going to happen here? Lord, I'm yours. Let these hands be your hands. Let this mouth be your mouth. Let these feet walk where you want to go".
And then by the end of the day, you'll look back and you'll marvel. You'll be amazed at how God will have used you. Verse 32, "Do not fear, little flock"---it's one of my favorite descriptions of us. I'm part of God's "little flock." I'm part of God's weak flock. I'm a weak sheep. And inherent in that little passage are a few truths. Number one, he knows your weakness. You're like sheep. He knows your propensities to get scared really easily and to run around and get lost. "All we like sheep have gone astray." But also in that passage is the great truth of a strong and caring Shepherd. "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
"Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves moneybags which do not grow old, a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches, no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Now he will speak more of this in chapter 16 and chapter 19. So we'll sort of wait a little bit for those chapters. But he says, "Sell what you have." He didn't say, "Sell all that you have," but sell. Don't---if you're having a problem with your stuff and not having enough stuff, get rid of some of your stuff, and also help out somebody who has, like, nothing, none of your stuff. And that will also be a good help and a good cure to anxiety. So, sell, give. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
It's a great truth and we're not going to get in depth. We have done it before, but one of the reasons Jesus spoke so much about finances, and by the way, he spoke a lot about money and finances and things that we own or that can own us. And he spoke a lot about it. He spoke more about money than anybody else in Scripture. And he said, "Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be." One of the reasons the Lord knows that he wants us to give to his kingdom and to his work is so that our heart will be in the work. Because whatever you are financially involved in, now you've got skin in the game. And so give to God's work, because when you do that, when you put your money there, your heart will follow. Your heart will be what you're backing financially.
So, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Let your waist be girded, your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and will serve them." Now here the Lord, after speaking about his kingdom in these verses, announces, in effect, that we should be ready for him to show up and establish what we know eventually will come, his kingdom on this earth. And we should be ready for that. And that is one of the warnings.
That's one of the commandments of the Scripture in the New Testament frequently---that we should looking, we should be watching, we should be waiting for him to return. Now, Jesus, when he says this, is only on his first coming. So, to the disciples they're probably not quite understanding, you know, "Be ready," when Jesus says, "for my coming." And they're thinking, "Um, you're already here." But he was preparing them for the day where he would leave and then come again. They didn't quite all get that at the time, but they did later, so that when Jesus ascended, they were now waiting for his return. So he uses this imagery of looking and waiting, expecting him to show up. Without turning there, in Matthew's gospel, chapter 24, Jesus gives a list of signs that will occur prior to his coming.
And he speaks about things to watch for and to look for. Now I will grant you that most of those signs primarily will be the signs that will occur during the tribulation period. The kind of things that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 24 will happen on the earth during that time, so those living in the tribulation period will know when Jesus will come back at the end of the tribulation to establish his kingdom on the earth. But he says something very interesting in that chapter. He gives the signs and he says, "But these are just the beginning of [troubles or] sorrows," or literally birth pains, birth pains. And that's a key phrase, because when a woman is pregnant, she has all sorts of pains. But the pains that she has during nine months are very different than the pain she has just before birth.
There's a very definite kind of pain and it's timed. It's more frequent and it's more intense. And when I called my doctor on the phone when my wife Lenya was about to give birth to our son Nathan, he would ask me those questions. "Now, tell me exactly what those pains are like. And when was the last time she had that one? And now call me back in twenty minutes and tell me what they're like." So I did and he said, "Get into the hospital tonight." Those are birth pains. They're more frequent. They're more intense. You know there's going to be a birth. So there are certain things that we can start seeing on the horizon. And when those things become more frequent and more intense, we know that we're in that era, we're in that time.
And those signs---remember this, because he's going to make a lot of it in the next few verses. Those signs ought to get our attention to make us live in the moment and say, "You know what? The Lord could come back tonight." Now I know people who don't really believe in that imminent return of Christ, and I think to their peril, because Jesus said, "In an hour that you think not, the Son of Man will return." And the constant warning in the New Testament is "Be ready. Be ready. Be watching. Be working and be watching." "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly I say to you that he will gird himself, have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them." This is one of the most remarkable passages in Scripture.
And I looked it up in a lot of different commentaries and what church fathers said on this, and most all of them said this is one of those most humbling verses in all the Bible. Because look at what it says: there's coming a day in the kingdom---here you are living on earth, but seeking his kingdom and living for spreading of his kingdom. But there's coming a day when the kingdom will be real, when the King will actually show up and will have you sit down. And at that supper, at that meal, he, Jesus, will serve you. It's mind-boggling. I think of Jesus at the Last Supper washing his disciples' feet and serving them like a common slave, a household servant. And so much so that Peter said, "Lord, you're not going to wash my feet." And Jesus said, "If I don't, you won't have any part with me."
There's coming a day, not at the Last Supper, but at the Lamb's supper, the great supper, when Jesus Christ will not only welcome you and reward you, but have you sit down. And I'm sure that our first reaction is "Oh, Lord. No, really---not me." You want to make sure you don't say that. "And if he should come," verse 38, "in the second watch, or in the third watch, and find them so"---that is, waiting and watching---"blessed are those servants." Now the second watch of the night---the night was divided into watches. The first watch was from six at night till nine at night; the second watch, from nine till midnight; the third watch, from midnight till three in the morning. So in the wee hours of the night, or early in the morning, if that servant is---because the master isn't home.
But the master said he's coming home. If that master is actually ready for him to come, that'll be a good thing. It'll be good for that servant who finds the Lord and is ready for his return. "But know this that if the master, "verse 39," of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and would not allow his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect." How can he be ready? By watching. "In an hour when you do not expect." Do you expect the Lord to come tonight in the next hour? Now don't raise your hand, because you really don't believe that that he's going to be coming in this next hour. And the truth is, we never know. "No man knows the day or the hour."
That's sort of the whole point, isn't it? You know, we kind of live our lives and go about our lives, and we're not typically cognizant of "the Lord's coming back, the Lord's coming back, the Lord's coming back." But an hour when you think not, the Lord will return. So just be aware of that and have that attitude of watchfulness. "And Peter said to him, 'Lord, do you speak this parable only to us, or to all people?' And the Lord said, 'Who then is that faithful and wise steward' "---that's how he answers the question. "Well, I'm speaking to stewards. Are you one of them, Peter?" " 'A faithful steward, a wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.' "
So how are you ready for his return? By watching for it. Read the Scriptures and the promises. Read the prophecies of the Old and the New Testament, so you're aware of those signs, those times. By watching, by working, that's how you get ready for it, so that he will find you so doing when he comes. Verse 44, "Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, to eat and to drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, in an hour when is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."
"And that servant who knew his master's will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed himself---or committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much---to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." Let's sort of sum these verses up. How do you get ready for the Lord? He is coming. He is coming. He is returning to this earth. The Bible promises that Jesus who died on the cross and paid or our redemption will come back and establish his kingdom. How do you get ready? First of all, you get saved. First of all, you got to be saved.
You're not ready if you're not saved. I've asked people this before: "Are you saved?" That's such a loaded question, and it has so many different meanings. And it's fun to just ask the question and watch people try to answer it. "Well, what do you mean by 'saved'? You know, I was raised in a religious home." And it's just fun to just watch their response to that question. If you were to die tonight, are you absolutely sure that you would be in heaven? If you are not sure---and by the way, you can live with absolute security. The Bible tells us that. We can have what's called the security of the believer, confidence that because he finished the work for me and my faith is in Christ alone, when I die, I'm going to go to heaven. I'm ready for him to return, whether by death or by rapture, I'm ready.
You gotta be saved. That's the first. So, get saved. It's sad to think of this possibility, for some---perhaps, maybe, maybe every single person in this room and listening by radio is a saved individual. But here's a possibility: this message right now could be the closest that some people will get to heaven. Almost. They're close. They're brushing up against the truth. They're amongst God's people. They've heard the gospel. They just haven't personally responded to it. And if you were to ask them, "Are you saved?" They would honestly have to say, "I hope so." You ought to say, "I know so," because he said so. Here's the second way to get ready: get busy. Get busy. Get busy for his kingdom. Quit worrying about your comfort and start working for his kingdom. Get busy.
A third way: get active. Be active with other believers. Encourage other Christians like yourself, and you'll find that they'll have something to offer you to encourage you, to help you, to build you up. But make sure that you are active exercising your gift, and in some kind of relation with other believers. Very important---get saved, get busy for his kingdom, and get active with other believers. Those last couple of verses, look at them again. Jesus speaks about the servant who knew and the servant who didn't know. One will be beaten with few stripes; one beaten with many stripes. These verses point out what I think the rest of Scripture corroborates; and that is, rewards in heaven, as well as punishment in hell, is going to be staged or in different categories. It's not going to all be the same.
You're all going to heaven, if you know Christ. Every single one of you, if you're saved, will be in heaven. But you have a capacity to have a position in heaven that not everybody will have. You know that, I hope. I hope you know that there are rewards or the loss of rewards, the Bible says, the judgment seat of Christ. And so, yes, heaven is granted to all. And, yes, there will be joy and happiness in heaven. But, no, not everybody will occupy exactly the same position. The rewards and the punishments in heaven and in hell will depend, will be various, as Paul said in Corinthians even. Don't have time to turn to it, but we have made reference to it. The point here is that the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility.
The more you know, the more you're responsible for, which places me in a very precarious position. That's why the Bible says, "Be not many teachers, you will receive the greater condemnation." So when somebody says, "I want to be the teacher. I want to be a pastor," I go, "Ooh, you don't even know what you're asking." Even though, it is great, it's cool, it's glorious. "I came to send fire on earth---or on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!" He knows that between the first coming and the second coming there will be lots and lots of catastrophe and problem, decisions, judgment, issues even among---in Christendom among believers, as you'll see in just a few verses.
But he knows why he's here at that moment. He has "a baptism to be baptized with," and we know that's his death, because he one time asked his disciples, "Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I'm going to be baptized with?" They didn't know what he meant, and they just said, "Yep." And the Scripture says he was speaking about his death on the cross. So he knows why he's here. He knows where he's walking. He knows the mission. That's what he's about. "Do you suppose that I came to bring peace on earth?" Now, most people would say, "Yes. Jesus was all about bringing peace on earth." No. You've got it wrong. "Well, wait a minute, he's called the 'Prince of Peace.' " Yes, he is. "Well, isn't he going to bring peace on earth?" Yes, he will. But that's his is second coming, not his first.
By virtue of the fact that somebody left heaven, and stepped into history, and said the things Jesus said, that in and of itself will divide people. Have you found that in your family? I have in mine. When I introduced Jesus into my family, I split it. And I've seen many families split besides mine. "Do you suppose that I came to bring peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against his son, a son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
I remember this gal that I worked with many moons ago at a hospital in Southern California. She was working at the front desk of the radiology department. I was one of the workers in the back. And I was single and she was single. And she was an unbeliever. And we talked. We had conversations. And her friend said, "Linda would like you to ask her out." And I said, "Oh, she would, would she?" And I said, "Great." So I said, "Linda, I'd like ask you out." And she said, "Oh, I'd love to go out. Where?" I said, "We're going to go to church." And I took her to a concert at my church, and it was followed by an evangelistic message. And she wasn't all that thrilled on that first date. [laughter] That's not what she expected. She expected a candlelight dinner, but I wanted to expose her to the gospel.
I sort of took advantage. And I wasn't officially dating. No, it wasn't missionary dating. [laughter] But I took her to church, and then we after that would talk for hours after work for weeks. She came---was brought up in a religious home and very devout in her religion, and it was part of Christendom. And, yet, she wasn't---it wasn't hers. It wasn't authentic. It wasn't her own belief. It wasn't true, wasn't real in her life. And she was cutting out articles and trying to argue her religion with me. And I was just preaching Jesus to her. And one night I walked her to her car and I said, "Linda, when are you just going to give up?" And she said, "Pardon me?" I said, "When are you going to---going to throw in the towel, and raise up the white flag, and surrender your life to Jesus Christ?"
You are hiding behind the walls of your background, your parents' religion. You're trying to hold onto that because you've been told it's the only 'true church.' And you know that you're empty inside and you know that you need Jesus. When are you going to just surrender to him and quit fighting him?" And she did something I wasn't really expecting. She just broke down in the parking garage at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, and just started weeping. And she said, "Right now." So I led here right there in the parking garage in a prayer to receive Christ. And she went home to her family, very staunch Roman Catholic family. She was so excited that the Jesus she heard about was real to her. And she was expecting her parents to just rejoice.
Now, I warned her not to set her hopes too high. I told her about my own experience. And she went home all excited, and it didn't go well. I bought her a Bible. She didn't have a Bible. I bought her a Bible and I gave it to her. And one night, a couple weeks later, I went to her house to pick her up to take her to church. And her father motioned for me to come in and said, "Skip, come in the house. I'd like to have a word with you." I said, "Wonderful." [laughter] I didn't really say "wonderful," but I did, I came in. And it was just he and I alone in his formal living room. And he said, "Why have you thought it important to divide my family? You have split my family apart." And I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "You gave my daughter a Bible, and she's all into Jesus.
And I've never seen her like this, and it's almost like she's not a part of our family. She's preaching to us all the time." [laughter] And, you know, I felt, "Oh man, I'm very uncomfortable with this conversation." But long and short of it, I said, "You know what? You're right. I shouldn't have been the one to give her that Bible, you should have. You, as her father, should be the one giving her the spiritual food and the nourishment. And it wasn't my intention to divide your family." Now, later I showed Linda this verse. I said, "Now, remember what I told you? That's because of what Jesus said." When you introduce authentic Christianity into a family, whether they're filled with atheist or agnostics or religious people, you're going to divide that family, because an authentic follower of Christ is markedly different.
And it's interesting and it just showed me what true conversion does. He saw it. The whole family saw it. "She's different. She's different." It's 'cause the Lord was changing her. It was really an exciting moment. "And then he said to the multitudes, 'Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, "A shower is coming"; and so it is.' " So, if you're in Israel and you look west toward the Mediterranean Sea, like the Pacific Ocean, and you see the clouds forming, you go, "You know what? I see it. They're blowing in from the ocean. They're blowing from the west to the east. There's going to be a rainstorm. I can see that. I see that cloud as a sign." "And when you see the south wind blow, you say, 'There will be hot weather'; and there it is."
Now over in Israel they have these interesting winds that come out of the south and some out of the east: one's called a khamsin, and one is called sirocco. It's a hot, dry wind, sort of like the Santa Ana winds in California that blow in, dry everything up, bring bugs in with them. It's a real scorcher. It can happen even in the wintertime. "You say, 'It's going to be hot weather'; and there it is." And then he says, "Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?" What is "this time"? "This time" is his time, he, Jesus Christ, Yeshua, the Messiah, the Jewish Messiah foretold by the prophets. They should have been aware of this. There were signs. There were predictions given.
There was an anticipation that he would come, and he came, and he holds them accountable. I mean, even magi from the East could discern the signs. They followed the star and they were there to worship him. That in and of itself was a sign---should have been---to the religious elite and Herod. So they had plenty of warning. They also had the authenticating signs of his own miraculous ministry. "When was the last time you guys saw somebody get raised from the dead, or somebody lame get healed instantly, somebody who was blind be able to see, or deaf be able to hear? You haven't. But since I've been around," Jesus would say, "you have. All of those signs, you haven't picked up on." "How is it that you can look at the face of the sky, but you can't discern this time?"
"Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate [the judge], make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there until you have paid [the last penny or] the last mite." The metaphor in the closing verses of this chapter is that of a court of law. These are legal terms: magistrate, judge, officer, prison. Here's the point: "I've told you already about the need for you to consider and to repent." And it's sort of like Jesus would say going to court, "If somebody takes you to court, if you don't settle the matter before you get to the court, the judge might pass a sentence on you and now you're in prison.
So, do everything you can, before you get to face the judge, to get right with the legal system, lest the judge pass an unfavorable sentence." In the same way, if you have God, who is your opponent because of your sin, and you're going to face him as the Judge of all the earth, make sure that you do everything you can to get right with him and to repent, to turn before that judgment day comes. "I tell you the truth, you will not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite." It's an illustration of the need to get right and to change, to repent. Now, that's how he closes chapter 12. Discern the times; know what times you're in; read the times, the seasons; as well as a warning to repent, lest they perish---that's how he closes the chapter. Now, he'll continue that.
It says, "There was present at that season some who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans,' " those who were killed, " 'were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because at the suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower on Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all the other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.' " Somebody approaches Jesus, and Luke thought it was important to include this here because of the material he has just shared about the need to get right with God and to repent and discern the times.
So somebody brings up a national calamity and Jesus mentions two national calamities. Obviously it was front-page news at the time. News article number one, front page: "Galileans Killed in Jerusalem." Evidently, there were Jewish worshipers who came from Galilee. They were in the temple. Pilate put out a hit on them in order to find them while they were even in the temple worshiping and kill them. Now, when that happened, there were some Jews, evidently, who thought, "I wonder why God, a God of love, would allow that to happen? We can only conclude that it's because those were really bad people. They were worse sinners than everybody else, and so God was giving them their just punishment."
And then the other event, we're not really sure what it was, but there was some tower, the tower of Siloam, killed eighteen people. It was a---it was a citywide tragedy. Now, the tower of Siloam could be down by the pool of Siloam where Jesus will have a man wash and be cured, or right across from the city of Jerusalem. If we were standing at the Temple Mount right now, you and I, and you were looking over the Kidron Valley, you would see another little village across from you; and that is, the valley or the city of Siloah or Siloam. It could be some tower just in that little village that fell and killed somebody. But Jesus said, "Now, on these two occasions, the people who died of natural causes or architectural reasons, or because something murdered them, was it because they were worse than somebody else?"
And it's interesting that Jesus doesn't deal with the issue of "Why would a God of love allow this?" He could have. He could have said, "Now let me explain the problem of evil in this world." But he really cuts to something even more important than that; and that is, there is something far worse than natural death. Why is this? Because every single person dies some way, whether it's by accident or heart attack or old age, in infancy. Of all---everybody dies, so death shouldn't surprise anybody. Everybody will face it. But there's something far worse than physical death; and that is, spiritual death, that's eternal death, and that's, Jesus is saying, you should be concerned with. "Unless you repent you will likewise perish."
Now it is interesting that some were killed in Jerusalem in the temple, others were killed because of a tower, the whole city will be destroyed in a few years. Seventy AD, Jerusalem will be destroyed. Jesus will predict it in the next chapter---or in this chapter, chapter 13. "Unless you repent you will likewise perish," tells me a couple of things: number one, no one, no one, not even a good person is exempt from trouble in this world. We all will face tragedy. We all will face problems. I remember one time I was asked to conduct a funeral for two unbelievers that had been murdered. And they were murdered by their own son. And they were buried in the backyard after he murdered them. It was a---it shook the city and it was---it made national news. And I decided---and I said, "Yes, I'll preach at the funeral."
Now none of them knew the Lord. They had no religious background at all. But I decided to use this text, because it was just similar circumstances. "Do you think that this happened because these people were worse people than anyone else? No. But unless you repent you'll likewise perish." It was a very interesting time. Now whenever I preach at a funeral, I try to be very, very careful and cautious, sensitive and compassionate in that also. But to watch it dawn on people that they have yet to make a choice that will effect eternity is something to behold, especially during a time of crisis. It's like, "Whoa, it's on me now. It's on me. What am I going to do with Jesus? What am I going to do with the offer of forgiveness?"
So it shows us no one is exempt from trouble and everyone needs a life change. "Unless you repent you will likewise perish." I read something years ago that I've used at funerals, and it's actually helped in my thinking. It was by Richard Loring, Bishop Richard Loring, who said although we as human beings only have one life to live, we actually live three times. We have three separate spheres of life within this life. He said phase number one is the nine months you're in the womb, the gestation period of the human being: the zygote becomes the embryo, becomes the fetus, baby is born. Those nine months, that phase one, is preparation for phase two, what we call "life," what we're enjoying right now. Now he said when a baby's born, it's much like---it's much like death.
Feels like death to the baby, not to the parents. The parents go, "Woo-hoo! Yay!" Baby comes out going, "Waaah!" Not happy at all. [laughter] "This is not a joyful experience. I was in a warm place; now I'm in a cold place. It was dark in there; now it's really light. And somebody just spanked me, and they're wiping me down, and this is horrible." [laughter] It must seem to a baby the worst thing that has happened in its life up to that moment. That's why they cry. But then that baby grows up to whatever age and then we die. But this life is only phase two for a whole another sphere that happens after this life. And that's what most people fail to prepare for. We all prepare in the nine months, whether you like it or not, it's prepared for us. And then we are born. And now we have to make choices.
And most people put all of their eggs in---behind door number two---in that basket. Unfortunately, they don't even think about the longest period, the eternal period of life. So we live one life, but we live three times: in the womb, in this life physically, but forever somewhere. And that depends on the choices we make as to where that will be. So he cuts right to the chase, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish." "And he also spoke this parable; 'A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and he found none.' " Now what's a fig tree doing in a vineyard? That's where they grow grapes, right? Have you ever wondered that? Now, we usually just read it and don't think about it, but it was---it was not uncommon.
You know, you only have so much land as a farmer or as a tenant farmer and leasing land, and so you want to get as much out of it as you can. It was very common to put grapes and figs together. That is why this will help you when you read in the Old Testament the metaphor of "every man under his vine and fig tree," that metaphor. They're used together because in vineyards often fig trees were grown. It was just the way it was done in that part of the world. The soil is conducive for both. So in a vineyard somebody planted a fig tree in this parable. "And then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?'
"But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' " It's a parable, a story, a picture of Jesus talking about his Father, God, looking for fruit on his farm, in his vineyard, with his plants. Israel here uses a symbol, in this case of a figure tree, as a fig tree. You may recall Isaiah, chapter 5, where the prophet said, "I will sing to my Well-beloved a song about his vineyard. My Well-beloved had a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. And he dug it out, and he cleared out the rocks, and he planted a choice vine in it. And put a hedge around it, and put a winepress in it. And he expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild.
So what will he do? He will take away its hedge. He will break down its wall. He will trample his vineyard." And that was a metaphor, a story in the Old Testament to speak about the nation of Israel. So I think in Jesus' words the crowd is picking up on that. Now, it's interesting in this story that Jesus gives notice. "Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none." Jesus' ministry, his public ministry was three and a half years---adequate time to find fruit in the nation of Israel, adequate time with all of the signs that occurred prior and during his ministry for national Israel to pick up on that, and repent, and follow Jesus as their Messiah. They didn't do that. There was no fruit. God expected fruit.
Had every reason to expect fruit. Didn't find it for three and a half years. It was in the fourth year---in the fourth year of Jesus' publicly ministry that Jesus was betrayed and crucified, killed by the tenants of the vineyard or those who planted the fig tree. So I believe that's what it's speaking about. God expected fruit. The Messiah came for three and a half years. And it was---"Later? Okay, I'll just give it a little more time." But the little more time that was given saw no fruit. And so then he says, "After that you can cut it down." Jesus did predict, as you will see, and it did happen, in 70 AD the city of Jerusalem was leveled by the Romans.
Well, I'd love to go through the whole chapter with you, but I'm also looking at the commitment we have made to children in our children's ministry and teachers who are teaching them. In fact, if you're going to pick up one of your children tonight, would you stop and give a special "thank you" to those who teach your children, and prepare lessons for them. And make sure that they are getting all the things that they get every time they meet like this on a Wednesday night. They pray for them, they pour into them, and so give a special hug or greeting of thanks to them. Let's pray.
Father, we pray that our lives would be fruitful. Jesus, you said that if we abide in you, you would abide in us, that we would bring forth much fruit. So, Lord, I just pray for everyone here, your sons and daughters, royalty, daughters and sons of the King of the universe, that this week they would find themselves close to you, abiding in you. And because they maintain that intimate close relationship with you, and you speak into them, and you work through them, that, Lord, no matter where they're at---with their families, in their neighborhoods, at the grocery store, at their places of employment, on the road, at the gas stations, in the market, at school, at church---that you would use each one in an adventure for your glory.
And, Father, I pray that not only would our lives be fruitful, but the lives we touch would also be fruitful. I pray, Father, that rather than worrying about our comfort, we would work for your kingdom. Instead of sweating about our kingdom, we would serve in yours, knowing, Lord, that you made a promise that if we seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things---the things that Gentiles seek, the things that you give to the common birds, the ravens of the air, the flowers of the field---that you would provide for us a whole new life and way to live life as promised. Can't wait to see what you're going to do the rest of this week, in Jesus' name, amen.
Closing: If you've missed any of our Expound studies, all of our services and resources are available at expoundabq.org.