Our Gospel today begins with Jesus being told about a group of Galileans who have been killed by Pilate, a horrible story; presumably these men were killed at worship as we’re told the blood mixed with the animal sacrifices.
I wonder why Jesus is told about these events at this point?, are people trying to warn him, on his journey towards Jerusalem? Or are they asking why these tragedies had happened? Have they unsettled people, was this sort of thing uncommon, or a frequent occurance?
We can open our papers or turn on our TVs and see atrocities and tragedies brought direct to our living rooms. We might even become inured to them, distant and detached .
Perhaps in our comparative safety we might even begin to victim blame…
“well they were fighting too”
“ it was silly place to be”
“fancy doing that though”
As if any of those were a reason, an excuse for the loss of life or the ill treatment of another.
It goes back to very deep seated roots about whether what happens to us is deserved or not. Many of us were brought up with that sort of mindset too –perhaps we’ve even inadvertently taught it to our own children – “ you deserved that…”
The culture in Jesus’s time, amongst Jewish and Gentiles alike had an idea that bad things happened because of what you had done; your sin, or your families sin.
We see it in the idea of blessing and curse surrounding children and families; Just look at the stories of Hannah and Elizabeth –and in the attitude to disability and illness . Whose sin was it that caused this illness, this blindness, this disability? Vestiges of this idea continue to live with us. we can all of us, be quick to judge another, or to articulate some sort of philosophy of “just desserts”.
Jesus is quick to debunk any such thing
“ do you think they were more sinful, that this happened”
Immediately he is clear that stuff that happens to us is not a result of our actions, we are not judged, let alone punished, in this life for what we do, for what our families have done.
In fact, were that the case we would all be in real trouble
Jesus speaks of Grace, not the idea we might know of as karma (what goes around comes around..)
He explains that yes, bad things happen to good people, but this is not because of an individuals sin, it is not karma, or punishment, but simply life.
And being Jesus, he turns it to teach them something else!
He turns to those who are talking to him and he reminds them, reminds us that we are all sinners, we’ve all stepped away from God and if we do not change then there will be a consequence –
If we do not turn, repent, see things a different way,
there will be consequences for us – not now, but at the end of time.
So far, so much traditional Jewish teaching, at the end, there will be a judgement..
But then Jesus twists it again –
And he tells the story of the fig tree
Sat in the orchard or the vineyard, doing nothing
Bearing no fruit, taking up space, taking up soil.
The master wants to cut down this useless tree, but is persuaded by his servant the gardener to give it one more year, a year in which the tree will be fertilised and nurtured, cared for and given one more opportunity…
The tree is to be shown grace, given a chance,
God extends grace to us,
But we are not to take it for granted, he demands a response, a change in our lives.
God gives us so much, but he does not let us stand still
Our encounter with him is to be like that of the gardener and the tree
We are to allow God to nurture us, to dig around a bit round our roots, perhaps not a very comfortable experience , to spread the manure around us, in order to give us what we need, nutrients for our growth and well being, in order that we might bear fruit.
If we profess faith, if we come to church every week, if we call ourselves Christians
If we claim to have met with Jesus
And we do not show the fruit in our lives, then yes eventually we will be judged and called to account
But still God is gracious time after time he continues to gives us space time , and opportunity to change,
he calls us to change through love, not by threats and coercion.
Part of the way we exhibit our fruit is in the way we then extend this grace to others;
We all make mistakes
We all sin, not one of us is better in that respect than any of the rest of us,
It is not our place to condemn or to judge others, only to support them and
We have been given the chance to be forgiven
And we also need to extend that to others around us,
Always the benefit of the doubt, always showing grace: in the way we speak to and of others, in the way we relate, in how we act so that they too might know God’s transformation, and bear his fruit in their lives.
Patience and grace are hallmarks of God’s attitude to us,
and they should be likewise marks of our transformation in him as we reach out to others.
God forgives, God extends grace,
So we should forgive too,
always being gracious with each other, for God hasn’t finished with any of us yet.