C Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Lent 19
Moses just had to find out what in the world was going on with the extraordinary sight he was witnessing. There is no way a bush could be engulfed in flames and yet not be consumed. There was only one way to satisfy his curiosity and it was to draw near to the bush. We should be just as curious today after hearing this gospel passage. Not about the burning, bush but it has some lessons to be applied to the gospel, but curious about why one teaching followed the other when they do not seem to have any connection. Why would Jesus talk about us having the wrong concept about sin and punishment and then suddenly shift to talk about a fig tree not bearing fruit.
What has one story to do with the other? Why did Jesus bring up those two things when just before that He was talking to the crowd about more relevant and challenging topics? He had told them “to seek first the kingdom of God and all they were seeking would be added to them. He had just told them the parable of the rich man who stored up his grain and his concern for material things only to die that night. He gave them a parable on being a servant and remaining faithful to the master even when the master is not present. These are topics we could dig into and have great spiritual discussions on their application to us.
The story about how we judge sin is one of those we can easily overlook as relevant to us because we are not great sinners. But that is the point of Jesus, the Jews at that time believes bad thing happened them as a result of sin. Jesus is disputing that widely held belief among the Pharisees and lay people. Bad things happen to good people and bad people alike because of evil in the world not because the people did some thing evil. Sin has its own punishment apart from random events which we want to blame on sin.
The connection between the two teachings is exactly that point – sin has consequences and sin in God’s eyes is more encompassing than the ten commandments and the law. Sin destroys our ability to bear fruit for the kingdom of God and we are all called to be fruit bearers. Remember God’s word to us in Psalm 139, “…in his book is written every one of our days and the good deeds he has prepared in advance for us” (Ps. 139:16). Paul repeats this being the meaning and purpose for which we were created when he said; “…we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to accomplish” (Eph.2:10).
Instead of us concerning ourselves with the penalty for sin, we should be concerned about not being attentive servants because we are not bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.
But here is the good news. Jesus is revealing the heart of God to forgive sin and restore us to our original glory just as he did the prodigal son. It is in acknowledging our sin, returning to stand in front of him as Moses does that bush and discover God’s plan for our lives. Just look at the different ways Jesus shows us this truth about the Father’s approach to sin and forgiveness. Start with the woman caught in adultery. She was guilty and the law specified she should be stoned to death. What did Jesus do? Does He enforce the law or enforce forgiveness? Remember the story of the woman at the well in Samaria. She was a grave sinner living an immoral life and yet Jesus waits for her to show up (does that remind you of the prodigal’s father waiting for his son to return). Does he condemn her, no he offers her life and she embraced what he offers her? The living water Jesus gave so transformed her she became an evangelist impacting the entire town. Talk about bearing fruit as a result of forgiveness that story is a perfect example. Did He condemn her sin or forgive?
What about Peter, the rock on which our church is built? He responded to Jesus by saying “depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Did Jesus leave him, of course not God had a plan for Peter, and it was not to remain fishing but to become a disciple and an evangelist proclaiming the love, mercy and forgiveness of God. Paul writes to the Ephesians confessing he followed the desires and cravings of the flesh and deserved the wrath of God. How does God repay Paul for his persecution of the Christians? Does He condemn him, does He cause boils to cover his body, does he do anything to him to punish him? No, God touches him, pours His Spirit upon Him and gives him the mission to go out and bear fruit.
If you have any doubts about God’s approach to our sin you are truly blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ just as the Pharisees were. God desires to forgive all sin if we only would allow him access to our hearts. He created us for a reason and a purpose and is willing to nurture us, feed us, water us and as He does, and we draw our life from Him we will become fruit bearers and bring others to Christ.