By Interno Abel
Jesus is the one who gives us life.
You know, more often than not, it’s really hard to deal with bad news, sometimes, a lot of times, we’re just left wondering “Why?”
“Why did this horrible thing happened?” “Why is the world so broken?” “How can people be so messed up?”
In this week’s gospel, Jesus is faced with one of these situations.
Jesus did you hear? Did you hear about the terrible things the government is doing? Did you hear about how deprived the officials are? Did you hear how these people died?
Well, maybe they deserved it…
Jesus, did you hear how people are treating refugees? Jesus, did you hear what happened at the mosque? Jesus, did you hear what happened to those gay guys?
Maybe they deserve it…
After hearing what the people had to say, and probably a whole lot of insinuating that someone who experienced such a gruesome death HAS to be guilty, Jesus immediately reframes the situation.
Do you think those killed were worse than any other person living in Jerusalem?
18 were killed by a tower the other day. Were they any worse than anyone else in Jerusalem?
You see, Jesus doesn’t shy away from the reality of the world. Bad things, terrible things can happen to anyone. Be it through an unfair system that want’s dead, -or kick you out of your neighborhood- or by accident, fully knowing that these unfortunate things can happen and no one is to blame but many deal with the consequences, and he even acknowledges the religious and ritual systems of the time!
REPENT! CHANGE YOUR WAYS! Or you will die just as these people did.
Jesus set’s this story in a way where absolutely no one can win. We are just as much a sinner as any of those who died a terrible death, by the hands of the government or by means of a freak accident.
We are just as bad.
We are just as bad, and this world works in a way that makes it impossible to win.
Sin is common to all of us, brokenness is common to all of us. Death, is common to all of us, because all of those things are part of the human experience.
You come from dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember?
You’re probably thinking “Sheesh Abel, I know it’s lent but lighten up!”
But it’s hard to lighten up in the face of this reality. Isn’t it?
However, here come the good news!
It’s as if Jesus knew that it was necessary for him to clarify, he follows this conversation with a story. And here is where we find Jesus doing what he does best and by excellence! GIVE LIFE!
You see, the parable that Jesus follows with is not just an offhand story about a useless tree. Jesus, after framing his conversation around death and sin, tells a story of this fig tree, a fig tree that is not doing what his owner is expecting it to do, bear fruit, and so, the owner decides to cut it down because to his reasoning, it’s a waste of resources.
How many times have we felt like this? I know I have. A waste of space, a waste of resources, and more often than not, useless.
And then, here comes the gardener and says “Sir! LET ME DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!” You see, the wonderful news of this story is not that the fig tree miraculously bears fruit, because we don’t really know if it does or not at the end.
IT’S THE GARDENER’S ACTIVE CARE that affords this fruitless tree life! Not only does the gardener procure time for the tree, but also care and means for the tree to have another chance!
This, THIS RIGHT HERE is what Jesus does for us.
This is how we are afforded life, and dignity, and value. Not because we bear fruit or not, but because Jesus wants DESPERATELY to give us life, and dignity AND value.
To Christ we are not just plants ready to be wasted, we are part of his garden and HE is willing to put in the work so we can live.
As Lutherans, we believe in something called The Doctrine of Justification, which reads something like this:
Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law, or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us.
“All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Let’s hold on to that as we move forward.
So in this story, wondering about the people dying because of whichever reason is completely beside the point. It’s not about who is better or worst. Jesus himself calls this one out. There is no one who is better or worst. We are all bound to sin and death, terrible things will happen, death and suffering are common to the human experience. These things happen.
However, Jesus doesn’t see us in those terms, Jesus is not concerned with how much of a sinner or a saint we are. Jesus is concerned with how he can give us life, a life we can’t achieve on our own. A life of dignity and wholeness, not in spite of our struggle but because of it.
We are all beloved children of God, and because of that, even though we were about to be cut down, Christ was ready to put in the time and effort to give us life.