Just A Little More Time

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Pilate might have thought that somehow he had been able to wiggle his way out of assuming guilt for the death of Jesus, but now matter how carefully he washed his hands on that terrible day, other blood stains could not be removed. You see, Pilate had been responsible for many deaths during his reign as Rome’s representative in Jerusalem. 

He might have excused his actions as simply “doing his duty.” After all, governors held the right of life and death in their hands as part of their mandate to preserve order. Absolution from guilt in those cases could be argued. But maybe not.

In Luke 13:1-9, in the midst of one of His discourses, some Galileans brought Pilate to Jesus’ attention. They reminded Jesus that Pilate had sent his soldiers to kill some citizens of Galilee while they were in the Temple offering their sacrifices. Holy places were supposedly sacrosanct, untouchable. Pilate’s actions labeled him as the worst of the worst. The attack was an unforgivable sign of disrespect toward the whole Jewish nation.

During my years in Venezuela, a young student asked for sanctuary within the walls of property owned by the Catholic church. The government wanted to arrest him for his anti-government activities. But as desperately as they wanted to make the young man an example, they didn’t dare break into the compound and take him. He remained inside the building safe and sound for some time. Pilate didn’t pay attention to that "memo" and made himself, and Rome, even more hateful in the eyes of the Jews than they already were.

In the context Jesus had spent some time speaking about the importance of being ready for eternity. It would seem that the Galileans may have been trying to say that these men who had died in the Temple at Pilate’s hands were obviously being punished for their sin, and that they personally didn’t need to worry because here they were, “sitting up and taking nourishment” as it were. Perhaps they were doing a little Pilate-ish hand-washing of their own. But the statement made by the Galileans to Jesus prompted, not a rebuke of Pilate’s actions or of Roman authority or of the evil the dead Galileans may have committed that brought down Rome’s wrath on their heads, but a lesson on the consequences of sin for every human being.

Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’” (13:2, 3).

The message could not have been clearer. The word “perish” in the original language means to be utterly destroyed. The audience would have understood that Jesus was not just talking about dying, but was warning them about eternal destruction unless they repented. Whatever the Galileans in the Temple had done, and whatever the manner of their deaths, their sins were no worse than those of the Galileans standing before Jesus, alive and well.

Paul was extremely blunt when he wrote in Romans 3: “…Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’ Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (9-20, quoting Psalm 36:1).

The law could declare us righteous IF we could keep it. But since no one can, all will be condemned because of it.

I was disappointed recently at a retreat I attended. The theme was revival. But the speaker spent all of her sessions delivering “feel-good-about-yourself” messages. True revival insists on repentance, an acknowledgment of sin, confession of it, and a turning from it. I am increasingly concerned about the so-called salvation testimonies I hear most of the time these days. They are “feel-good” declarations. True salvation requires repentance and an acknowledgment of sin, confession of it, and a turning from it—rarely mentioned anymore. But the Scriptures hammer at that theme over and over again.

Jesus warned His audience that their destruction was inevitable unless they repented. Paul explains the process of avoiding that end. The law reminds us how sinful we are. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known...This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

When Jesus finished responding to the statement the Galileans had made, He told His audience a parable (Luke 13:6-9). The story centered around a landowner who had a fig tree that wouldn’t produce fruit, even after several years. He was going to cut it down. The man who looked after the orchard begged him to give it one more year. During that year he would do his best to provide the conditions necessary for the tree to produce good fruit. If it didn’t produce fruit after that year then he would cut it down.

The message was clear. If you are unrepentant and God has still been kind enough to grant you life, then remember that He is being merciful in granting you just a little more time to repent. Don’t abuse it. You never know when that time will run out. And without repentance, destruction is inevitable.

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