Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Why Do Bad Things Happen?
In this section of Luke’s gospel, Jesus continues to set the stage for the Great Divide—that time when humanity will be separated into two groups. One will be welcomed to a place of light and love called God’s heaven. The other will be sent away to a place of outer darkness and great anger. In Chapter 12 verses 54 to 59 through Chapter 13 verse 9 – Jesus uses four pictures to illustrate His point. One comes from a common understanding of the weather. The second a picture of what we must do to avoid coming judgment using a picture from this age. The third comes from a well-known tragedy, and the fourth a parable about saving a dying tree.
54 – 56 Trust your gut
In a real way the people of Israel were asleep at the switch. The Messiah was among them yet they were not aware, not paying attention, and not ready to receive Him. There were specific signs they were to look for that would have clued them in, and those signs were as sure as the weather. Rainstorms usually blew in from the Mediterranean (to the West) and hot winds blew in from the deserts to the south. Yet when Jesus came healing, speaking God’s truth, raising people from the dead and freeing them from blindness and demon possession – all the while talking about the coming of God’s kingdom – they dismissed it.
But even as sure as the presence of clouds and wind portend a change in the weather, the presence of Jesus portends a change in the way humanity deals with God and their eternal destiny.
And nothing has changed. Jesus is still every bit on the scene through the church and the gospel and His second coming, and the distinctions He’s going to talk about in a moment, are just that much closer. We trust our guts to know the signs of the sky mean a change in weather. There is something in each of us that knows the signs of Jesus mean He is something incredibly special that we must pay attention to!
57 – 59 Be proactive towards your future
This story is saying that we are all on our way to the “ruler”. In this case the ruler and adversary are the same person: God. Why is God our adversary? Because we have become enemies of God (Romans 5:10) because our sins separated us from Him (Isaiah 59:2). The payment for our sins is death (Romans 3:23) which is eternal separation from God.
So we are on our way to that judgement. We are all guilty (Romans 3:23) of violating God’s Law so it is a foregone conclusion that if we come to Him in our present state we will be found guilty and sentenced to death. So while we’re walking along here is Jesus, who is our adversary, but also our advocate (1 John 2:1). You make a deal with Him – give Him your life in return for His, and when you get to the judge He declares you innocent because Jesus took the fall for you.
Next, the Jews had this idea that if bad stuff happened to you, it meant you’d done bad things and that God was judging you (John 9:2). Luke brings in this next scene in case anyone is thinking that they are not on their way to the inevitable judgment because nothing really bad had happened in their life.
13:1 – 5 Be mindful that the separation is fair but inevitable.
Nothing is known about either incident mentioned here. But Pilate’s actions would not have been outside of his character. He was known as one who responded brutally to any insurrection. I wonder if they told Jesus to try and get a political rise out of Him, as they thought the Messiah was a political solution for Israel to the problem of the Roman occupation. The incident of the Tower of Siloam in southeastern Jerusalem is also unknown. But the point is the same. It doesn’t matter if an earthly force comes against you, or a catastrophe occurs: it doesn’t mean you are any less or more likely to have to meet the ruler as in the previous story. We are all going down. We are all guilty. Jesus here says we will all “perish” unless we “repent”. To repent basically means to change your mind about sin. Instead of thinking you are okay with God, you realize that your thoughts, words, and deeds go against His holiness and that forces you to your knees in front of Him to beg for mercy.
Now in order to avoid the idea that God is somehow capricious or desires to punish us, Jesus adds this final parable:
6 – 9 Be comforted that the Lord is patient and persistent
The fig tree was often used a symbol for the Israel (Matthew 24:32, Mark 11:12-14). Normally after three years a tree should produce fruit. The Messiah came and looked for the fruit of repentance in the Jewish people but found none. They were barren when it came to being ready for His arrival. Instead of giving up, God gives them more time to repent. Israel would still reject Him and call for His crucifixion, but in the very end of this age, they will turn (Zechariah 12:10).
- The end is coming and you can’t escape it.
- You’ll have to appear before the judge and you have a bad case.
- There is a way to escape the sentence
- God patently works on all of us because His desire is to be with us forever
As we think about these set-pieces to talk about coming judgment and how to avoid it, there are three things I’d like to share.
- 1.God is both Judge and recipient of God’s judgment
Our guys have been studying the minor prophets and have been in the book of Joel. This week we were looking at Chapter 2 which has two contrasting pictures in it. The chapter begins with “Sound the alarm in My holy mountain” because an overwhelming army of demonically powered locusts is coming upon the land and there will be no “escape from them”; no hiding or avoiding this judgment. They are coming at the Lord’s behest because the nation has sinned.
Joel is picturing what’s called “The Day of the Lord” when everyone must settle accounts with God. But I love the second part of the chapter:
Joel 2:12 Even now—this is the Lord’s declaration—turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, so you can offer grain and wine to the Lord your God.
Even as the certainty of judgment looms, there is always an “even now”. Settling out of court on the way to the Day of the Lord is what God wants. He is not mean and angry and wanting to hurt us. He is gracious and compassionate and wants to relent from sending disaster. But He is also pure and just. The only way to avoid judgment is to “tear your hearts” – repent, then let Jesus take the penalty for you.
The chapter continues with another sound – a horn announcing a sacred feast. God invites us to fellowship with Him through Jesus. So do you want to hear the bells of alarm of coming judgment or the bells of coming blessing?
- 2.Why do bad things happen to good people?
The second thing comes from verses 1 – 5 of Chapter 13. It is common for us to think that when bad things happen, it is God judging or punishing us. We need to leave that behind. God judged Jesus so He wouldn’t have to judge you.
So when bad things happen, how do we interpret them? Let me offer some suggestions. There are basically three sources for bad things happening to us in this age:
- Fall: As a result of the fallen creation (Romans 8:20 “For the creation was subjected to futility”)
- Flesh: As the consequences for our choices (Galatians 6:7 “For whatever a man sows he will also reap, 8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh.”)
- Foe: As the activity of the enemy (1 Peter 5:8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”)
These three can actually work in combination, and often the Foe tries to create a synergy between them. For instance, he incites someone to act with anger over something like sickness, which is the result of the Fall, and they make poor choices and hurt someone else, acting in the Flesh.
So what should we do in response to this?
- Fall: If it is the creation (natural or man-made) don’t get mad at God, but pray for His return when He’ll redeem the creation and for patience and protection here.
- Flesh: If it is your choices (or another’s), do what Paul suggests and instead of sowing to the flesh, instead sow to the Spirit—put your roots down deep in God. What does this mean? Instead of practicing the fruit of the flesh, practice the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control). And instead of returning anger for anger, return kindness and prayer.
- Foe: Instead of giving into or running in fear of the enemy (who often uses others to push you, or temptations to pull you) be aware (sober-don’t drink the world’s intoxicant, and alert-awake and watching) and resistant (push back against the attack, and be solid in your faith).
2 Corinthians 2:11 (KJV) 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
So for Fall, Flesh or Foe, Pray, Put down roots, and Push back!
- 3.Are you finding your life unfruitful?
The picture of the tree means that God uses great patience and persistence as He brings us to an understanding of our sin and His free gift of salvation.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
Sometimes the soil of a life gets hardened, either by sin or just a tough life. Maybe you already know Him but your life has not been fruitful. You feel all dried up. In that state God doesn’t give up on you either, but digs around the soil to encourage new root growth. Things might feel uncomfortable or downright painful. But use it as an opportunity to put out new roots into Him. The fruit, which is God’s character (Galatians 5:22-23), also comes from Him—the deeper our roots (dependence on, love for, loyalty for) the stronger the fruit.