Time Is of the Essence
One of the greatest mistakes people make is the presumption of unlimited time. Of course, everyone knows that he or she must die someday, but this knowledge does little to affect their thinking or behavior. I once read a sermon by the great Reformer, Martin Luther, entitled, “A Sermon on Preparing to Die.” In it, he writes that the time to think on death is not when one is lying on one’s deathbed, but long before that time comes, so that such a somber thought may propel one to live a sober life.
Jesus begins by drawing two illustrations from tragic events that were apparently fresh in his hearers’ memories: one being some Galileans whom Pilate had murdered when they were offering sacrifices, and another when the tower of Siloam fell and crushed, I assume, some innocent bystanders. (We only know of these events from the Bible, which is the case of so many events in the ancient world.) Jesus asks the rhetorical question whether these people who died in such horrible ways were worse sinners than the people standing before him. The obvious answer is, “No!” We have discussed this before so suffice it to say here that every one of us deserves death and hell so that how we die is no measure of how we lived. But the conclusion that the people are to draw is that one day each of them shall die as well.
After this, Jesus tells a story about a fig tree that had been unfruitful for three years, roughly the same amount of time Jesus had spent in ministry among the people. The lord of the vineyard declares that such a waste be cut down that the ground may be used for a more productive fruit tree. The vinedresser intercedes for the fig tree: “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”
And so we have this limited time on earth called, “our lives,” in which we may repent. It’s actually a very small window – and it’s closing fast. Jesus preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” This message is at the heart of the gospel and must also be at the heart of our lives. Yes, it is the beginning of the Christian life and, along with faith, necessary for the new birth. But it is also the mark of a consecrated life unto our Lord. We all have sins for which we must repent; that is, turn away from, as we ever draw closer to the Lord. And we have such a short time in which to do it. Let us make the most of that time now; we have so much work to do.