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Learning from Unexpected Moments in Life

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 13:1–21

Jesus reminds us that the events of life should cause us to reflect upon eternity and our relationship with Him. The unexpected, especially, points us to the urgency of trusting Christ today as Savior and Lord.


As we begin Luke chapter 13, I am struck by how Jesus uses the unexpected events of life to draw people to Himself. In fact, the Lord is about to use some unexpected events to teach some very practical lessons in life.

First, Jesus addresses an unexpected evil. Verse 1 says, “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We know from history that Pilate would kill Jewish people who threatened his rule. More than likely, these Galileans were planning some sort of uprising against Rome.

No doubt people were saying, “Well, they had it coming; they were plotting a revolt. They were sinful men.”

Jesus responds in verses 2-3:

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”   

In other words, He is saying, “Stop trying to figure out if they deserved to die; the question is whether you are ready to die and meet your Maker.”

Next, we have here an unexpected accident. A tower fell and killed several people, and some were wondering why God would let that happen. Jesus addresses this in verses 4-5:

“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

So, were those who died in this accident worse sinners than others?

We know from history that Pilate built an aqueduct in Jerusalem to the pool of Siloam; and he paid for it by stealing money from the temple treasury.[1] This tower—more than likely connected to Pilate’s building project—collapsed, killing eighteen people. The implication is that many people believed the Jewish carpenters and masons working on this project were being paid with this stolen money. They were traitors to the nation and deserved to die.[2]

Again, Jesus doesn’t get involved in that debate. He just asks the question, “What if that tower had fallen on you? What’s going to happen when you stand before God one day?” Then Jesus says, “[You had better] Repent, [or else] you will all likewise perish” (verse 5).

Now the Lord delivers a parable in which He describes an unexpected mercy. Beginning with verse 6, He tells of a fig tree that has not produced any fruit for three years. The owner of the vineyard tells his gardener to cut it down, but the gardener pleads for mercy, so to speak, to allow the tree to live one more year; while he gives the tree some special attention.

The Jewish people would have known Jesus was speaking to them about their own fruitless spiritual condition. The fig tree was a symbol of Israel (Micah 7:1). This unfruitful fig tree was the unrepentant nation. Cutting it down was a picture of judgment. But what is unexpected here is that God is going to extend His mercy for a little while longer.

One author called this parable the gospel of the second chance until the final chance.[3] What about you today? Eventually one more chance to give your life to Christ will become your final chance. His mercy is not going to last forever.

Now we have an unexpected miracle. Look at verses 10-11:

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.

This “disabling spirit” is not possessing her—Jesus does not cast out a demon. In fact, in verse 16, Jesus calls her a daughter of Abraham; she is a woman of true faith in God. She is more like Job, who was physically tormented by the demonic world but only by God’s permission.

The Lord has reserved her healing for this moment in this synagogue as evidence that He’s the Messiah.

He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. (Verses 12-13)                                                                                               

The synagogue leader is not happy at all. In fact, he is angry, supposedly because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus calls out his hypocrisy. He points out that they will care for a donkey on the Sabbath, so why not help this poor woman on a Sabbath?

This Jewish leader is actually angry because he knows this miracle proves who Jesus is. This miracle was a taste of the Lord’s kingdom power.[4] In fact, Jesus uses this healing to begin teaching about His kingdom. The Lord says here in verses 18-19:

“What is the kingdom of God like? . . . It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

It starts small, but it grows into magnificent shelter. It rescued one woman here, but one day it will provide shelter around the world. It is just a little seed the size of a pinhead. But just wait, beloved; the kingdom will one day cover the earth.

Next, in verse 21, the Lord says the kingdom is like yeast in bread. It is currently unseen, but it is working from the inside out, and one day it will affect everything.[5] One day, the Lord’s kingdom on earth will include Jews and Gentiles—believers from around the world who have claimed the Lord as their Messiah.

Sometime ago I met a young man who was born of Jewish and Gentile parents. He was raised in Judaism, but he began to wonder, as a young adult, if Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

He began attending The Shepherd’s Church and then asked to meet with me. I assigned him a book to read that gave him the basics of Christianity. Frankly, I thought it would give him something to think about for a month or so. Well, he was back, three days later. I gave him another book to read and also assigned him to read the Gospel of John—he was back a week later.

After another meeting of questions and answers, I gave him even more to read—and again, he read it all within days. He came to see me and told me he was ready for something more to read. I told him there was nothing more he needed—that he did not need more information; he needed to make a decision. He said he wasn’t ready, and after I prayed for him, he left my office. Frankly, I didn’t think I would ever see him again.

Then I received a note from him a few weeks later. He wrote that after leaving church one Sunday morning, after I had preached on this chapter in the Gospel of Luke, urging people to make a decision for Christ, he gave his life to Christ while stopped at a traffic light. He ended his note by writing, “No more waiting. The matter is settled with God.”

Beloved, that’s the message here in Luke 13—life is filled with unexpected evil, unexpected disasters, unexpected turns, and even unexpected death. Frankly we do not know what God is going to allow in this world, what He is going to do. But there is one thing we can expect Him to do: the Bible says that if you confess your sins, you can expect Him to forgive you (1 John 1:9); the Bible says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

Maybe you are at a red light right now. Confess Him as your Lord and Savior, and let me tell you, you can expect Him to hear you and answer you, and it will be settled forever.

[1] Clinton E. Arnold, ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, volume 1 (Zondervan, 2002), 433.

[3] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Westminster Press, 1975), 176.

[4] R. Kent Hughes, Luke: Volume 2 (Crossway, 1998), 89.

[5] Ibid., 93.

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