Sermon Synopsis Luke 13:1-9

Those of you who have listened to me preach over the years have come to know that I love to refer to movies. More specifically, scenes within movies…

The reality is that I am drawn to stories… in film, print and life. Those stories that contain emotion and experience and wisdom are worth retelling so that their lessons can be shared again and again.

The movie I am referring to was filmed in the 1950’s and contained Hollywood’s vision of the biblical story. I was drawn into the scene as the Greek slave Demetrius escapes his master to attempt to warn Jesus of the plot on his life. Scene after scene portrays the actor struggling to convince Jewish strangers of his sincerity only to be rebuffed by them. Finally, on the edge of exhaustion he turns a corner and there is a man slumped on the step who listens to him. “It’s too late.” The man responds. “Even now Jesus is before Pilate. He has been betrayed by one he loved… one who was seated at his left hand not long ago at the table that he set.” “Why?” Demetrius asks. “…Because he lost his faith.” The man replies as he struggles to his feet and stumbles along the street and mutters “Find his disciples and tell them not to lose their faith.” Demetrius call out to him as he walks away. “Who are you?” The man replies… “My name is Judas.” and in the background you see a barren tree.

It is a powerful scene.

Later in the film “The Robe” the actor Richard Burton who played the Centurion is pursuing Demetrius who has stolen the robe that Jesus wore. The Centurion believes that the robe contains supernatural powers that have cursed him. If he can find it and destroy it he will be free. He enters a village and meets a beautiful woman seated on something like a bench. He asked her if she has seen Demetrius or the Apostle Peter whom he believes has the mysterious robe that belonged to Jesus. She tells the Centurion that Jesus had been through the village long before and that he had healed her. Richard Burton suddenly sees her deformed legs and recoils… “I thought you said he healed you?” He asks. “He did heal me.” She replies. “Not my legs… but my heart.”

These scenes help us to understand the drama playing out in our passage. When told of a horrific act by Pilate Jesus warned his listeners that they are not immune from a similar fate just because of their self assumed righteousness. He emphasizes his point by referring to others who had suffered from a natural catastrophe and tells his audience that unless they “turn away” they will suffer just as these did.

What does Jesus mean when he says that they must “repent” or turn away? Turn away from what? In the film, the character Judas acknowledges that he was drawn to all that the world offered and had lost sight of what Jesus was proclaiming. Faith is needed to see the value of Jesus’ message against the backdrop of what the world offers. Our example is the young woman who recognized what the Centurion could not see; that her true need was not to walk… but to love. There are many who can walk and yet cannot love. These are the ones that need healing.

A final character in our scripture passage is often ignored; that is the gardener. It is the gardener who intercedes with the landowner to withhold judgment and not uproot the unfruitful tree. It is the gardener who promises to care for and to feed the tree that it might yet become fruitful.

I believe that God offers us a chance to “repent” or turn away from our focus on that which the world offers, which by its nature is impermanent and to become bearers of “fruit.”  We are offered the opportunity to see through faith that which is permanent and truly of value. That is God’s love shown to us through Christ, and to reflect that love to a world that does not yet recognize its worth.


Rev Da