Why Repent? – Luke 13:5

By Tammy Burke

What does Jesus mean when he tells us to repent?

“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5 ESV

The Jewish people were hung up on acting correctly. For hundreds of years, they concentrated on doing the right things the right way. In the middle of an interaction with a group of people, someone asks Jesus about some Jews who were killed and their blood was mixed in with the sacrifices.

This would have been particularly difficult. The Romans thought their rules were silly anyway. They only tolerated the Jewish laws because they happened inside the Roman law. How is it that God would allow these terrible things to happen to good people? I believe this is what the Jews were asking Jesus.

We ask this question today, too. Why do bad things happen to seemingly good people?

Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question here. He does address the question of whether or not these people were worse than any others by simply saying “No!” Then, Jesus simply suggests that unless they repent, they would have something similar happen to them. And he does this twice, both in verse 3 and in verse 5. He repeats himself.

Jews repeated themselves for emphasis. We do it too. Jesus is emphasizing the idea that unless we repent, we will “likewise perish.” We will cease to exist in a similar fashion. Most every translation says the same thing.

So what is repentance and what does Jesus mean? It seems pretty important since it’s the only idea Jesus gives here. If we don’t repent, we will perish.

Repentance is to change your mind. You thought one thing, but now you think something different. It seems to suggest here and elsewhere in the New Testament that our life was a pursuit of something, and when we repent, we change our mind and our direction and pursue something else. I used to chase full-time after my own goals and my own life outcomes. I was my own authority. But I changed and now I pursue what Jesus wants of me. I realized that I’m not the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to my own personal success. The one who created me had a purpose and I’m now trying to discover and fulfill that purpose.

And that changes the way I interact with others. I now want to cooperate with Jesus and do what he says. I’ve changed direction. I believe that’s the repentance Jesus is referring to in this passage.

What about you? Have you made the decision to chase after Jesus and what he wants? Then join me. Let’s pray today and ask him to show us where we can change our behavior?

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