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Jesus: God can bend random evil to good purposes

February 11, 2022

Daily Scripture

Luke 13:1-9; John 9:1-3

Luke 13:1-9

1 Some who were present on that occasion told Jesus about the Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were offering sacrifices. 2 He replied, “Do you think the suffering of these Galileans proves that they were more sinful than all the other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did. 4 What about those eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think that they were more guilty of wrongdoing than everyone else who lives in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.”

6 Jesus told this parable: “A man owned a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He said to his gardener, ‘Look, I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree for the past three years, and I’ve never found any. Cut it down! Why should it continue depleting the soil’s nutrients?’ 8 The gardener responded, ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer. 9 Maybe it will produce fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.’”

John 9:1-3

1 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

People asked Jesus to explain the “why” of a man born blind, in one case, and of some Galileans killed by Roman soldiers in the other. Jesus’ reply in both instances showed that he knew evil often strikes at random. God did not “single out” those who’d suffered to endure pain or loss. The open-ended parable Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9 pointed to human responsibility to “bear fruit,” not passive acceptance of anything that happens as “God’s will.”

  • In John 9, Jesus was less concerned with trying to sort out who or what was to blame for the man’s blindness than he was with looking forward to how God’s power could work in the man’s life. What difficulties and challenges are you facing? How can you open “the eyes of your heart” to recognize and respond to God’s power at work in and through you?
  • We could call Jesus’ story in Luke 13:6-9 “The Unfinished Parable.” The gardener asked for one more year to help the tree bear good fruit—but Jesus never said if the tree did or didn’t bear fruit. In 13:5 he challenged his hearers to “change your hearts and lives,” so it was clear what type of “fruit-bearing” was on his mind. So what about you—instead of blaming God for troubles, how will you grow to finish Jesus’ unfinished parable in your life?

Lord Jesus, I want my life to bear the kind of good fruit you desire and are willing to grow in me. Keep me responsive to your guiding voice in my heart. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of  Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

I’ve long struggled with making sense of pain and suffering in this world. Yet, through my life lessons and studies, I’ve come to understand suffering not as God’s purpose or plan. Instead those painful times create a possibility for God’s love and grace to prevail despite the suffering. I appreciate the image of God wringing possibilities out of our pain. Those drips of tears and heartache are not wasted. When we are wrung out by life’s unpredictable outcomes God can use those as fertilization for new life and beauty to grow.

But I get it–this is easier said when the fire isn’t hot, right? In the thick of suffering, so many questions swirl within us. Our body, soul, and spirit want to know, “Why me?”, “Why this?”, “Why now?”. The reality is that we may never get answers to those questions, and perhaps what Jesus is saying in this parable is that getting an answer isn’t the point. Regardless of what answer or reasoning is given for the pain, what fruit, if any, will I choose to bear? Is my fruit-bearing reliant on the type of answer I receive?

Readers, I keep struggling. It’s a tug of war between the need for answers and Christ’s call to change my heart. I’m grateful for God’s grace as my heart pushes and pulls against the need to be changed. As troubles come and go, Lord, your love remains. Help my life to remain in your steadfast love, to be rich with soil that bears fruits of joy, love, justice, and peace.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.