The Parable of the Tree: On Repentance – Gospel in Life

The Parable of the Tree: On Repentance

Tim Keller |  July 10, 1994

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  • Repentance
Luke 13:1-9
RS 49-01


In this parable, Jesus is teaching about repentance. Now there are a lot of different opinions about repentance. For example, the famous poet Lord Byron said, “… the weak alone repent!” Yet Shakespeare said in one of his characters, “I’ll repent, and that suddenly … I shall be out of heart shortly, and then I shall have no strength to repent.” Do you see? The one poet says, “It takes weakness to repent,” whereas Shakespeare sees it as taking strength to repent. He sees it as being an achievement.

Now who is right? Is repentance a sign of strength or is it a sign of weakness? Shakespeare is much more profound at this point, and he’s much closer to what Jesus Christ says. Jesus says repentance is the key to everything. Jesus says repentance is the way in which we should process everything that comes to us — it is the grid through which everything should pass. He tells us 1) we need it, 2) how to do it, and 3) how he brings it about in us.

Luke 13:1–9

Repentance is a word that different people understand in different ways. Some see it as a sign of weakness, while others think of it as a mark of strength. Our culture often looks at repentance as a difficult concept, because we like to believe that we’re in charge of our lives. But, according to Jesus, repentance is very important and is something we should keep doing throughout our lives. He’s there to help us through it.

1. Why we should keep repenting

Jesus tells us that everyone needs to repent, not just when things are going bad, but also when things are going good. He tells us that it’s not right to think that people suffer because they’re bad and people are blessed because they’re good. We all need to repent no matter what’s happening in our lives. Repenting isn’t about beating ourselves up, but about realizing we need God’s love and constantly choosing to follow Him.

2. What it means to keep repenting

Jesus teaches us that repentance isn’t about who deserves to suffer. He shows us that God actually lets us off the hook more than we might think. We shouldn’t think that God owes us an easy life; wondering why bad things happen means we think we deserve only good things. Real repentance is about noticing our selfishness and our mistakes, appreciating God’s promise to save us, and realizing that when we repent, like the story of the lost son, we’re welcomed back into God’s family with His forgiveness.

3. How to keep repenting

Repentance happens when we admit our mistakes and understand God’s love. It’s important to be humble and thankful when good things happen, realizing they’re gifts we didn’t earn. This helps us trust God and find happiness and steadiness even when times are tough. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we’ve made in the past or how old we are, it’s never too late to repent. Jesus will always welcome a heart that’s ready to change.



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