13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 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? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. “ I suppose it is somewhat a one trick pony for me, to explain that repent and believe are two commands to do the same thing. Because there is no repentance without believing. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal. (John 3:16 (ESV) Can you see the resemblance?
The greatest sin of man is unbelief. All sin, all death stems from unbelief. The very first sin was a failure of man to believe the God who created him and her. We rage against God in our unbelief, in our unwillingness to believe. It affects everything we do. Absolutely everything. Even piety can be the mask of unbelief. Most often it is.
The most “pious” people I know are often next to the rankest unbelievers. You know the type, the timid and scared who let fear run their religion for them. Who always know so much better than God. God says baptism is for your children, they will tell you you should wait till they can make a decision, as if such a decision would ever be something they could make, is ever a decision man can make. But by pretending it is their decision, there they hide their unbelief, their determination to be their own god, their determination to be the master of their own fate, behind the denial of the grace of God to their very own children, and they make it look pious. They live their whole lives being whipped by the law, fearing a cigarette might send them to hell, knock them off the train bound for glory, because everyone knows you aren’t allowed to smoke on a train anymore. But where has God said anything about smoking one way or another? A pious fraud.
No, with true repentance comes the freedom of the Christian, a true piety born of grace, because true repentance is faith in this God who has loved the world so much that he has sent his son to die for us, that whoever believes in him should not perish. This is the child, the son of God, whose birth we celebrate today. A child born for the special mission of dying. Of dying for you, that you would not perish.
Oh, it isn’t that you will not die. You more than likely will now that we have made it through December without a Mayan catastrophe. No one does know the day or the hour. No one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, neither do they know the day or the hour of their death. But perishing is another thing altogether. Perishing is to die the second death, to be thrown into hell upon death. This is what we have all deserved for our anger, malice and mistrust of God, who has been nothing but patient and kind towards us. Seriously, if you don’t get God’s anger in the garden, you haven’t thought about it. If you don’t get God’s anger towards sin, you haven’t thought about it. If God didn’t have the right to be angry at that time, then you haven’t the right to be sad or angry about Sandy Hook, the two are related and you are in the middle. Yes, in this world even the most innocent die. The most innocent did die, and he died that you would live, that you would not perish, but have eternal life. He lived his whole life to do that.