“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’.”
Luke 13: 1-5 (NIV)
Just a cursory reading of the news today bombards you with disaster, tragedy, and pain with no respect to culture, religion, location, or political background. It is frustrating, sad, and hopeless to see such pain in the world if you do not have an eternal perspective on everything happening.
The common question from the world, and even Christians, is “WHY GOD?? Why did you allow this to happen? Why did you take them too soon? Why is there so much pain and suffering of people who do not deserve it??”
The other response to tragedy is to think that someone deserves it. Someone deserves to die because of sin or a disaster is God’s response of judgment on the world.
God will judge the world, and people’s sin does get them into a lot of trouble sometimes! But we cannot randomly label a tragedy as the result of something for which we do not know all the details why. An earthquake, for example, is random and, if anything is a sign of creation groaning in a sin-filled world for the revealing of its Creator to ultimately rule in a fully redeemed heaven and earth.
This is a multifaceted discussion that I will not be getting into all the nuances of. The bottom line is that we will never understand all the details of God’s plans and purposes on this earth. Sometimes we have to trust in Him when we cannot see clearly.
The part I want to address from our verse above is the example Jesus gave of the Tower of Siloam. I always was fascinated that Jesus chose to describe this event. This was a tower that fell and randomly killed 18 Israelites. It would have been common knowledge to the people at the time and would have made the headline news in “Jerusalem Today” or at least among the town gossip and word of mouth. Quite possibly, it was a recent event — people were still grieving their friends and family who died in it.
Read the opening verses again.
Pilate in his barbaric rule, would kill random (possibly) Galileans and use their blood to be mixed with sacrifices. People told Jesus about this to get His perspective. Jesus uses this example along with the Tower of Siloam to stress the importance of repentance among tragedy. The people themselves in these instances were not to blame, they were not any worse sinners than all the others in the city, Jesus said.
Jesus also did not explain why Pilate did this (other than he was evil) and Jesus did not explain WHY the tower fell. Why did God allow the Tower to fall and kill 18 people?
The truth is that all are sinners and need to repent (Rom 3:23). Jesus said that “unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Jesus is referring to the fact that “all will perish” meaning the final judgment, not that all will perish in the same way as the Tower of Siloam. Since all will perish and have to face God, repentance is needed. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Do not wait to repent. Do not say that “I will give my life to Jesus on my deathbed” because you may never get to that point.
This manner of death in these examples gave them no time to repent, which is why Jesus repeats the emphasis two times, saying, “But unless you repent, you too will perish.”
When tragedy strikes, it doesn’t make grief any less real. This fallen world is under an umbrella of sin. Sin and death are just normal processes of this world until its final restoration in a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21).
After a traumatic event, we can get stuck in the spiral of “what if” questions. What if I was there? What if we left 30 minutes sooner? What if we canceled our vacation as we wanted? What if we went to the doctor sooner? All of these questions can destroy us during the grieving process. We cannot change time, we have no power to change the past, questions of “what if” ultimately serve no purpose.
If we have given our life to Christ, it should make us even more passionate to spread the Good News of the Gospel to a lost and dying world. The person you talk to today may not be here tomorrow, you might be their last chance to hear of Jesus and repent.
You do not want to face the “what if” question of “what if I was bold and told them of Jesus before they died?” Be bold NOW! Don’t question God. Allow Him to use you during the DASH between your birth-death years, however long that is.
We don’t get answers to questions of why, but we personally get to answer the question of what. What will we do with the time we have left??
We grieve but we do not need to succumb to tragedy like the rest of mankind who have no hope (reference 1 Thess 4:13).
Give hope to a world that is suffering, “While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13 (NIV)
Discerning Reflection: What tragedy have I faced in my life and what was my response? How should it have been different if at all? How can I give hope to those around me during suffering? Am I longing for God to come back or am I stuck in the world’s cycle?
Prayer: Lord, give me hope today if I do not have an eternal perspective. Allow me to see tragedy with the lens of eternity. Give me boldness to witness concerning the hope we have in Jesus to a lost and dying world.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on discerning-dad.com.
Featured Image by Andris Romanovskis