Friday, March 4, 2016
Natural disasters, terror attacks, national tragedies ... they've happened in the past and they will surely happen in the future. What do we do about them? What do they mean? How are we supposed to respond?
That question was on the minds of those who came to Jesus as He was traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem. They came up to Jesus and told Him about a political and religious atrocity, in which Pontius Pilate had taken the blood of some Galileans he had killed and mixed it with the blood of their sacrifices. For the Jews this was an outrage. It was offensive, appalling, disgusting. The people expected Jesus to be outraged as well.
They wanted Jesus to say something bad about the people who died, something bad about Pilate, something bad about Rome. They wanted him to start playing the blame game. But Jesus turned the thing around on them – and made it a call to repentance.
"Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than the others, because they suffered this way?
What do you think? Do sin and suffering go together, like crime and punishment? Most people of Jesus’ day thought that way. Those who sin should suffer; and those who suffer must have sinned. It’s pretty simple. That’s how Job’s so-called "friends" analyzed Job’s pain and suffering. That’s how the disciples reacted to the man born blind. “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”
After any tragedy, whether man-made or natural, there are always those who will point the finger at all the “sinners” out there who brought this calamity on themselves. It happens whenever there is an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or disaster. People hear the news or read the headlines and try figure out what God is up to. Why did this happen? Who can we find to blame? People love to play the blame game.
This Galilean incident was a pretty big headline at the time, a hot topic in Jesus day. The people ask Jesus about it because they want to figure out Jesus’ politics, his ambitions, his plans for possibly overthrowing the Romans. What did he think about this? Was God on their side or not? Why did God let this happen?
But Jesus can't be cornered that easily. He answers their question with a question.
"Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the others, because they suffered so?"
“Unless you repent, you will all perish as well." And then He brings up another tragedy from the local headlines. "What about the tower in Siloam that toppled over and killed eighteen people?"
An act of God? A freak accident? Dumb luck? Being at the wrong place at the wrong time?
"Do you think those people were worse sinners than all the others in Jerusalem?” Jesus turns it around on them. “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well."
The proper response to sudden and tragic death, whether it be political, religious, man-made or natural, is always repentance. To repent is to re-think, to re-do, to re-turn, to make a u-turn back to God. And in doing so, to recognize that death, even tragic death, is not the worst thing that could happen to you. The wages of sin is death. That doesn't just mean temporal death - that means eternal death. And unless we repent, we'll be worse off than the Galileans in the temple or the eighteen killed by the tower of Siloam.
One of my seminary professors would always tell us, "don't ask why". Why? Because that's God's business. We aren't in the why business. That's God's job, not ours. He's the judge - not us. What we need to worry about is what we are going to do with what we have been given. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord."
So in the future, when you hear of tragic death on the news, or when disaster hits dangerously close to home, remember there’s only one thing do. Repent. Confess your sins. Seek God’s mercy.