Theme of the Week: Meeting the Confused
Bible Verse: “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45 CSB
Scripture Reading: Luke 13:1-5
A group of people turn up who have heard some terrible news: “Jesus, have you heard about the Galileans that Pilate massacred when they were in Jerusalem bringing their sacrifices?”
What did Jesus make of it? How would he explain it?
We know no more about this incident. We do know that there was a sadistic streak in Pontius Pilate. Perhaps those slaughtered were zealots—extremists who engaged in armed resistance against Rome. But Jesus’ response to the news indicates that the real question in people’s minds was this: if these men were trying to serve God—by resisting Rome in an effort to gain freedom for God’s people—why did they die so cruelly? What had they done to deserve this?
So how does Jesus handle this age-old issue? In two ways.
First, he teaches that tragedies do not befall people simply because of their own sin. He mentions another tragedy. Part of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem had collapsed on a crowd of people, killing eighteen. Had God brought together the worst eighteen sinners in the city to teach the people that if they committed the same sins, they would suffer the same fate? Had these people been “worse offenders than all the others in Jerusalem”? Jesus’ answer is: No! (Luke 13:3).
Second, he tells them twice, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). We need to pay close attention to what Jesus is saying. He is not denying that human sin can lead to human tragedy. Actions have consequences. But he is saying categorically that we cannot simply draw straight lines back from human tragedy to personal sin. We do not have the calculus that enables us always to apportion blame in that way. Who can make all the right connections between actions and consequences? Who can separate out the consequences of the fall—and the effect of millennia of human sin—from our own individual sin? Only God himself has the knowledge, wisdom and justice to do that.
What then? Jesus presses home the single most important issue: making sure that we repent of our own sin and turn to God in faith; for there is a court in which our personal sin, and our responsibility for the consequences of our individual actions, will be perfectly assessed. We, therefore, need to avoid the folly of trying to work out the incomprehensible (“Why did that happen to them?”) while failing to recognise what our own sin deserves at the hands of the God of love we have despised and the God of holiness we daily offend.
Taken from To Seek and to Save, by Sinclair Ferguson, ©2020 by The Good Book Company, used by kind permission.
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