Jump Start # 2428
Luke 13:4 “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?”
This week we remembered and took notice of a somber, tragic and devastating event in this country’s recent history, 9-11. There has never been such an attack upon civilians on our soil before. Things changed after that. And, still, all these years later, the “why’s” keep crossing our minds. Our verse today, is the second tragic event that is reported in this chapter. The chapter begins, like a news flash, in which some report to Jesus about Pilate killing some Galileans. The text said Pilate mingled their blood with the sacrifices. In many ways this is a 9-11 event of the first century. It sounds like a terrorist attack. It sounds like a shooting in a church service.
Our verse, comes from Jesus. He told them about another tragic event. A tower fell. Eighteen people were killed.
Our nightly news is filled with reports of shootings, fatal car accidents, hurricanes off the coast, fires, and disasters. Had these verses not been recorded in our Bibles, we wouldn’t even know about them. History is filled with tragic stories of wars, crime, and disasters. Space shuttles blow up. Titanics sink. Tall buildings are attacked and collapse.
With both of these first century events, Jesus follows with a question and His own answer. When the news came about the executed Galileans, Jesus said, “do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans?” In other words, what happened was not a result of Pilate’s hatred, but God’s judgment? Is that what you are thinking? Were they killed because God punished them? That’s the thought behind the Lord’s question. Something bad happens and immediately the thought is “God did this.” The Lord answered His own question. Were the murdered Galileans greater sinners than other Galileans? No. If God were to punish sinful Galileans that day, all of them would die.
In our verse, about the falling tower, Jesus asks, and then answers, “were they worse culprits than all the other men who live in Jerusalem?” He again answers His own question. No. No they were not. They did not die because of the wrath of God.
Now, some thoughts from this.
First, it’s easy to want to sit in God’s chair and declare that certain people got what they deserved. One must be extremely careful about that. The throne of Heaven is only large enough for God to sit on, and not you and I. Before every funeral begins, we’ve already made up our minds about the deceased. We have them either in Heaven or Hell. Let God be God. We have a hard enough time running our own lives. We can’t and shouldn’t try to run the universe. Jesus asked in both stories, about the moral condition of those who died. He didn’t say anything about why the tower fell. Was it a foundation problem? Poor engineering? Bad storms? Too many people in the tower at once? Who knows. He asked if they were worse culprits than the others. With the murdered Galileans, Jesus asked if they were worse sinners than others. Both of these questions drive at the moral and spiritual condition of these people. They were not worse than any other. They died not because Heaven was against them.
Second, bad things and accidents happen. Pilate killing the Galileans was a strike of Rome against the Jews. It was political. It came about from orders from the top, Pilate. The tower fell. I don’t think we ought to read into this that Rome pulled it down or that it was similar in anyway to Pilate’s attack. But in both events people died. Things break. Things wear out. Accidents happen. Tragic events are the result of twisted minds and evil hearts. Why are there so many shootings? Some want to blame guns. Guns don’t shoot unless someone pulls the trigger. It’s the wicked heart that is aiming the gun at others and pulling the trigger. Pilate was to blame in the first tragic event. Maybe no one was to blame for the tower. God allowed both of those events to happen. This troubles some. If God is good, why would He allow eighteen people to be killed from a falling tower? Why didn’t He stop it? And, this is enough for some to walk away and give up on God. There is no God some say because towers fall and people die. People fail to realize that this isn’t Heaven. Since the forbidden fruit was eaten, Paradise was lost. There is death. There is suffering. The world is broken. Free will and sin has changed things.
Third, there are many tears and questions behind those tragic events in Luke. Eighteen people died when the tower fell. Eighteen funerals. Eighteen families forever changed. Eighteen families that weren’t expecting this to happen. And, Pilate’s execution of the Galileans would make one nervous about going to worship. Where is anyone safe? Hasn’t those same questions crossed our minds? Shootings in schools. Shootings in movie theatres. Shootings in church buildings. Shootings in malls and stores. Where is it safe? With these tragic events comes many, many questions. Why did this happen? Why me? Why now? And, often, there are no satisfying answers to our questions. Solomon said, “Time and chance happen to man.” What Jesus was showing with those questions that He answered, is that these people didn’t do anything wrong to bring this on. Being in the wrong place is something that just happens.
Fourth, life is fragile. A tower fell and eighteen people died. Just like that, their lives were over. We are not cats with nine lives. We are not Superman. It doesn’t take much for a life to end. Being careless, dumb and risk takers often invites death and often death catches that person. David, in the O.T., told Jonathan, “there is but a step between me and death.” That is true for all of us.
Finally, what the Lord did with these two tragic stories was to tell His audience to “repent.” Both stories, both times, Jesus says, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Tragic events happen. It’s sad. But what that puts before our minds is, “What if it was me?” “Am I ready?” Repent, or you will perish is what Jesus said. Perish, by a falling tower? Perish by God striking them down? No. Perish from eternal presence of God. Perish by being banished from God forever. Am I ready? Am I ready for this to be my last day? What am I putting off? What more needs to be done? What if this was my last day? Many go off to work, never realizing that they won’t come home that evening. A car accident. An attack. A sudden fatal illness. And, like a tower falling, they are swept into eternity.
Live like you are dying was the name of a great song. Someday it will happen. Live righteously. Rather than thinking about those poor people who died, what about you? They died, but you got to live. Their lives are over, but your life is not. They stopped, but you got to go on. Will you do anything different? Will you be better? Will you walk closer to the Lord?
The nightly news should bring those thoughts to our minds. Murder takes place. Accidents happen. What if it was me? Would I be in a good place? What do I need to do to get there? This is what Jesus did with those tragic events. What do you do with them?