The point is simple – not every bad thing is indicative of sin. But everybody is guilty of it, so everybody needs to repent.
Forrest fires burning in the West. Hurricanes pummel Houston and are bearing down on Florida. Earthquakes in Mexico. Tyrants spill the blood of the judicially innocent. Now as then people begin to question the Divine in the affairs of men. Where was God in it all? What were God’s purposes?
Those questions arise here in Luke 13.
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 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? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (13:1–5)
Though we have no historical account regarding this particular blood shedding this kind of malevolence was not unusual in the ancient world. The Jewish Historian Josephus gives accounts of other similar incidents. For example, Josephus in his Antiquities tells us that at one Passover, “during the sacrifices,” 3000 Jews had been massacred “like victims,” and “the Temple courts filled with dead bodies” (Jos. Antt. xvii. 9, § 3); and at another Passover, no less than 20000 (id. xx. 5, § 3; see also B. J. 11. 5, v. 1). Early in his administration, Pilate had sent disguised soldiers with daggers among the crowd (id. Luke 18:3, § 1; B. J. 11. 9, § 4).
So, in light of this most recent outrage, Jesus is queried about God’s intent in all this.
As is His habit Jesus answered their question with His own question.
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way?”
I.) Consider Two Assumptions in the Questions,
1.) The first assumption in the question is that personal disaster is in direct proportion to personal sin.
That Jesus couches His response in the way that he did demonstrates that assumed in the account He was given was that the suffering of people was in direct relation to their degree of being bad people. The more wicked they were the more suffering that came their way was the thinking. This idea is found throughout the Jewish mindset,
A.) John 9:1 And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth.2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
B.)Job 4: 7 “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?
c.)Job 8:20 “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will He help the evildoers,
D.) Job 11:6 and that He would show thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
E.) After a list of accusations against Job in Job 22 Job’s accuser ends with,
10 Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee,
Jesus’ answer here goes a long way towards suggesting that it is not always the case that the amount of personal disaster and suffering in one’s life does not always correlate to the amount of sinfulness in one’s life.
We simply cannot automatically conclude that those Christians we might call snakebit are being hounded by God. The book of Job alone proves this.
It also reveals that the questioners believed that tragedies were not something that happened outside the countenance of God. Many questioners today wouldn’t ask this question because they would just assume that God had nothing to do with falling towers or the ugly behavior of tyrants. No, the question reveals an understanding of God’s total sovereignty. These tragedies happened. God is sovereign. God is to be inquired as to why it happened.
Of course, suffering and death came into this world in the first place because of sin. So, Jesus’ questioners were correct in assuming that there is a connection between moral evil and physical suffering. But Jesus took that opportunity to remind them that we cannot leap to the conclusion that all people suffer in direct proportion to their degree of sin.
The Bible makes this point very clearly. It shows that the wicked sometimes prosper and the righteous sometimes suffer deeply. The book of Job especially belies the idea of a proportionate relationship between sin and suffering by showing that even though Job was the most upright man in the world, he was visited with untold misery, and then had to endure the questioning of his “friends,” who assumed he must have fallen into terrible sin.
Thus, when Jesus asked His disciples: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” the answer was obvious. No, they were not worse sinners than anyone else. Jesus wanted to get the idea of a proportionate connection between sin and suffering out of the disciples’ minds lest they think that they were better people in God’s sight because they had not suffered and died. So, He warned them: “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
To drive His point home, Jesus mentioned a similar incident: “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?” Again, the answer was clearly no. These victims were no worse and no better than any other Jews. So, once more He warned them: “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Those who were killed by the Roman troops and those who died when the tower fell may have been upstanding citizens. But in the vertical dimension, in their relationship to God, none of them was innocent, and the same is true for us. Jesus was saying, “Instead of asking Me why a good God allowed this catastrophe, you should be asking why your own blood wasn’t spilled.” Jesus was reminding His hearers that there is ultimately no such thing as an innocent person (except Him). Thus, we should not be amazed by the justice of God but by the grace of God. We should be asking why towers do not fall on us each and every day.
When anything painful, sorrowful, or grievous befalls us, it is never an act of injustice on God’s part, because God does not owe us freedom from tragedies. He does not owe us protection from falling towers. We are debtors to God and cannot repay. Our only hope to avoid perishing at the hands of God is repentance.
Jesus was not being insensitive or harsh with His disciples. He simply had to jolt them out of a false way of thinking. We would do well to receive His jolt with gladness, for it helps us see things from the eternal perspective. We can deal with catastrophes in this world only by understanding that behind them stands the eternal purpose of God and by realizing that He has delivered us from the ultimate catastrophe—the collapse of the tower of His final judgment on our heads.
And, as a general and national repentance did not take place, Christ’s threatening was most awfully verified. For there was a remarkable resemblance between the fate of these Galileans, and that of the main body of the Jewish nation; the flower of which was slain at Jerusalem by the Roman sword,
He cautioned his hearers not to blame great sufferers, as if they were therefore to be accounted great sinners.