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Bible Gemz 1010 - Interpreting the News (Luke 13:1-5)

June 24, 2019

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. 

"Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?"Jesus asked."Is that why they suffered?

Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.

And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem?

No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too."(Luke 13:1-5)



Now we have a change of topic but the links continue. Just when Jesus had finished saying what he has been saying about judging rightly, some people in the crowd or who had just arrived, told Jesus the latest news of what Pilate had done in Jerusalem. I wonder if the expectation of some of those in the crowd is that Jesus will go and sort it out. In other words, bring in the Kingdom now. They all expected that Jesus had come to reign now. But that was not the purpose of this First Coming. So no, Jesus would not be going to Jerusalem to take over the Kingdom and bring in Peace and Prosperity for all. Isn't that what we all want? Peace and Prosperity. Well, mainly prosperity, but a little peace wouldn't go amiss either. Jesus is not using this news to continue the message of "judging rightly". But He could have. I would have added, "Learn to discern things in terms of God's Kingdom. You have got the wrong slant on what happens around you." 


The literal statement made about Pilate's actions was, ". . . the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifice." Now that is a pretty graphic headline. You can imagine what the Jerusalem Post might have made of the headline that day. Or even more so, when the story appeared in the Galilee Gazette. These Galileans were in the act of making their sacrifice, it seems, when Pilate had them killed. It is not that Pilate killed them himself. That would not have happened. But he, no doubt, gave the command to kill them. The underlying assumption is that they were involved in a revolt or a protest or some kind of subversive action, that sought the overthrow of Roman rule. There would have been no other reason for Pilate's involvement. The Roman Procurator would not normally get involved in a religious issue at the temple in Jerusalem, as evidenced at the time of Jesus trial. 


There appears to have been an assumption made as to the reason they were killed. That assumption was likely based on their degree of guilt. The claim seems to have been, "They died because they were sinners." Or maybe it was along the lines of, "Serves them right. They shouldn't have been provoking the Romans like that; stirring up trouble for us all." Yes, indeed, a comment of Jesus which indicates what He thinks about violent means to solve things, is found in Luke 22:51. But equally, Jesus makes it clear that they did not suffer because they were sinners. NOT AT ALL! This was counter to the Pharisees teaching. They taught that calamity was the result of sin. That if bad things happened, it was the result of the sins committed. It was a formulaic approach to life. The kind of thing that the book of Job counters. In this case, it's quite likely that people would say, "These people have brought it on themselves by protesting or being involved in subversive behavior. Serves them right." Jesus said, "NO, this did not happen because they were worse sinners than anyone else." Rather, He said, "YOU will perish too, unless YOU repent of YOUR sins and turn to God." All of these YOU's are plural. You in the crowd, you have one thing you need to do. Get right with God. Repent and turn to God. We are all in the same boat. [see Gemz 149, 150] 


What is interesting, is that we all think the other guy is the worse sinner. I am not as bad as him. God's summation on it all is, "All have sinned and gone astray. Not one is righteous, all fall short of the glory of God." We can't pull out the "I-am-better-than-them card". It doesn’t work. No Just Say No card is available. [Just Say Nois a card used in the game Monopoly Deal so the rules don't apply to us]. 


Jesus moves on to another example: the eighteen people who died when a tower in Siloam fell on them. This appears to be Jesus' choice of example. The incident with Pilate killing Galileans at the temple, was chosen by the ones who brought the news, and then put their spin on it. Jesus chooses an incident, one might say an accident, that all must have known about. Siloam is a suburb or a part of Jerusalem. It is linked to the Gihon Spring and Pool of Siloam from where Jerusalem gets its water supply. Pilate built an aqueduct to improve Jerusalem's water supply. Whether the collapse of the tower was associated with that, we don't know, but it is clearly a historical event in the life of Jerusalem at that time. Jesus' focus wisely chooses an accident. What about these eighteen men? Are they worse sinners than anyone else? Again, Jesus said an emphatic, "NO!" They are just like everyone else. 


In choosing people who had died in an accident, He took away from the critics, the choice of suggesting they were sinners. The tower fell on them. It is not linked to anything they had done. Life happens. Bad stuff happens to good people. Like Shakespeare once wrote in the Merchant of Venice, "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed. It blesses him that gives and him that takes." Just like the rain falls on the just and the unjust, so towers fall on the just and the unjust too. Yes, sometimes we might well see a pattern that we might connect to a spiritual cause. But basically, it can happen to anyone. You never know when your time is up. Yes, the Bridegroom can come at any moment. That is true and we need to be ready. But likewise, we could go at any moment. The moral of the story is be ready. Prayed up, repentance freshly renewed and your stuff left behind. That's right, no checked-in baggage nor carry-on stuff on this trip. Whatever you have up there will be what you have sent on ahead. 


I could say more and comment on recent or distant world events but prudence will prevail. 



Life is tough. Life is unfair. Life can be tragic. But this life is not the end of the story. Rick Warren


Faith Is Not The Absence Of Fear. It's The Divine Confidence That Causes Me To Forget The Reason Why I Ever Thought I Would Never Make It. Robb Thompson


We are significant, not because of what we do, but because of whose we are. Max Lucado


Filter your pain through the brevity of this life and the unending beauty of the next. Max Lucado










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