I love to compare myself to others who miss God’s goal for their life (aka sinners). It is embarrassing but it is true. I think, well at least I am not that bad! Sin is sin. There aren’t degrees of badness. I’ve missed God’s goal just like everyone else. I am not a better sinner. I’ve sinned just like a murderer.
What am I to do? Jesus makes it clear. Focus on myself and change my mind (aka repent). Unless I repent, I will perish just like the murderer or pedophile. That is something I need to focus on. The issue is repentance for us all. I am not immune.
The good news is that God gives me the power of the Holy Spirit and I can change how I see things. I can see what Jesus has done for me and accept it. Now that is worth shouting about.
At that time, some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans missed God’s goal more (aka more sinful] than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you radically change your mind (aka repent}, you will all perish as well. Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they missed God’s goal more (aka more sinful] than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you radically change your mind (aka repent}, you will all perish as well.” | Luke 13:1-5 (CSB with modifcations)
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did not get along with the Jews because he was insensitive to their religious convictions. For example, he brought the official Roman ensigns into Jerusalem and infuriated the Jews who resented having Caesar’s image in the Holy City. Pilate threatened to kill the protestors and they were willing to die! Seeing their determination, the governor relented and moved the ensigns to Caesarea, but that did not stop the hostilities.
The atrocity mentioned in Luke 13:1 may have taken place when Pilate “appropriated” money from the temple treasury to help finance an aqueduct. A large crowd of angry Jews gathered in protest; so Pilate had soldiers in civilian clothes mingle with the mob. Using concealed weapons, the soldiers killed a number of innocent and unarmed Jews, and this only added to the Jews’ hatred for their governor.
Since Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, anything He said about Pilate was sure to get there before Him. If He ignored the issue, the crowd would accuse Him of being pro-Roman and disloyal to His people. If He defended the Jews and accused Pilate, He would be in trouble with the Romans, and the Jewish leaders would have a good excuse to get Him arrested.
Our Master Jesus moved the whole issue to a higher level and avoided politics completely. Instead of discussing Pilate’s sins, He dealt with the sins of the people questioning Him. He answered their question by asking a question!
To begin with, He made it clear that human tragedies are not always divine punishments and that it is wrong for us to “play God” and pass judgment. Job’s friends made this mistake when they said that Job’s afflictions were evidence that he was a sinner. If we take that approach to tragedy, then we will have a hard time explaining the sufferings of the Prophets and Apostles, and even of our Master Jesus Himself.
“How would you explain the deaths of the people on whom the tower in Siloam fell?” He asked. “That was not the fault of Pilate. Was it God’s fault? Shall we blame Him? The eighteen who were killed were just doing their job, yet they died. They were not protesting or creating trouble.”
Jesus went on to show the logical conclusion of their argument: if God does punish sinners in this way, then they themselves had better repent because all men are sinners! The question is not, “Why did these people die?” but, “What right do you have to live?” None of us is sinless, so we had all better get prepared.
- Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Lk 13:1–14:1). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 224–225). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.