I said last week that not all suffering is caused by specific sins that we have committed. Sometimes tragedy strikes and suffering happens for seemingly no reason at all. Two examples demonstrating this point are found in Luke 13:1-5. These two accounts cannot be found anywhere else in the Bible or in any other historical writings.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Point 1: Galilean Murders (vv1-3)
We tend to have some compassion for Pilate because we think that he didn’t want Jesus crucified and he washed his hands during the situation, yet these verses paint a different picture of the man. Examples of Pilate’s brutality:
1. In A.D. 26 Pilate brought statues of Roman emperors into Jerusalem which the Jews viewed as idols and protested against Pilate.
2. Pilate used money from the Temple treasury to build a new water aqueduct for Jerusalem and when some began to protest he surrounded them and murdered many.
3. At another point Pilate heard that a prophet had gathered a group in Samaria to supposedly uncover sacred vessels that Moses had buried. Pilate overreacted and wiped the group out.
On the occasion at hand Pilate murdered some Galileans who were in Jerusalem to sacrifice. It could be thought that they were there for Passover. How brutal a man to murder those Jews while they made sacrifices to their God?! Surely there is nothing to deserve death in that manner! Some in the crowd brought this up to Jesus. They would have done so with a heated discussion that ranged from political to theological:
1. Political- What would you do about your fellow Galileans who were so brutally treated by Pilate?
2. Theological- Of what sin do you think that they were guilty, to the degree that God would permit such tragedy?
Point 2: Siloam Tower Falling (vv4-5)Now this is something even closer to home because events such as this happen in America almost everyday. A tower had fallen and killed 18 innocent people. This would have been pure tragedy and caused much suffering for the families. The question is now raised by Jesus Himself on whether these in Jerusalem deserved the death that they experienced.
Point 3: Retributive JusticeFor the ancient Israelites and even the 1st century Jews, questions of suffering and tragedy were answered with the idea of retributive justice which is this: those who suffer do so because they deserve it. This was the common understanding. This idea is displayed a few times in Scripture and I will just offer a few:
1. Job 4:7-8 “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.”
2. Job 8:4-6 “If your sons have sinned against Him, He has cast them away for their transgression. If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, If you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place.”
3. John 9:1-3 “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
And it is not far from the minds of many Americans to think this way. When tragedy strikes people ask, out loud many times, what did I do to deserve this?
Point 4: Jesus’ AnswerJesus answers the same way in Luke 13 that He does in John 9.
It is not because of their sin that they suffered this way!
Jesus answers His own questions-
Do you think that the Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans?
Do you think that those at Siloam were worse sinners than all Judeans?
No! I tell you! But unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
The approach that Jesus takes is that retributive justice is not the answer. When His answer in John 9 is compiled with His answers to the two situations here we have a good background for Jesus' teaching on suffering and sudden tragedy. It allows for what we can call “Gratuitous Grief” (gratuitous meaning without cause).
Retributive Justice is rejected in favor of Gratuitous Grief.
What am I saying? I believe that that Lord teaches us that sometimes suffering and tragedy happen by no cause of our own. We live in a fallen world.
We face suffering every day! We face disaster on every turn!
#1 The first application-
Today is the day of salvation!
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand! Turn to Christ while you can.
#2 The second application-
When we see another in a crisis or with an affliction we should not allow the thought to come into our minds that they have done something to deserve it as if they are worse sinners than any of us. When suffering arrives and tragedy crashes in our own lives we should not ask of ourselves what we have done to deserve it.
In the midst of suffering and tragedy we should ask ourselves,
How can God be glorified in my situation?
* There is an advantage to responding properly to suffering and there are advantages to responding properly to the Gospel message:
- Romans 2:4-5 say, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
- Close by reading parable of vv6-9: God calls on us to bear fruit:
(1) Repent (2) Be Born Again (3) Abide in His Word
* If you have been counting the cost and considering the Gospel message but have not made a commitment let today be the day. You can come forward as we sing the hymn of response or you can come to me afterward for discussion.