Just as people do today, people in the 1st century speculated about what human sinfulness might lie at the root of catastrophe. In this passage, Jesus is addressing such speculation.
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 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? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
– Luke 13:1-5
Everything that happens on this earth happens for a reason. However, our limited knowledge and limited ability to understand all the factors involved mean that we are seldom going to be able to infer from such-and-such a calamity “whose sin was the cause.”
Recall the book of Job in which Job’s three friends kept insisting to him that he must have done something wrong that led to all his calamities. Job refused to accept their reasonings and kept arguing that though he didn’t consider himself sinless, he had been living consistently. Therefore, either God’s blessings before the calamities were inappropriate or the calamities themselves were inappropriate. In the end, God sided with Job saying that his reasonings were more valid than those of his friends.
In today’s passage, Jesus applies the wisdom any reader of the book of Job gains. That is, Jesus says that it would be a mistake to think that those who perished in the two calamities named were worse sinners than those who did not suffer in those events. He goes on, however, to say that judgment is coming to Israel and they needed to repent if they wanted to avoid that judgment.
History tells us that Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Jesus ministered in the early 30’s. He was warning the people of the judgment to come on Israel, and urging them to turn from the sins that were bringing that judgment. We should likewise refrain from judging those who experience calamity – yet simultaneously turn from our own sins.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, open my eyes to my sins…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)