Summary: God, in His gracious mercy, gives us warnings of the need for repentance. In this case He does it through His Son, Jesus, using two accounts of untimely death and applying them to the reality of eternity which we all face.
This is the third week of the Lenten season and in the Scripture we are about to look at we see how Jesus responded when He was confronted with the news of some untimely deaths. Some died at the hands of an evil man and others died because of a construction accident.
Now, you may have noticed on the sign in front of the church that asked the question, “What did Jesus say about, ‘Only the good die young?’” Years ago there was a sordid song by Billy Joel which despite having that title had nothing to do with the actual death of a young person.
Still, that phrase, “Only the good die young” makes you wonder about endless stream of news stories about death with many of the stories being about young people who have lost their lives. Perhaps a better question would be, “What did Jesus say about untimely, unnatural deaths?”
But before we read the Scripture we are reminded of the death of Greg Young, a young Houghton student a week ago and such tragedies boggle the mind.
As an introduction to why there is suffering and death in the world let’s take a look at this brief video before we read our main Scripture lesson - Show video
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
“Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’
“‘Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’
So, there you have it. Some people who were offering sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem were killed purposefully by soldiers of Pilate and eighteen others died in a construction accident.
There was a concept at the time of Christ that misfortune was always the result of sinful living and therefore misfortune only fell upon sinful people.
We can see this attitude throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Job and in the Proverbs. Poor old Job has no idea why he is suffering and his friends keep telling him the same thing over and over. They say that it is obvious that Job has sin in his life otherwise the Lord would reward him instead of punishing him.
Just look at Job 8:3-4
“Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against Him, He gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”
Whoa! That’s some tough talk. “Your kids sinned and God killed them!” That’s really what they thought! Don’t we have that same attitude sometimes?
So, what’s their remedy for Job’s situation?
It’s found in verses 5 and 6
“But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now He will rouse Himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.”
We also see this pattern of thinking in the 9th chapter of John where Jesus and His disciples encounter a man who was born blind
In verse 2 the disciples ask Jesus
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Somehow, they can’t even see the absurdity of a certain aspect of their question. How could this man sin in a way that would cause him to be born blind? Did they believe that it was possible to sin before birth? Now, they believed that sin was disobeying the law of Moses or the thousands of laws they added on later. Perhaps it was just one of those questions that popped out of their mouth before their brain went into gear.
Either way, you can see how this line of thought was ingrained into their very way of thinking. It was almost like the modern version of the health and wealth gospel that is proclaimed by certain preachers today. They say, “If you are righteous you will be healthy and wealthy and honored by God and men. If you are sinful you will be sick and poor and despised by God and men.”
But how do we see that play out in the history of the Bible?
For the sake of discussion, let’s say that the men who were killed by Pilate’s soldiers in the temple were being punished for their sins. OK. Then why didn’t God punish Herod when he ordered the death of all the male infants in Bethlehem?
Now, if we embrace the idea that God directly punishes a person for their own sinfulness on earth with suffering and death, how do you explain the three thousand people who died in the 9/11 attack? Did all of the righteous people make it out of the buildings and only the unrepentant sinners died?