Summary: When tragedy strikes where should we look? What would Jesus say to our hearts if we have ears to hear? Where would He have us focus our attention?
Madmen and Falling Towers 9-16-01
As I listened to all the comments and opinions about the horrible day this week in which the World Trade Towers fell I was disturbed. I was in shock at the sight and angry with the perpetrators but my spirit was troubled about something else. We will not forget that day. Enough has been said that I do not need to describe it. You have seen the pictures. We grieve for the families of those who lost loved ones and we should all be praying for them, and for our nation. What has God allowed to take place and why? I can’t answer that but we can look to the Word of God for direction and comfort, for instruction in righteousness.
People asked Jesus about calamities in his day and He offered an answer I did not see on CNN or hear from the interviews I saw. I did not hear it from the lips of religious representatives that were interviewed. Jesus only speaks to please the Father without concern for man’s opinions. He just tells the truth, because He is Truth. We may not like it, but that doesn’t make it less than true.
In the days of Jesus’ ministry a cruel Roman governor ruled over Judea. Most Roman appointed leaders tried to be sensitive to the Jewish faith so as to not stir up unnecessary trouble, but not Governor Pilate. If the people didn’t like it, out came the swords and off went the heads. In fact, some of the men from the zealot territory of Galilee were murdered just so he could mingle their human blood with his sacrifices to Roman deities. He murdered them to be zealous in his religious worship. Just being Galilean was enough to condemn you without trial. To maintain order, Rome gave Pilate the right of the sword, meaning he could condemn to death anyone he wanted.
About the same time, in Jerusalem, a tower that was named Siloam collapsed and killed 18 people. Jesus addressed both situations. The first was human brutality operating in total disregard for the value of life. Most Jews hated Rome because of their restricted freedoms and the taxation. If we were to hear comments from Jewish leaders and respected folk of that time on Pilate’s brutality it would probably have sounded like most of the comments we heard this week. The comments would be on things like how to prevent it from happening again, how to get even, how to bring him to justice, how wicked he is, etc. None of this would be said in the earshot of Rome of course.
The tower falling was another matter altogether. It was what we would call today, “an act of God”. Jesus addressed both catastrophes in the same passage.
Luke 13:1-9 (NIV) 1.Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.4 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?5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ’For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’8 "’Sir,’ the man replied, ’leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’"
The people telling Jesus about the incident with the murdered Galileans seem to be implying that those men were evil. They believed that those men were Divinely picked out and brought to justice through the unwitting instrument of this madman, Pilate. Jesus changes the focus of their attention. "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” He is telling them that they are no more or less wicked than those murdered men. They needed to examine their hearts and get right with God. If they did not, He warned, they too would die. They all knew they would die physically. I believe Jesus is speaking of their spiritual death.