Summary: Every time we hear of a tragedy, could we see it as God giving us a second chance?
Jesus was holding his weekly press conference when the reporter for the Jerusalem Times put up her hand: “Jesus, did you hear about the Slaughter at the Synagogue? Some worshippers were offering sacrifices when Pilate’s troops came in and killed them for no reason. My question to you Jesus is simply this: “Why were those particular people killed and not anyone else?”
The reporter for the Indian Express piped up: “Jesus, you know about the earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people in Andhra Pradesh. Why were those people killed and not others? Was the Man Upstairs looking out for some and not the others?”
Reporters for the San Salvador Sentinel and the Seattle Morning Post also chimed in: “Yes, Jesus, why were these people chosen to be the victims? Was their time up?”
The Tokyo Telegram was up next. “Why did that U.S. submarine hit that fishing boat at that particular time? Why were only some people killed? Were they worse sinners than the rest?”
The New York Times reporter quickly jumped into the fray. “When that bomb was dropped accidentally in Kuwait, why were those 27 picked to die? Were the ones who were spared morally superior to the victims?”
Jesus was not totally taken aback by these questions. He’d heard similar sentiments before. When they were standing by the pool at Siloam, one of his own disciples pointed out to the blind man who was approaching them and asked: “Is it is his fault or his parents’ fault that he is blind?”
“It had to be her fault that she was raped. With that skimpy outfit she was wearing that day, she was asking for it.”
“He died of AIDS, eh? I’m not surprised. That’s God’s punishment on him for being a queer.”
“Serves them right for buying a house right on the fault line.”
So, he says: “Did you guys hear about the Tower of Doom that toppled and killed 18 construction workers the other day?”
“Did you forget about the plane crash that killed 18 people in Angola?”
“Didn’t you read about the car and semi that collided near Wolsley?”
“Did you stop by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and spot the baby born with cystic fibrosis?”
“Have you been to the cancer ward lately?”
He goes on: “Are you trying to make a correlation between sin and tragedy? Are you implying that the victims were worse sinners than everyone around them? Are you trying to prove that God has this computer that matches every sinner with the appropriate tragedy and then zaps them?”
Have I got news for you! Those of you who believe that they had it coming, that they deserved their fate are dead wrong. You are not looking at these stories from the right angle. Your perspective is all perverted. Tell you what, rather than focus on the victims and speculate on why their lives ended the way they did, here is what you really need to do. You ought to take a good hard look at yourselves and where you’re at. Because, if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.”
Jesus’ response was met with icy stares and dead silence. There was no comebacker, no follow-up question. They’d asked him a question. He’d given them a straight answer. Not the answer they wanted to hear, mind you. They would’ve preferred him to prove that everyone of the victims deserved to die the way they did, that if you went back and analyzed their lives, their lifestyle, their parents’ lives and lifestyles, or even their grandparents and great grandparents, you would find the hand of God at work...so that what appears to mortal eyes as a tragedy is really part of God’s grand design for humankind. That’s what they wanted to hear.
But he told them what they needed to hear. That there was no rhyme or reason for those people to die at that time under those circumstances. It could’ve happened to anyone that was standing there. Some of them could’ve been at the temple offering sacrifices when Pilate’s troops opened fire. Some of them could’ve been at the construction site when the tower toppled. Any one of them could’ve given birth to a child with abnormal chromosomes. Any one of them could’ve been at the wheel of the vehicle that was involved in a collision or a passenger on an airplane that crashed or an innocent bystander on whom the bomb was dropped. The ground could’ve trembled where they lived and brought about great devastation. It had nothing to do with their spiritual standing, their moral make-up, their exemplary behaviour.
Jesus tells them and us: “When you read or hear or see these events happening, stop looking for reasons why something happened to others. Stop playing this sinister game called “Spot the sin.” Stop being a coroner performing moral post-mortems on every victim you can find. As he would say elsewhere: “Before you point out to your neighbour that she has a speck in her cornea, make sure you don’t have a two-by-four attached to your own retina!”