Summary: A response sermon to the September 11th WOrld Trade Center attack based on Luke 13:1-5. It deals with both tragedy and terrorism.
To paraphrase a past President, Tuesday, September 11, 2001 will forever go down in history as a day of infamy. I remember watching as a child the funeral of John F. Kennedy. I remember as a young college student watching the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The bombings of embassies, the barracks in the Middle East…I could go on.
But Tuesday morning as Benji woke me with the news from the radio of the first plane crash into the World Trade Center, then watching live television as the second plane hit…the crumbling of the towers and the untold lives lost as millions watched.
So many different emotions flooded my heart and I’m sure yours as well; horror, grief, fear, anxiety, frustration, helplessness, anger…
Why? I’ve listened for hours to the commentators, politicians and even a lot of my friends attempt to give explanation for something that is ultimately unexplainable. Sin and destruction is a part of this sinful world in which we live.
My thoughts turned slightly by mid-afternoon Tuesday as I thought not only of the thousands who had already died as a result of this terrorist act, but of the thousands who die every year needlessly – all a result of someone’s sinful act. Each death is personal and individual to the one who dies and those who know them. People really don’t die together, they die alone.
That’s what led to the question asked of Jesus in our text this morning. The question was asked after a terrorist attack. The King, Pilate, had determined to strike terror into the worshipers at the Jerusalem temple. Read with me from Luke chapter thirteen:
Luke 13:1-5(NLT) 1About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem. 2“Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee?” he asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3Not at all! And you will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God. 4And what about the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish.”
Jesus deals with two different types of evil that we face in our world today: terrorism and tragedy. Terrorism is evil that others impose upon us. Tragedy is simply when bad things happen.
In both cases I’m amazed that Jesus does not deal with either the perpetrator of the crime or the issue of liability. Pilate was guilty of murder. Someone or “some-ones” were at fault for the construction project at the Tower of Siloam. Yet Jesus goes to the real heart of the matter – each individual.
“Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee?” he asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3Not at all!... . 4And what about the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5No…
Do some suffer more than others in this life because they sin more, because they are worse than others? All we have to do is look around us and see those who seem to get away with evil to answer that question.
Are the victims of terrorism or tragedy actually to blame for their misfortune? Obviously not. What did the 245 passengers on four hijacked airliners do to deserve their fate? Nothing more than to simply go about their lives. Tragedy happens and terrorism is not the fault of the terrorized.
Yet again, Jesus forces the issue on the living – not the dead. He takes no time to deal with the why? Attempting to answer the “why” for sin is futile. People are sinners.
Jesus instead answers the what question. What can we do? If we can not prevent all terrorism or tragedy – at least how can we prepare for it?
Jesus tells His listeners: And you will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God.. He says it twice! “and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish.”
Tragedy and terrorism. As tragic and terrorizing as the events of this week have been – let me share with you something even more tragic. Among the thousands who died senselessly this past week – many, many of them not only died needlessly, but they will spend an eternity separated from God in a place He calls hell because they senselessly and needlessly failed to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and leadership in their lives.
To die suddenly, pointlessly, is one thing – but to spend an eternity separated from God because one either did not know or did not care – that’s a tragedy!