Missing the Point
Missing the Point
Words of Faith 9-17-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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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."
As Jesus moved toward His destiny in Jerusalem-- to pay in full the price of eternal life for each of us-- some around Jesus were asking about earthly matters. "Tell my brother to give me a share of inheritance." But others were concerned about the tragedies of life. "Why did this terrible thing happen?" It was often the case among people that a particular tragedy, disaster or political event would dominate their thought and conversation for a time.
The same is true today even if the technology is different. If you follow the "news cycle," one or two events always tend to dominate. It may be a big storm, fire or tragic accident. This is not just a matter of focusing on bad news. People often try to make some sense of what is going on in the world around them. On this particular day in Galilee, two terrible things were on the minds of those gathered in the crowd around Jesus.
First, there had been a political, religious and personal tragedy at the hands of the Romans. Today we would call it a terrorist act. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, had murdered Jewish worshipers in the Temple! From other sources, we know how that event started. Pilate had severely taxed the Temple in order to pay for an aqueduct project. The people refused to pay so Pilate sent soldiers into the Temple disguised as worshippers and then murdered worshipers while sacrifices were going on. So much for the separation of church and state.
This was the "mixing their blood with that of the sacrifices" that Jesus spoke of. It was an act of political terrorism. It was a horrible injustice that deeply hurt the people. Can you imagine people being killed right in the midst of worship? It also defiled the holiest of places. If a political terrorist bombed a church full of worshipers, opened fire in a mosque, or attacked a synagogue, it would be all the talk at least for a while. In the time of Jesus, the talk was not so much about the politics of the matter. They were mainly debating the theology of God and sin. How could God allow this?
Jesus mentioned another tragedy. It was something surely they all had known about and almost more troubling. A tower had collapsed at a construction site and had killed eighteen men. Since Jesus probably worked in construction this hit very close to home. In a sense was even more difficult to comprehend. The Temple killings were a terrorist act but the collapse of the tower seemed to have no other actor but God. Families had lost their loved ones and bread winners. They were surely asking: "Why do such things happen?"
As humans, we struggle to make sense of such things. Tsunamis, coal mine fires, kidnapped missionaries, devastating storms. "Why?" we ask. Why did God make this happen, or allow this to happen? It was common in Jewish rabbinical thought to blame tragedy, catastrophe or calamity on the sin of the person. If a person obeyed the law they would be blessed, so if a great tragedy befell a person or group it was assumed that they had committed some sin. If a person was afflicted with a disease it was assumed that they must have sinned and this was a punishment from God. Jesus rejected this theology.
While there are times that bad does fall upon the sinner, Jesus was clear that "the rain falls on the just and the unjust" (Mt. 5:45). Rain was a literal and figurative blessing anywhere in the Middle East. Sometimes the unrighteous are blessed along with the righteous. Jesus also pointed out that sometimes bad things happen to people who are not "unrighteous.” Some things happen simply to glorify God and not as a punishment for sin (John 9:1-3).
So what was Jesus saying here? When you try to figure out how sinful the people were in a particular tragedy, you are missing the most important point. Jesus moved beyond such speculations. For those who were seeking to assign a level of sinfulness to others who had experienced tragedy, Jesus said: Do you really think that some are more guilty than others? I tell you no. The truth is that all have sinned, and you need to repent. God is not sitting back visiting calamity on some sinners and not others. Sure we bring a lot of calamity on ourselves by our sin. We may even prevent God from blessing us because of our refusal to repent. But getting lost in that sort of speculation will cause us to miss the real point. Unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Lord, give me a spirit of genuine repentance. Keep me from being distracted by speculation about the events of the day. Help me to see the Life that is found only in You. Help me to see that which is eternal. In Jesus' name.