Scripture: There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Luke tells us a woman amid the crowd following Jesus is impressed by Jesus’ power over demons and wisdom to refute false accusations. So she shouts a blessing over Jesus’ mother (and him indirectly). But Jesus, who needs only his Father’s affirmation, responds with another teaching point: blessed are those who hear and obey God’s word.
In today’s reading, we again skip to the next passage found only in Luke. Having covered aspects of readiness regarding his return (chapter 12), some present in the crowd shared with Jesus another example of the signs of the time: the news that Pilate murdered Galileans offering sacrifices to God and consequently mixed their blood with that of their animal sacrifices. But based on Jesus’ response, he sees the crowd’s underlying judgmental attitude toward those who suffer such ill fate. So Jesus dispels the notion that those who face a tragic end of life brought this upon themselves because of their sinful behavior. And he ups the ante and calls the crowd to repent lest they suffer a similar fate. Then, to emphasize his point, Jesus cites another example of eighteen who died on a collapsed tower and reiterates they were no worse offenders against God than any other Jew. Thus, having shockingly garnered the crowd’s attention, he again confronts them about their sinful attitude and calls them to repentance lest they also perish.
Takeaway: Most Jews of Jesus’ day believed that all misfortune and suffering resulted from unredeemed sin, for even the consequences of parents’ sins passed on in the womb. But Jesus debunks this notion in the story of the man born blind when he clarifies to his disciples that the blind man’s defect has nothing to do with sin but to display the works of God (see John 9:1-3). Still, we can see how our sins sometimes have lingering effects that cause suffering. Indeed, we will land in prison if we commit a felony, or we may die if we abuse drugs without seeking help. And because we live in a fallen world where disease, natural disasters, and wars wreak havoc, forces beyond our control can cause us harm or even take our lives.
Our takeaway? Luke tells us that the two events Jesus cites have no basis in the victims committing sinful acts. And whether or not we think it is unfair for others or us to suffer or die because of sin, we would do well to pause and consider that our Lord suffered and died for our sins to bring us forgiveness, reconciliation with the Father, and a place in his eternal kingdom. And while his substitutionary death effectuates these extraordinary gifts, we have a part in cooperating with the Holy Spirit when he convicts us of sin: repent.
So what does repentance look like? As mentioned in previous Daily Focus devotions, repentance is much more than a change of mind. While it begins in our thought processes, repentance requires us to surrender and commit our whole being (mind, body, and spirit) to the process, which entails confession and redirection. Easier said than done? Undoubtedly. Thankfully, though, the Holy Spirit will help us by renewing our thought processes to know God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2) and by guiding us toward those people and resources we need (2 Corinthians 1:2-7). And we collaborate with the Holy Spirit by staying humble, praying, receiving others’ help, and trusting that our good God has a firm grip on us (John 10:28-29) and that he is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who, though he never knew sin and thus never needed to repent, became one of us so that he might understand and sympathize with our temptation to sin and provide the means for repentance when we do. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit, who guides us toward victory over sin. Still, we tend to believe the lie that our way is the best course and hence struggle to surrender to you and cooperate with the Holy Spirit. So would you please help us by whatever means to be quick to repent and not delay our freedom from the yoke of sin? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling