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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Monday, August 27, 2007

The Victims of Tyranny and Tragedy

Living in a fallen, sinful world, it is easy to start thinking of one's self only in degrees of comparison to others. When we compare our own lives and behavior to those of the criminals and devils we see on the news and in history, the tendency is to begin to feel pretty good about ourselves. However, this sort of grading on a scale is dangerous and misleading and can have eternal consequences.

No matter what your position is on the state of man's sinfulness and the degree to which we are in bondage to it, only a liar can claim to be sinless and perfect (don't miss the irony in that). Indeed, every human being is guilty before God, every human being owes a debt. Consider these verses, then, to be a litmus test of your perception of the extent of man's guilt and God's holiness. If Jesus' response in this passage shocks you as much as it did me, please give new reflection not only to how high you esteem God as holy and just but also how low you esteem us as sinful and guilty.

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who lived in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Luke 13:1-5

Are you not shocked at the response of Jesus? He is informed that a group of Galileans (biblical historians estimate there were nearly 6,000 of them) were murdered in cold blood by the resident Roman thug. This act had cultural significance as well: not only were the Galileans killed but their remains were desecrated by the mixing of their blood with a pagan sacrifice. We expect Jesus to say they didn't deserve this, that they will be rewarded for enduring such a heinous crime. Or we expect Jesus to tell us that they were all actually exceptional sinners and earned this above and beyond other sinners. Either way, we expect Jesus to either defend or "excuse" God in allowing this to occur.

The last thing we expect is the response that Jesus gives. In fact, Jesus doesn't even stop at the retelling of such tyranny, He goes a step further and brings up His own example. He recounts another event that has no villain, an event that was simply a tragedy. If the crowd blamed Pilate for the first event, who could the crowd blame but God for the falling of a tower? If the crowd felt God needed vindication in their eyes in the first case, He certainly (and doubly) needed vindication in the second case. Undoubtedly Jesus would seek to absolve and exonerate God in the peoples' minds. Yet Jesus responds to both accounts of tyranny and tragedy with an identical answer.

"Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Jesus' response is quite the opposite from what we anticipate. God needs no justification to anyone in allowing these things, and others deserve no less if they do not repent. This didn't happen because the departed were greater sinners, and others were not spared because they were lesser sinners. However, just because these victims could claim innocence in these situations did not mean they were innocent altogether. Both events were rooted in this fallen world and happened to sinful man. The crux of the situation was not the amount of sin in the lives of the victims, but rather the sinfulness of both victims and hearers alike. Again, if this surprises you or strikes you as harsh, consider if what I've said seems true to the text, then consider your own presuppositions on man's sinfulness and God's holiness.

I know there are probably contemporary parallels that come to your mind that mirror the two situations Jesus addresses. I know there are several I've thought of. Tyranny and tragedy still occur on a daily basis. They fill our newspapers. If my words sound harsh, please do not mistake it for taking lightly the lives lost. No, it is not that the lives should be taken lightly, but that the glory and holiness and righteousness of God should be taken seriously.

I don't believe it is a stretching of the text to say that if any of us today don't repent, we will all likewise perish. Of course, I don't mean that we will all be slaughtered or crushed by a falling tower, but what things are true of all the unrepentant, both in Jesus' day and ours? Death is a permanent, final loss that is permitted(and therefore ordained) by God as an end of one's time given to either seek God and repentance or live in rebellion to Him.

Our response should be the same Jesus called his hearers to, repent! Find the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. For not only is God perfectly holy and just, He is perfectly merciful and gracious as well. For those who feel that God, rather than Pilate, is the tyrant in this account, God's response is the offering up of His Son. Much like the Galileans, Jesus' blood was shed in a pagan ritual and His blood was desecrated, but it was done to pay our debt to God. For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The true tyranny of any life is denying Christ, the true tragedy is rejecting His grace.

1 comment:

Rhett said...

Reading you is like reading Piper. Your thoughts are so well organized. Totally agree.

Serving Christ with you, CT