Luke 13 v 3. “I tell you, No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
The teaching of our Lord, in these verses, on the need and urgency of repentance, is right up to date because people today, just like our contemporaries in our Lord’s Day, are prone to draw wrong conclusions about things that happen around them.
Notice, that our Lord, in the first place draws our attention to how we are all prone to react to the atrocities of life. Apparently, some terrible event had taken place before this moment, which involved the same Pilate under whose rule Jesus was crucified, and the result was that many Galileans, people who lived in Galilee, were killed. Josephus, the Jewish historian, reports an incident in which Pilate used money from the Jewish temple to build an aqueduct – a canal to transport water. When the Jews objected, Pilate ordered his soldiers to kill at random. Whether or not this incident actually took place as described, or whether it was the incident referred to by Jesus, the fact remained that some atrocity had taken place which was still fresh in the minds of Jewish historians.
Jesus, however, also makes reference, not only to an atrocity but also a tragic accident in which a tower fell down and killed several people (v 4). Remember that Jesus was addressing Jews who believed in the sovereignty of God over all events. Some of them may have believed that these twin tragedies therefore indicated God’s judgement upon very wicked people.
In our day, some may be inclined to present other arguments for other atrocities committed by evil people upon the innocent or draw wrong conclusions from terrible accidents or even natural disasters that affect thousands. They may say that life is so unfair that it is impossible to believe in God.
All these interpretations of events are wrong. It is true that God may allow temporal punishments to fall on people or nations, but we cannot know for sure if it is so for any given event, so we cannot make these claims. Rather we have to start our thinking at a different place.
As human beings, we are all guilty of sin and thus we all stand under God’s displeasure. Read for instance, the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 1 v 19, or Romans 2 v 1, or even Romans 3 v 23. The point Jesus was making is that as suddenly and as unexpectedly as death came to those who died either by atrocity or by accident, so suddenly and unexpectedly God’s wrath may fall upon us, unless we repent and cease our futile hostility against God and his Son.
Although we are all sinners, it is also true that some are greater sinners than others and seriously provoke not only all decently-minded people, but also the majesty of God Himself. Why are they allowed to remain on earth? Why does God not simply reveal his wrath to them? Why are any of us, for that matter, allowed to continue to live our lives in flagrant disobedience to God?
The answer to that question appears tomorrow.