When… Jesus was questioned
“Do you think that because the Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galilean? No, I tell you, but unless you repent; you will all perish as they did.” Luke 13:2
This doesn’t sound like the Good News Jesus does it? In two stories back to back there arises a question that never seems to stop being asked. Why do bad things happen to people? In the first story the Roman governor mixed the blood of pilgrims he had killed with their sacrifices. (Talk about evil.) In the second example a group of people were killed when a building fell on them. “Did they somehow sin that this cruelty or tragedy should happen to them?” Were these people somehow deserving of their suffering?” “What did they do?”
It’s curious how we try to understand the suffering that happens in our world. We want to know “why.” It is as if a satisfactory “why” will help us feel better. Or maybe an answer makes the world less random and dangerous. Do we want such things to be their “fault”? Wil that make it better? If we can’t find a “why” might that mean God is somehow unjust or cruel because “God is in control of everything”.
But Jesus goes in neither direction. Jesus refuses to enter the speculation about the “fault” of the sufferers. He also refuses to “defend God” against the terrible things that happen in the world. In fact, Jesus seems to “double down” on human responsibility. His point seems to be this: this is no such thing as a “worse” sinner. There are no “worse” sins deserving a greater tragic punishment. As St. Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Everyone stands beneath the judgment of a just and righteous God. Therefore, Repent! Turn back. Bow down. Ask for mercy. Trust not in your own relative goodness or lack of badness. Trust God.
Jesus was killed by that same cruel Roman governor. His blood was spilled on the eve of the Sabbath, after the Passover. Was Jesus the worst sinner of all because of how and when He was killed? No. He was the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Repent. Turn to Him. Bow down before the One Who prayed for you on the cross, “Father, forgive them…”