Friday, November 13th Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'” Luke 13:1-9

The first part of this text is easy – why do we keep asking why bad things happen to good people? Because bad things keep happening to good people! And each and every time we ask the same question…

Why, with thousands of acres of trees and open fields, does a tornado hit a high school? Insurance companies call such events “acts of God.” Is that why? God fingers innocent high school students? Really??!

Why does a charter bus drive off an overpass while bringing a college baseball team to the first games of their new season? Ah now, this we can seek to explain so it is less troubling. We can blame the driver or the road conditions. As long as we have someone to blame, we can leave God out of the picture. Can we?

Why do Sunni’s and Shiite’s continue blowing each other up, reenacting history instead of learning from it? Why doesn’t God stop them? Would they quit fighting if everybody became Christian? Hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland would argue that doesn’t seem to help much. The people in the Middle East will have to learn the same lesson every other family feud teaches – we will either end up living together as friends or dying together as enemies! But where is God in that?

Jesus was confronted by those who asked him the “why” question. In his answer, he seems to be speaking from both sides of his mouth. First, he rejects the idea that God was punishing the Galileans who suffered under Pilate. But then he suggests that their lack of repentance had something to do with it….or does he? Read it again, read it slowly, and watch closely and you’ll see something else.

Jesus isn’t making a judgment on those who died under Pilate or those who died under the tower of Siloam, instead, he is turning the question back on top of the questioners. He doesn’t ask them about someone else’s past (which would be making a judgment call) but he redirects their attention to their own future. Rather than worrying about what happened to someone else, Jesus asks them to consider what they are going to be doing with and in their own lives.

His answer doesn’t answer the “why” question. The “why” question can’t be answered. It isn’t really a question anyway but an emotional grab for something to hold onto. But his answer does redirect them to focus on what to do next.

If you step back a little farther from these verses and look what happens right before and after them, see how they are “framed”, you will see that just before this story, Jesus comes down hard on our tendency to judge others. And then he heals a woman.

I think it might be as simple as that. In a world where bad things continue to happen to good people, in THIS world where we are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we would do well to refrain from judging others and focus instead on bringing healing and making the world a better place, a little at a time, one day at a time, one person at a time. Rather than being captured by fear, we can released by faith. Isn’t that in fact what repentance is all about?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, our hearts go out to those who find themselves victims of the tragedies of life, those who die too young, those caught up in forces of evil which swirl around them. Set us free from worrying about “why” so we can focus instead on what people can do to make life better, on providing help, hope and healing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Friday, November 13th Luke 13:1-9”

  1. Scott Says:

    excellent….

  2. Ted Byram Says:

    I came across your blog today and am looking forward to reading the past posts!
    This post resonated so loudly with me I have though similar sentiments more than once.

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