25 August 2015

Luke 13:1-9

“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.” (vv. 2-4)

Psalm: Psalm 74:1-12


These two violent incidents are not recorded elsewhere, However, the Romano-Jewish historian, Josephus, records an incident which sounds very similar to the first:

Pilate took money from the Sacred Treasury to finance the building of an aquaduct to bring water into Jerusalem. The Jews were understandably outraged and a large crowd assembled to protest. Pilate ordered his soldiers to mingle among the crowds in disguise and then to turn on them with cudgels. Many were killed. There would almost certainly have been Galileans, Jesus' own countrymen, among them. And some may also have been going also to the temple to offer sacrifices.

In relation to the second incident, there was a pool at Siloam (John 9:7), and it may be that the Tower of Siloam was associated with the building of the aquaduct. Were the workers being punished for taking part in an illicitly funded enterprise, some may have asked.

Disaster, even illness, was often seen as a punishment for sin. In John's Gospel, Jesus' disciples asked him about a blind man, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2). The answer was neither, but that God's works might be revealed in him (John 9:3).

Jesus' response to a politically and socially sensitive question was to look at these tragic deaths from another angle. Death, in each case, came suddenly and unexpectedly: how could those who died have been prepared for it?  So it will be, he said, for those who do not repent while they have time.

Here was a privileged fig tree, growing in the secure and fertile environment of a vineyard rather than in open ground. But it was not producing the fruit the owner should expect at three years' maturity. The gardener, however, urged that it be given another chance.

Jesus' listeners, like the tree, are offered the opportunity to repent.

To Ponder

  • What events taking place around you make you stop and think about eternal realities?

Bible notes author

Gillian Kingston

Gillian Kingston is a local preacher on the North Tipperary Circuit of the Methodist Church in Ireland and a part-time university chaplain. She is interim Vice-President of the World Methodist Council.