1. This account is found only in Lk., but the contents of these vss. is found in many places in the Bible. Only Lk. here tells us about Pilate shedding the blood. of these men and only Lk. tells us about the eighteen, on whom the tower of Siloam fell but the lesson is taught elsewhere.
2. When Job was suffering so much, his friends told him that he must have been guilty of some secret sin and that, therefore, God was punishing him. These friends were wrong. In Jn. 9 the disciples asked Jesus: "Who sinned, this man or his parents, because he was born blind?" Jesus answered that neither this man nor his parents sinned a special sin. God permitted this to happen so that God could restore this man's eye-sight for all to see.
3. We are like Job's friends and the disciples. When some calamity befalls a person, a community or a nation, we think: "God is punishing them for some sin." We try to play God. That is sin. And we think that if God is not punishing us we must be better than other people. That is sin.
4. Very likely some criminals fled to the Temple in Jerusalem and took refuge at the altar, thinking they would be safe. But the Governor, Pilate, sent his troops in and killed them right there in the Temple. Jesus asks: "Do you think these Galileans were more sinful than other Galileans because they suffered these things?" Jesus says: "Absolutely not! Unless you repent all of you will perish as did these men." Vs. 4 tells us about an occasion on which they were building the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem. It fell and killed 18 men. This was not done by a man, like Pilate, but happened with God's permission. Were these 18 more sinful than other people in Jerusalem? Absolutely not, says Jesus. "Unless you repent, all of you, you shall die in the same way."
5. What is Jesus saying? First of all, all of us are equally sinful. Rom. 3:23 reads "All have sinned and do now fall short of the expectations of God." Read Rom. 3:10-18. All of us deserve nothing but constant punishment and eternal death in hell. Secondly, we like to deny this and say that other people are more sinful than we are. Thirdly, we like to see other people punished. It gives us an opportunity to judge them and say that they deserve what they are getting. Read Lk. 21:25-28. In the history of the world there are all kinds of signs of the coming judgment: signs in the heavens, signs on earth, earthquakes, famines, wars, floods, murder, catastronhes. What does God want me to do? He wants me to repent, to confess my sins, to believe in His promises which forgive my sins for Jesus's sake. That is what Jesus means when He says: "Lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near." Every death, every misfortune among people, should cause me to repent.
6. Sometimes Christians suffer much while the people of this world have a good time. That is the subject of Ps. 73. David says he almost lost his faith when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. Death did not worry them. They were wealthy. They talked against God. They oppressed the poor. David felt that he was living a righteous life for nothing. But then, he says, he went into the sanctuary of God and began to understand. Read vss. 18-28. God was testing David. He wanted David to trust in God. Christians enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation. Acts 14:22. Jesus says in Mt. 5:11-12: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
7. God does not promise that I will understand everything. But He has given me His Word which makes me wise unto salvation. Misfortunes of other people should cause me to repent and to prepare for death. And when He sends me misfortunes I must remember what Hebr. 12:6 says: "The Lord chastises him whom He loves and whips every son whom He receives." We confess: "Lord I believe, help my unbelief."
Theme: TWO VIEWS OF SUFFERING
All human beings, because of their sinful nature, are spiritually blind, dead and enemies of God. They show this by their system of rewards and punishment. They say that God is punishing people when they suffer and rewarding them when they do good. They think they are better than other people when they do not suffer. Jesus talks about this in our text.
I. SINFUL MAN'S VIEW OF SUFFERING
He thinks God is constantly paying people
1. The two examples in our text show the godless thinking of sinful man. When other people suffer misfortune, sinful man tries to act like God. He says that such sufferers must be more sinful than other people and that God is punishing their sin. Pilate, the Governor, slaughtered some Galileans. People immediately said: "Those Galileans are greater sinners than other Galileans." The tower of Siloam fell on 18 men and killed them. The people said: "Those 18 men were greater transgressors than other people in Jerusalem. That's why God killed them." Jesus says that it is sinful to think that way. He says: "You must change your thinking. You must repent or you'll die too." Job's friends wrongly accused him of living in sin. They said that his afflictions were due to secret sin. Jesus' disciples thought that the man was born blind (John 9) because either he or his parents were guilty of some sin. Jesus told them that it was not true.
2. Why do sinful human beings think that way? They think that way because they think that they are better than other people. They think that way because they think they do not need repentance. They say to themselves: "God is not punishing me because I am better than other people." But that is sinful thinking. Why did the Pharisees and scribes grumble at Jesus when He was welcoming sinners and eating with them? Because they thought they were better than Jesus' guests. Why did the older son in the parable (Lk. 15:25-32) become so angry? Because he thought that he was better than his brother. Why did the Pharisee in the temple despise the publican (Lk. 18:9-14)? Because he thought that he was more righteous than the publican. What was the great difference between St. Paul before and after conversion? (Philippians 3:4-11). When he was converted he abandoned his own righteousness and trusted only in the righteousness of Christ.
II. GOD'S VIEW OF SUFFERING
He says that all have sinned and now come short of His expectations.
1. Rom. 3:22 tells us that there is no difference. The wages of sin is death. All men are equally sinful. All men equally deserve to die in hell forever. It is wrong for Me to judge other people when they have a misfortune. It is wrong for me to say that God is punishing them. If I do say that, it is because I think that I am better than they are. In fact, I make myself God when I become a judge of the actions of God.
2. He says that man's only hope is in repentance. He says in our text: "If you don't repent (every time you see others have misfortune) you will likewise perish." Jesus' ministry began (Mt. 4:17) with the exhortation to repent and it ended (Lk. 24:47) with the same message. The Baptist's ministry began with this message (Mt. 3:2) and he lost his life because he told Herod to repent of his adultery. St. Paul says that it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance. Rom. 2:4. Every death, every misfortune among people should lead us to repent of our sins and flee to Jesus' forgiveness. Otherwise we too will perish.
Every Sunday we say "Lord, have mercy on me!" Like the publican in the Temple we must always say: "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" Lk. 18:13. That is looking at it God's way.