Jesus Spoke of Tragic, Untimely Death


Ground Zero in New York City - 2001

As I reflected today on the tenth anniversary of 9 / 11, I remembered that Jesus referred to people killed by a falling tower in Luke 13: 1 – 9:

About this same time Jesus was told that Pilate had given orders for some people from Galilee to be killed while they were offering sacrifices. Jesus replied:

“Do you think that these people were worse sinners than everyone else in Galilee just because of what happened to them? Not at all! But you can be sure that if you don’t turn back to God, every one of you will also be killed. What about those eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were worse than everyone else in Jerusalem? Not at all! But you can be sure that if you don’t turn back to God, every one of you will also die.”

Jesus then told them this story:

“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. One day he went out to pick some figs, but he didn’t find any. So he said to the gardener, ‘For three years I have come looking for figs on this tree, and I haven’t found any yet. Chop it down! Why should it take up space?’

“The gardener answered, ‘Master, leave it for another year. I’ll dig around it and put some manure on it to make it grow. Maybe it will have figs on it next year. If it doesn’t, you can have it cut down.’”

One commentator noted that the Jews in Jerusalem already snobbishly looked down on the Jews in Galilee. In response to their question, Jesus brings up a similar incident where Jews in Jerusalem were tragically killed, possibly while ritually bathing. (Both groups died while worshipping God!)

Jesus saw tragedies as a time to reflect on our relationship with Him; we all need to come to God in repentance.

In his commentary on this passage Matthew Henry writes:

Mention was made to Christ of the death of some Galileans… In Christ’s reply he spoke of another event, which, like it, gave an instance of people taken away by sudden death. Towers, that are built for safety, often prove to be men’s destruction. He cautioned his hearers not to blame great sufferers, as if they were therefore to be accounted great sinners. As no place or employment can secure from the stroke of death, we should consider the sudden removals of others as warnings to ourselves. On these accounts Christ founded a call to repentance. The same Jesus that bids us repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, bids us repent, for otherwise we shall perish.

This parable of the barren fig-tree is intended to enforce the warning given just before: the barren tree, except it brings forth fruit, will be cut down. This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews. Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church. When God has borne long, we may hope that he will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that he will bear always.

This image is in the public domain.

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