“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
“Going to church, or a picnic?”
When a person dies in an unusual, spectacular manner, especially while still a young person, do you think that’s the way God deals with the really bad people? That’s what some folks apparently thought when they pointed it out to Jesus–and they wanted His theological opinion on it. But instead of joining them to point the finger at others, He points the finger of God at them. They needed to learn something about their own hearts and about their own status in God’s sight. Some day just like today, at any other moment just like this moment, God can and will stop the heartbeat of everyone of us here today, for we are mortal sinners, one and all.
When that navy fighter plane slammed into a quiet neighborhood in Nashville, sending five souls to meet their Maker–do you think that those individuals were being punished for being sinners worse than the usual sort, and so God picked them out of the other hundred thousand folks in Nashville for that quick-as-a-flash stroke of death? “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Some folks go to bed safely in their own homes, but never survive when their house burns down–as that couple who recently perished in nearby Fairchild, Wisconsin. Were they worse sinners than others in Fairchild, or Mondovi, or Eau Claire, that God decided to let them burn to death? “I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Or perhaps you’re safe at church; two elderly nuns were at worship in their convent when they were slashed to death by a deranged ex-musician. Were those nuns worse sinners than others, nuns or not? “I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Or you’re a successful middle-aged athlete like Dave Schultz, Olympic class wrestler, killed by someone’s hand with a .38 revolver. Or a high school sophomore taken from the gym where he had collapsed with a heart attack; or the elderly gentleman on the west side of Eau Claire found dead at the end of his driveway next to a broken snow shovel. Were these individuals guilty of something extra bad that God had to get them out of our sight and into the grave? “I tell you, no; but unless you repent; you will all likewise perish.”
You and I are just like them–sinners! Mortal sinners! People who don’t know in the morning whether we will be alive at supper time. You and I are going to die; one of us in a house fire, another in a mangled automobile, someone on a bus after an away game, someone by a stray bullet during hunting season; someone on the job with the phone still in hand; another one killed by a lunatic; and lots of us will die from the deterioration of old age and illness.
So what’s the message here?
If you are tempted to neglect your soul’s needs and your soul’s health with the stupid thought that you won’t die young because you are not a very bad sinner–God won’t cut your life short because you are so average–then you are the one to whom Jesus says: “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”
Sometimes you or I need this reminder, this pointed finger, this warning: Do not think that you’re any different in your mortality than those folks who went out one lovely morning to picnic near the pool of Siloam and never lived past the potato salad and pickles; those eighteen adults and teenagers and kids had no forewarning from God that the tower was going to topple on them as God’s way to end their earthly time of preparation.
If you ask why did God choose them? Ask–Why NOT them? Why not YOU? Why NOT me? That’s the point!!
You know by now that this is a law message from God brought closer to our hearts, as it was brought to other hearts by Jesus that day in old Jerusalem. Do you need that scary, ominous finger pointed at you too? Only you and Jesus know; so don’t neglect to hear the message if it is going to help you be more attuned to your soul’s welfare.
And, of course, I can’t turn you loose today without at least a passing reminder: the repentant sinner is ready for that moment of leaving behind this earthly existence, because Jesus has made you ready; you have been drawn by the overriding love of God–who loves your soul unto all eternity–to hold onto the hand of Jesus through life and death.
When your Tower of Siloam falls, or when your house burns over your head, or when you gasp your last in the crushed hulk of a highway collision, you are going home–that’s God’s way of taking His dear child off this planet to be with Him to all eternity, finally safe from all that here we suffer from Satan, the world, and our own sinful natures.
Safe at last–but you knew that, didn’t you?!
–From the chapel-talks file of Prof. Em. Paul Koch