“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; 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 offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5 ESV)
Two seemingly obscure events are mentioned in this text that we find nowhere else in scripture. In the first event, Pilate had apparently murdered a group of Galileans who were trying to offer sacrifices. The second event involved what appears to be an accident at the tower of Siloam which was probably part of the wall in Jerusalem near the pool of Siloam. Jesus, after each event, asks “do you think that they are worse sinners than you are?”
What is He doing? He is deconstructing the popular idea that accidents, tragedies, sickness & suffering is directly traced to personal sin (see John 9:2). Our common logic is that bad people get bad things and good people get good things. Jesus deconstructs that belief with this story. He presses on us to evaluate if we really are deserving of the good in our lives as we tend to look down on those who are experiencing hardship and travesty in their lives. This is the same logic that Job’s friends used on him, “Job, you obviously have unrepentant sin in your life or else you would not be suffering like you are.”
We seem hardwired to look down on others who are going through difficult circumstances and reckon (though we’d rarely say it) that they probably deserve it. Conversely, we think that we deserve to be spared from difficulties because we are pretty good people; we cry “foul” when things go badly, because we didn’t deserve that turn of events! This belief is cancerous to our souls because when things are good, we become puffed up & self righteous, and when things are difficult we feel condemned (or unfairly treated) and jump on the treadmill of good works to remedy the situation and earn some of God’s blessing & favor.
Jesus shatters this thinking by saying, “no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What? Were those people blatant sinners? They were no worse than His hearers and no worse than you or me. Jesus connects this with the broader truth that a final judgement is coming and that we should be prepared. This is jarring & sobering and should cause deep introspection because not all who proclaim Jesus as Lord are really redeemed (Matthew 7:21-23).
Nothing that you can do will earn God’s favor or affection. Jesus earned that at the cross when He cried, “It is finished.” When something is finished there is nothing else that needs to be done. The beauty of grace is that we get what we do not deserve (and could never earn) based on the performance of Another. Religion says, “you must work hard to keep the approval of God.” Grace says, “there is nothing that you can do to keep the approval of God, it was secured at the cross and can never be lost.”
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16 ESV)
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19 ESV)
In case you have forgotten, the bible explicitly proclaims from Genesis to Revelation that He chose us, we did not choose Him. He was the initiator, He was the one that sought us – we did not seek Him. No one seeks God (Romans 3:11), we were spiritually dead (Genesis 2:17, Ephesians 2:1-10). This means that if you are a Christian, then you were chosen according to God’s sovereign electing purposes which are mysterious to us. You were not chosen because you were more spiritually attuned, more moral, had the right upbringing or because of what you would become after God saved you. You were chosen to be a trophy of His grace. You were (and still are) undeserving. When you present yourself as worthy before God, He finds it disgusting (Isaiah 64:6) because you are not and the fact that you are trying to present yourself that way indicates that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of grace.
He foreknew you and predestined (determined before He created anything) you to be conformed into the image of His Son. He predestined, He called, He justified and He will be faithful to glorify (Romans 8:29-30). There is nothing about you doing anything in Romans 8:29-30, the emphasis is upon a gracious, saving, adopting God who redeems enemies and adopts them as family. The more we understand this, the more that we worship God with hearts of gratitude.
A few passages to consider:
- Deuteronomy 4:37-39 (God loved & chose Abraham & his offspring), 7:6-9 (it is not because we are awesome that He set His saving affections upon us, but because of His love & sovereign choosing), 10:14-15 (God owns everything and yet, He set His heart upon us), 14:2 (the Lord chose you as His treasured possession out of all of the people of the earth)
- Isaiah 41:8-10, 44:18-20 (God blinds those who worship idols), 48 (God uses Cyrus, a pagan king), 57:18-19 (God creates repentant hearts), 65:1 (sought by those who did not ask for God)
- Ezekiel 33:11 (God desires that all be saved and finds no joy in those who reject the Gospel)
- Luke 24:31 (their eyes were opened, and they recognized him)
- John 3:27 (A person cannot receive one thing unless it is given to him from heaven), 8:47 (those of God hear God), 10:26 (you don’t believe because you aren’t part of Jesus’ flock), 13:18, 15:16 (You did not choose me, I chose you), 15:19 (I chose you out of the world), 18:37
- Romans 10:20 (Gentiles, who did not seek God found Him)
- Ephesians 1:4-11, Ephesians 2:1-9 (But God, being rich in mercy, made you alive)
- Colossians 2:11-15 (He made you alive)
- 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14 (God chose you to be first fruits)
- 1 Peter 1:3-5 (He has caused us to be born again)
- 1 Timothy 2:4 (God desires that all be saved and finds no joy in those who reject the Gospel)
- 1 John 4:6