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Disaster. Luke 13:1-7

Telfer Place. September 11, 2005. 2:00-2:45

Luk 13:1  There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Luk 13:2  And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? Luk 13:3  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luk 13:4  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? Luk 13:5  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

On this day, exactly 4 years ago, 2749 people died, including 26 Canadians, when 2 planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York City. Questions and speculations remain as to why. Likewise, questions and speculations abound regarding the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans. As to the cause, speculation ranges from that in European papers which suggest that Katrina was the punishment the US received for failing to sign onto the Kyoto accord. Islamic militants claim that this is judgement on the infidel.  The city of New Orleans, known for Mardi Gras, police and government corruption, murder and the occult, received the brunt of the Hurricane known as Katrina, whose name comes from the word Kurukan, which means evil spirit. New Orleans City council president Oliver Thomas, commented “maybe God’s going to cleanse us”. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco called for a state-wide day of prayer saying “we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort”.

In Lk 13, Jesus was asked about a human and divine event disaster. The event halted all other concerns of the people. The human event consisted of The Govenor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, killing a group of Galileans. The divine event, consisted of an apparent accident, where eighteen died when a tower fell on them.

How do we react to events like these and the once that occur daily around our planet. Some fled wars and hunger to come to Canada. Others, still have family in harms way. Suffering and disasters seem so commonplace. In an age of mass media we can hear and see events instantaneously. Just about every time we turn on the news, a new war or tragedy seems to occur. The reaction for some is just to turn the news off. But it is only natural for compassionate people to be filled with anger over needless suffering and senseless acts of violence.

In dealing with suffering and disasters, we can looks to Jesus’ works in Luke 13 for guidance. We see 1) the Wrong Explanation 2) Weak Explanation 3) Wrong Question 4) Right Question 5) Right Answer

1) the Wrong Explanation

Luk 13:1  There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Luk 13:2  And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?

Some think that these Galileans were of the faction of Judas Gaulonita, called also Judas of Galilee (Act_5:37), who disowned Caesar's authority and refused to pay tribute to him:

Act 5:37  After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered

  • Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea almost ten years, and about the fourth year of his government, which might be about the fifteenth year of Tiberius' reign, Christ finished the work of our redemption by his death.
  • The Galilaeans are frequently mentioned by Josephus as the most turbulent and seditious people, being upon all occasions ready to disturb the Roman authority

·         They endeavoured to draw off the Jews from the Roman government, and affirmed it was not lawful to give tribute to Caesar; at which

  • Pilate being enraged, sent a band of soldiers, and slew these his followers; who were come up to the feast of the passover, as they were offering their sacrifices in the temple, and so mixed their blood with the blood of the passover lambs: this being lately done, some of the company spoke of it to Christ;
  • some of the Scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus had just now taxed as hypocrites; were looking to trap Jesus

·         If he condemned Pilate’s conduct as brutish and barbarous, they would report him as an insurrectionist like the Galilaeans

·         If  he should approve of it,  it would bring him into contempt among the people; or

·         to show his sentiments concerning the persons slain, whether or no they were not very wicked persons; and whether this was not a judgment upon them, to be put to death in such a manner, and at such a time and place, and which sense seems to be confirmed by Christ's answer.

13:2 worse sinners. It was the common belief of many that disaster and sudden death always signified divine displeasure over particular sins (cf. Job 4:7).

Like the accusation of Job:

Job 4:7  "Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?

Those who suffered in uncommon ways were therefore assumed to be guilty of some more severe immorality

Joh 9:1  As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. Joh 9:2  And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Joh 9:3  Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. Joh 9:4  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. Joh 9:5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Joh 9:6  Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud Joh 9:7  and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

  • The suffering seems so great in New Orleans, and New York, some speculate that their sin must be so great.

We have seen: 1) the Wrong Explanation  and inherent in the text is:

2) Weak Explanation

There is another possible explanation for this tragedy. This answer is not explicitly spoken in the narrative, but the details of the narrative point logically in that direction and it is difficult to argue against it.

The common assumption now and then: these people died because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. The people who were in the twin towers in New York, or in New Orleans, and in other disasters are often described as unlucky.

This assumes that forces of natural chance exist.

But in terms of Sovereignty:

Amo 3:6  Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

Psa 103:19  The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

1) the Wrong Explanation 2) Weak Explanation and now:

3) Wrong Question

When we ask the wrong questions, we are going to naturally come up with the wrong answers. To ask why innocent Jews were slaughtered by Pilate while doing sacrifice is the wrong question. To  examine why the hurricane hit New Orleans, or why God allowed two planes to crash into the World Trade center, is not the most important question.

To ask why so many innocents die is not an accurate question.


The doctrine that fallen man is completely touched by sin and that he is completely a sinner. He is not as bad as he could be, but in all areas of his being, body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions, etc., he is touched by sin. In that sense he is totally depraved. Because man is depraved, nothing good can come out of him (Rom. 3:10–12)

Rom 3:10  as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; Rom 3:11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. Rom 3:12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Rom 3:13  "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." Rom 3:14  "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." Rom 3:15  "Their feet are swift to shed blood; Rom 3:16  in their paths are ruin and misery, Rom 3:17  and the way of peace they have not known.", Rom 3:18  "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

We have seen 1) the Wrong Explanation 2) Weak Explanation 3) Wrong Question now:

4) Right Question

Luk 13:3  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luk 13:4  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?

The right question for the survivors of tragedy whether ancient or contemporary is not a philosophical one, but a very practical one. In the wake of tragedy it is not so important that we know why. It is exceedingly important that we know “what now”. In the wake of tragedy the real question is: “What are we going to do?” How is the tragedy going to change our lives?

  • New Orleans will decide if they will rebuild on the same Spot. New York will decide the extent of their rebuilding.

But the most relevant response, from New York Mayor Rudi Julani, or specifically from Govenor  Kathleen Blanco in calling for a state-wide day of prayer in her word: “we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort”.

13:3 unless you repent. Jesus did not deny the connection between catastrophe and human evil, for all such afflictions ultimately stem from the curse of humanity’s fallenness (Gen. 3:17–19).

For events:

There are contingent Causes

  • The lack of a levy in New Orleans that could withstand a category five hurricane, was a contingent cause or neglect that allowed flood water to enter.
  • That they are build in a flood plain basin,
  • That rescue work was not properly coordinated
  • Human rioting and looting complicated the delivery of aid.

Mat 7:26  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. Mat 7:27  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

There are Natural Causes:

  • This time of year and that region of the world, meteorologically has a high probability of receiving hurricanes.

Gen 3:17  And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; Gen 3:18  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. Gen 3:19  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

There are Moral Causes

Pro 24:16  for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

But Christ challenged the people’s notion that they were morally superior to those who suffered in such catastrophes. He called all to repent, for all were in danger of sudden destruction. No one is guaranteed time to prepare for death, so now is the time for repentance for all.

Act 17:26  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, Act 17:27  that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, Act 17:28  for "'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "'For we are indeed his offspring.' Act 17:29  Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Act 17:31  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

If we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in. – Mason

  • We do not know the length of our days, the days until the next act of human neglect, violence from others or natural disaster.

The right question on what to do when suffering and disasterous events occur is what should we do? For all of us, when we encounter suffering and disastrous events, the first thing is to repent. What then is repentance. Repentance in itself is going in the opposite direction.


Those who were delivered from the hurricane left the city for salvation in a physical sense. Finding salvation in an eternal sense means turning from sin and turning to Christ. We cannot turn from sin without Christ, and we cannot come to Christ without faith.

Repentance consists of three elements.

(1) Godly sorrow for sin.

1. Not mere sorrow for sin, for there is much sorrow because sin is an evil and brings punishment, yet no godly element in it.

2. It is the sorrow of a man more concerned for his guilt than his misery, whereas worldly sorrow is more concerned for the misery than the guilt, and would plunge into deeper guilt to escape the misery.

3. Illustrations of worldly sorrow (Pharaoh, Ahab, Judas).

4. The true spirit of godly sorrow is that of the prodigal — “I have sinned before heaven, and in Thy sight.”

  • They recognize their offence against God

Notice David’s recognition:.

Psa 51:1  To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Psa 51:2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psa 51:3  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psa 51:4  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Repentance consists of 1) Godly sorrow for sin

(2) Confession of sin.

1. This is an essential part of repentance. (Often a relief to guilty men to confess their crime.)

2. It must be very thorough and humbling and heart-searching.

3. It is connected with the continuous forgiveness of believers

1Jo 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1Jo 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1Jo 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1Jo 1:10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Repentance consists of 1) Godly sorrow for sin(2) Confession of sin.

(3) Turning from sin to God.

1. The godly sorrow must have a practical result, in the way of proving its genuineness and attesting itself by fruits.

2. Necessity of reparation recognized by civil law (cases of libel).

But there are injuries in which no reparation can be made (murder).

3. In cases of Pharaoh, Ahab, Judas, no turning from sin to God, though there may have been sorrow and confession of sin.

4. There must be a turning from all sin — from the love and the practice of that which is sinful.

The Contrite Heart (Olney Hymns, William Cowper, from Cowper’s Poems, Sheldon & Company, New York

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart, or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel’
If ought is felt, ‘tis only pain,
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined
To love Thee, if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that’s good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, “My strength renew!”
Seem weaker than before.

Thy saints are comforted, I know,
And love Thy house of prayer;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

Oh make this heart rejoice or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break—
And heal it, if it be!

Lk 13:3 Or you will all likewise perish. These words prophetically warned of the approaching judgment of Israel, which culminated in the catastrophic destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Thousands in Jerusalem were killed by the Romans

The human event was the work of Piate but the supernatural event was the Tower collapse in Siloam

13:4 Siloam. An area at the S end of the lower city of Jerusalem, where there was a well known pool (cf. John 9:7, 11). Evidently one of the towers guarding the aqueduct collapsed, perhaps while under construction, killing some people. Again, the question in the minds of people was regarding the connection between calamity and iniquity (“worse sinners”).

Jesus responded by saying that such a calamity was not God’s way to single out an especially evil group for death, but as a means of warning to all sinners. Calamitous judgment was eventually coming to all if they did not repent.

We have seen 1) the Wrong Explanation 2) Weak Explanation 3) Wrong Question 4) Right Question and now:

5) Right Answer:

Luk 13:5  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

  • “Likewise” related to the likewise certainty of Death and judgement

There may be any number of ways that tragedy might change our lives. Tragedy might make us bitter. Tragedy might fill us with fear. It might immobilize us.

God intends a different kind of affect. Jesus wants tragedy to bring about a positive change in our lives.

The death by the hands of Pilate and at Siloam was sudden and unexpected. It happened before people were able to finish their business. That is why Jesus wants us to repent. He does not want us to die with unfinished business hanging over our heads.

This final passage puts it all in perspective:

Rom 8:20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope Rom 8:21  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Rom 8:22  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Rom 8:23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Rom 8:24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? Rom 8:25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Rom 8:26  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Rom 8:27  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

For those who love God, all things work together for good. We wait with creation for the redemption of our bodies, we wait for it with patience. The spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes.

But, if you don’t love God, all thing will not work together for good. You are not fulfilling the purpose to which you have been made.


Every day a tragedy occurs. The ultimate tragedy is the rejection of Christ to face a bleak eternity of Hell instead of an eternity of love and purpose. The only senseless tragedy is for those without sense to repent.


God permits trials to call our attention to what matters most: our eternal destiny.

Without suffering, we would go on ignoring God to our eternal loss.



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