Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
I’ve been preparing my pupils recently for their Common Entrance History exam. Part of the exam is a source exercise in which they have to interpret a range of evidence. We’ve been looking over an exercise relating to the Black Death of the 1340s. One of the pictures we’ve looked at shows God in a cloud sending arrows tainted with the Black Death to kill off sinners. This was a common idea at the time; the plague was sent as a punishment for all those who offended God.
Interestingly, in today’s verses, Jesus contradicts this idea that having bad things happen to you is a punishment from God. Some of his followers tell him about an incident in the Temple when several Galilean pilgrims were killed by the Romans. Clearly people had been discussing this, and saying that these poor worshippers must have been evil, sinful people. Jesus says that this is most certainly not the case. God does not punish people in this way. He also warns those listening to him. Sinners will be punished. Sinners will ultimately perish. There is hope, though. Those who repent of their sin, who turn to Christ and accept his death as the penalty for their wrong doing, will not perish.
Two vital lessons, then, in these few verses. Firstly, when we find ourselves going through difficult times in our lives, we are not being punished by God. He might be leading us through situations that hurt, but that is in order that we are shaped to be more like his son, which will ultimately be for our good, and the good of God’s kingdom. Secondly, we are reminded of the need for us to repent of our sin if we do not want to perish. Equally, we must urgently get the Gospel message out to those of our friends and family who do not believe if they are to avoid God’s judgement.