Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jesus's Illustrations of the Need to Repent: Blood Mingled with Sacrifice and a Crushing Tower

1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-5)
This is one of those sayings of Jesus that I’ve never quite understood, probably because I was wasn't using an eternal perspective. Until today, when I thought more carefully about it.

First, Jesus was tackling the idea common in His day that a person was bad if bad things happened to them. Evidently there was also the idea that the worse a person was, the worse the tragedies they would suffer. Jesus declared instead that everyone needed to repent.

Jesus uses two different tragic events to teach the necessity for repentance. This is obvious, but in order to fully understand the significance of what he was saying we need to think about the events he was referring to.

First, there seems to be a group of people who had been either killed or maimed by Pilate, and their spilled blood had been collected and added to their sacrifices burned on the altar. This was a shocking irregularity 1) because of the cruelty of the act and 2) because through this action, Pilate symbolically stated that the sacrifice hadn’t been enough and that the person’s blood was required. (Animal sacrifice was meant to teach the Jews that the suffering of a proxy (Jesus) could atone for the sins of the offerer, yet Pilate (who was the ruler and judge) seems to have considered it insufficient for those Galilaeans.)

When Jesus warned His listeners that if they didn’t repent they would all alike perish in this way, He was not speaking of something that would happen in this life, but in the eternities on Judgment Day. Like the earthly judge Pilate, God the eternal judge would decide that the unrepentant would have to suffer in addition to Christ’s suffering for them because they hadn’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice and repented. Jesus warned that the people would die spiritually on Judgment Day unless they repented.

The second illustration Jesus used was an incident when the tower of Siloam fell on 18 people and killed them. Jesus repeated the warning that unless the people repented, they would all perish likewise. Again, He wasn’t speaking of something that would happen in this life (although it could have happened in the fall of Jerusalem in 70A.D.). Again, He was referring to Judgment Day and he meant the crushing weight of the falling tower to teach about the crushing weight of sins that would fall on those who didn’t repent of them in this life.

Seen in this way, Jesus words transform into very real warnings about the necessity of repentance.