13 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
There is generally an idea that we maintain that holds that bad things happen to us or to others for a reason. Generally, this reason is karma or sin or some character flaw or moment of weakness that demands immediate justice from God or the universe. It’s a pretty common idea and one that you’ll find as early as the story of Job, where Job has three friends who spend their time trying to convince Job that he must have done something to bring upon himself such calamity. They urge him to own up to his sin and confess it in order to have relief.
Of course, if you continue to read the story, God (or the author’s representation of Him) doesn’t particularly like their answer to Job, to the point of threatening to take their lives unless they go to Job and ask him to make sacrifices for them.
So it’s funny that even thousands of years ago when this story was first told, there was a recognition that some of us probably do deserve bad things to happen to us, while acknowledging that sometimes bad things just happen seemingly at random and the good guys sometimes get crushed in the process.
We don’t like that answer.
It flies in the face of our sense of justice. It destroys our illusion of control. We like to think of God or our universe as a magic formula. Do what’s right and good things will happen to you. Do what’s wrong and you’ll get yours in the end.
The world doesn’t work like that though. And, I would say that most of the randomly bad things that happen to us are just that: random bad things. They’re not judgments from the Lord. They’re just natural disasters. And those caught in them are no more deserving of wrath than anyone else in this world.
So here Jesus is told of a group of Galileans who were killed by the Roman authorities while engaging in worship of the Lord. Jesus’ response is to ask the crowds if they think those men were somehow worse than everyone else. He points out that all of us are going to share in the same fate of death, unless we repent and follow His Way.
And that, I suppose, is what truly matters. Bad things happen to us all. Some of us die tragically. Some of us are sickened, maimed, hurt, destroyed financially, lose our jobs, lose our homes, lose loved ones. Unless we had a direct hand in bringing that about, it’s all a consequence of living in a world marred by sin and by death.
But for the Christian, Jesus is Life now and Life after death.