PASSAGE: “There were some present at that very time who told him of 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 thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1-5 RSV).
QUESTION: The Lord spoke these words. He was not joking. As Heaven is my witness , I challenge you to interpret what needs no interpretation. We are witnessing the Tribulation and you are not warning the people of the wrath of God on a materialistic and sinful world where Las Vegas is the brightest spot on the planet but is darker than any hell-hole like it on the planet. If everything means something else, friend, then what does anything mean?
COMMENT: It seems clear from the tone of your question that we might not be able to agree on the meaning of this passage—or the message of Jesus Christ. And that is fine. And I am happy to accept your challenge to “interpret what needs no interpretation.”
Jesus is en route from Galilee to Jerusalem, and people around him (“some present”) are gossiping about some of the gruesome disasters of the day. (In some ways people haven’t changed so much in 2000 years!) Some Galileans had been arrested by Pilate and put to death in a very public and shameful way. Eighteen people had been killed when a tower in Siloam (a part of Jerusalem) had fallen on them. The assumption of “some present” is that they must have had it coming—it must have been God’s wrath as punishment for various sins. Jesus sees this assumption for what it is—a subtly smug sense of superiority over others who are the ”sinners.” The word “repent” comes from the same Latin root that gives us “pensive”—it means to rethink, to question our basic assumptions. In order to accomplish the directive of Jesus’ entire ministry, we absolutely must repent—we must release old, fear-based attitudes and assumptions and become open to the new, love-based understanding that Jesus offers. If we continue to believe in an angry, punishing God, we will continue to bring negative energies into our lives. And if we assume and affirm an angry God in the lives of others, we will be locking ourselves into the same experience. That’s why Jesus so often urges us to “Judge not.” When we judge others, we condemn ourselves. I would not call this an interpretation of Jesus’ message. I would call it an understanding of Jesus’ message.