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CHRIST'S ANSWER TO HUMAN CATASTROPHE

Luke 13: 1-5

Note: This message was prepared and delivered during the aftermath of the 9/11
tragedy.  Though the illustrations center around this time, the truths of the 
message can be adapted for other situations.  The truths are unchanging.
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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.

September 11, 2001.  It was a day that Americans will never forget.  It was a day that changed our way of life forever, a day that destroyed our sense of invincibility.  When the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and the walls of the Pentagon fell to the ground,  citizens feared what would become of their great country.  Thoughts turned to religion and to the Bible.  How could a loving God let this happen?  How can Christians continue to worship a God who presides over such destruction and catastrophe?

Churches opened their doors Tuesday evening for prayer and meditation.  Attendance was much higher the next Sunday because of those seeking answers.  Many found ministers preaching psychology and liberal doctrines that give no answers and no comfort.  Their "feel-good" religion would not work in this situation..  While mankind struggles to understand, the Bible itself has answers to our questions.  I direct you to Luke 13:1-5.  This passage seems on the surface to be a "hard" saying in the midst of tragedy.  But if you examine this text in its entirety, I believe you will come away with a sense of God's message to us today in the face of our current circumstances.

I.  The Examination of Human Suffering
"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, , whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices." Those who made mention of this tragedy were not Jesus' disciples, but mentioned as "others."  No doubt these people were searching for answers to such a tragedy, like many in our day..  They gave this report to Jesus to get His reaction.   The Galilaeans were politically minded people were always ready to become entangled in the issues between the Romans and the Jews.  Pilate had quelled their uprising by killing them and mingling their blood with their own blood sacrifices.  This was an act of terrorism to the Jewish people.  It was a desecration of their honor and their religion.

Why had this happened to these Jews?  Were they not the people of God?  Why had God not protected them?  You will notice in verse two that Jesus never condemned nor praised these Galilaeans.  Human suffering goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  It was not God that brought sin into the world, but Satan along with Adam and Eve.  I realize that this is a fairy tale to many today, but it contains the answer to the question of human suffering. 

God made humans perfect and without sin.  But He gave them a free will.  Eve, then Adam exercised their wills to do evil, as has every man and woman since them.  We are all sinners!  Human suffering is a result of sin.  Each of us have exercised our wills to sin and dishonor God.  Romans 3:23 says,"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" and Romans 3:10 tells us "There is none righteous, no, not one."  We want to categorize sin.  We want to make some sin okay, ---the sin that doesn't hurt others.  But other sins are of a more evil variety.  The events of 9/11/01 are put into this category.

But sin is not judged by how much innocent people suffer, sin is judged on the basis of God's own decree.  It is the Word of God which categorizes sin, and God's view of sin is different from modern day Americans!  What is Christ's answer to them?  Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? Jesus asks the crowd how they categorize the tragedy.   Then He gives God's view:    I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. This had to surprise the hearers.  Jesus had taken the emphasis of of the tragedy  and onto the hearers themselves!  Human suffering is a direct result of sin, whereof all of us are partakers.  God did not create the world to be a stage for man's sin and suffering.  He made the world and humankind to glorify and honor Him.  Yet we choose sin everyday, whether it is the sin of hating our neighbor, lying to a superior, cheating on our spouse, abusing innocent children, our cursing using God's name.  Its all sin, and we are all sinners.

II.  The Evidence of Heaven's Sincerity
The above point seems to be a "hard" saying.  Doesn't God care about human suffering?  Even in the face of such worldwide sin, how can God not be touched by suffering on such a grand scale as what we have seen in the past days?  I would call your attention to verse four: 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?  Here we see that Christ already was familiar with another tragedy, a natural disaster.  You can be assured that God, in His omniscience, knows about our trials and our suffering.

To ask if God cares is to be ignorant of Scripture.  We know that God cares because of the suffering of Christ.  The Bible speaks prophetically of the sufferings of Christ from Psalm 69:
 

13  But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
16  Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.
17  And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.
18  Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies.
19  Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.
20  Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
21  They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

We also know that Christ Himself cared for the sufferings of those with whom He came in contact.   He never met an infirmed person that He did not heal completely.  The blind, the leper, the woman with the issue of blood all were recipients of His compassion.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 86:15  "But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."

Thirdly, we know that God cares because of His compassion for His New Testament people.  He invites us to cast our cares upon Him, "for he careth for you."  He tells us in Hebrews 4:15: " For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

III. The Error of Human Supposition
Suppose ye that...   think ye that...  We find here the error of human supposition.  We cannot trust our own minds to rightly judge matters of eternal consequence.  We are greived at the manner of death of so many people.  We rightly call it a tragedy of huge proportions.  Never in our country have so many civilians been killed at once.  What is God saying?  What is He telling us?  Were these people deserving of the fate they met?  Of course not, for they were no differnet than any of the rest of us.  There were people of all religions, all races, and many nationalities in the number of dead.

These people supposed that God was somehow beholden to the Galilaeans because they were carrying out the perceived instructions of God.  Jesus compares their fate to that of the victims of the tower accident in another town. 

    Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    Proverbs 3:7  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
    Proverbs 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
    Isaiah 5:21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

We can see here how the emphasis of Jesus is not on the manner of death.  His emphasis is much deeper.  The hearers of Christ in this passage have made suppositions based on their own experiences and their own reasoning.  We will see in the next point how those suppositions can be inaccurate. 

IV.  The Encouragement of the Heart's Sanctuary
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent...   We are all appalled at the terror that has been perpetrated on our nation; we are aghast that such barbarism could occur in our homeland.  We feel for the families of those who have died and realize that it could have been us or members of our family.  Jesus tells these people that the victims of these two events were no different than they themselves.  Though their end was tragic and horrible, He makes a shocking statement.  He says that unless they repent, they will meet the same end.  Not necessarily the same kind of end, but death awaits all by some means.  We can see by this statement the emphasis of Christ.  He is interested in the eternal, not the temporal! He is interested in the soul, not the body!

Our nation is our sanctuary, our place of safety.  The recent terrorist attack has jarred our feeling of safety.  Our homes and workplaces have always been places of safety.  Now we are not so sure anymore.  Many people in other nations have lived in fear for all their lives, never sure of their safety from day to day.  But America has been immune from such fear.  Until now.

Except ye repent...  Just as we have placed out trust in our nation for our physical safety, Jesus tells us that we must put our trust in Him for our spiritual safety.  Each of the victims in our passage and every victim of America's terrorist attack went out to meet God  ---whether ready or not!  Repentance is changing our mind about ourselves and God.  We are NOT good or righteous.  We are as sinful as those who drove the jets into the side of the building, according to the Word of God.  God is holy, righteous, worthy of honor and glory!  He is our Maker, and He is the One who holds our lives in His hand.  It is time that Americans recognized Him for Who He is!
It is time Americans repent!  Must we endure such suffering to see ourselves as God sees us?

V.  The Escape from Hell's Sorrow
ye shall all likewise perish.  The word likewise here means "equally" or "the same."  The word perish means "to abolish, to put to an end."  It is certainly not popular to mention Hell in our culture today.  It most certainly is not politically correct to speak of Hell in connection with the tragic events of this past week.  The point of this message is to highlight the thoughts and statements of Jesus Christ Himself in relation to similiar circumstances in His time.  These people came to Him with questions in their hearts. 

The gist of His comments to them may seem harsh to us today.  But Christ reminds His hearers that our concern should be with the living, not the dead.  And our concern should be spiritual salvation, as well as physical safety.  Jesus spoke more in His earhly ministry about Hell than He did about Heaven.  As Christians, we must renew our resolve to be effective witnesses and show the world what Christ can do for men's hearts.

If you do not know Christ in personal salvation, please hear His words in this passage that we have examined.  He is concerned about you!  He does not want any to perish.  Believe on Him!  Trust Him now!
 
 

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    John 3:15-17 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

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