Wednesday, March 20 — Finding Our Way Home
As we pick up the Jesus story as Luke tells it, Jesus is well on his way to Jerusalem where he will lay down his life.
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.
Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Tragic things happen in life, and two such instances are referenced in our passage. One is an act of cruel injustice (Galilean Jews slaughtered by Governor Pilate’s soldiers as they were doing what the Torah commanded them to do) and the other is one of those seemingly random events in which people happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (eighteen people who died when a tower collapsed upon them.) As human beings we struggle to make sense of such tragedies.
A fall back understanding, common in large parts of the Old Testament, is that when bad things happen it is God’s punishment for our sin. Live a good and faithful life and bad things won’t happen to us.
It’s a bizarre idea but you can see its appeal. It implies we can maintain some control over the forces of chaos and destruction: Do good and refrain from evil and God will keep these kinds of bad things from happening to us.
Nonsense, says Jesus.
But nonetheless, Jesus says something that sounds rather harsh – in fact, he says it twice: “Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”
We tend to misunderstand the word “repent.” It can sound to our ears like a call to grovel in guilty remorse for having committed “sins”.
But that’s not what it means. The Hebrew word for repent means to “return” to God. The Greek word means “change your mind.”
The underlying assumption for Jesus is that all of us stray from God and need to return to our true home. We all have been trained by this world to think a certain way and we all need to have our mind changed to see life the way God sees it — to see what really matters and what doesn’t.
We all will “perish;” that is, we will all die. The question is whether, before we reach the end of our lives will we be set free from our bondage to our delusions? Will we know the reality of the Kingdom of God?
So what truly matters in life and what doesn’t? If we were lying on our death beds we likely would have greater clarity about this. What would we see that we’re missing now?