The report about the Malaysian flight, shot down by advanced missile technology while flying over Ukraine is shocking – especially to those of us who fly extensively. And it is heartbreaking. Pray for great grace and comfort for those who lost loved ones.
It is going to require unique discipline to not get hooked by world events in an era where the world boils over with conflict and information and images travel at the speed of smart phones.
As I found myself gorging on updates and speculating on what will likely be the next move from President Putin, I remembered something the often unpredictable founder of the Christian faith once said when people asked His opinion on current events and political outrages.
“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.… “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? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3)
First off, there is no historical record of either of these events so it is likely that in the first instance Pilate was suppressing some sort of local defiance, and the tower incident most likely involved bad construction.
Three thoughts stand out to me.
1. Jesus was up to date on two current events in the life of Israel. He was aware of what was going on around Him and where appropriate, made use of the events to make a point. Here He dealt with the superstitious mindset among Hebrews that believed bad things happen to people with bad karma. Not so. Those sudden deaths had nothing to do with the condition of those people.
2. The fact is that people can and do die suddenly. This is the real story behind the story. Death comes to all mortal men. Life is fragile. Jesus stressed that His audience needed to be less occupied with the outrage of current events and more concerned with their own relationship with God. He was always an evangelist as well as a teacher.
3. The warning “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” implies something interesting. Note the word PERISH. To those who repent, death – no matter how sudden- cannot cause you to PERISH. The words from John 3:16 take on a new light…”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall NOT PERISH but have eternal life.”
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. You shall not perish.
This is the real story Jesus would have us think about when we are inclined to outrage and turmoil over news updates at the end of the age.