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The Jews wanted a Messiah of action. They naturally expected that their long-awaited Hero would be very pro-Israel with a game plan for ousting the Roman creeps who were currently oppressing them. What a massive disappointment Jesus turned out to be. But not right away. For a long time, the Jews maintained very high hopes as this new Miracle Worker made His way through the land. They figured it was only a matter of time before Jesus would join them in their hatred of Rome and rally Yahweh’s chosen people together for some brilliant scheme. In Luke 13:1-9, we come across a dicey exchange between Jesus and some Jews which doesn’t get much attention in the Church. It’s yet another shocking example of Jesus acting, well, rude. Heartless, in fact. Not at all the Promised Land Patriot that everyone was expecting.
At this point in His public ministry, Jesus has gained quite a large following. Even though His sermons are peppered with stinging insults, brazen language and sharp sarcasm, there are thousands of people gathered around to listen to Him. In Luke 12:1, we’re told that there are so many people that they were trampling on each other trying to get a better position.
Jesus is an interactive Speaker. When people shout out to Him from the crowd with some question or comment, He answers them—usually with a reply that they aren’t expecting. This is what happens at the start of Luke 13. After hearing Jesus say that He had come to set fire to the world and to bring division, not peace, the Jews were no doubt feeling like Jesus was definitely their Man. To those yearning for war against Rome, Jesus’ comments would have sounded like hints that He was definitely cooking up some plans for a large scale rebellion. It’s at this point that some people in the crowd pipe up to let Jesus know the latest news on what the sleazy Romans have done to them. Nasty old Pontius Pilate—the current Roman governor of Judea–actually had the audacity to slaughter some Jews in Galilee while they were trying to worship Yahweh and present sacrifices to Him. No doubt the crowd starts murmuring in righteous anger when they hear this news. This is Jesus’ cue to start a long speech about what a creep Pilate is, and how God’s wrath will surely be outpoured on Rome in the very near future. But much to everyone’s shock, Jesus doesn’t give those martyred worshipers one crumb of sympathy. Instead, He snaps:
“Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, all of you will perish as well. And those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, all of you will perish as well.” (Luke 13:1-5)
What is this? Jesus is siding with Pilate? Where’s His indignation over the fact that innocent Yahweh worshipers were murdered in cold blood by a pagan Roman official? This is a shocking response. Jesus is showing zero compassion for Pilate’s victims. Instead, He’s having a “That’s right, and you’re next” attitude.
The tower of Siloam event that Jesus refers to isn’t described elsewhere in the Bible, but we get His point. The Jews have been dying in disturbingly large groups lately. Jesus doesn’t seem to be bothered by this. What a rotten Messiah He’s turning out to be.
Knowing that God ends every life on this earth with precise timing makes this passage almost comical. Jesus is God, and here people are hoping to make Him outraged that some people were killed before their time. Whenever someone is murdered in the world today, we can’t help but feel like their death is premature. Yet this isn’t how our Gods see it. From Their perspective, everyone dies right on schedule, and Jesus isn’t about to pretend otherwise. Instead of taking the bait and starting a “Let’s all rip on Rome” session, He insults His entire audience by calling them all a bunch of vile sinners. He then launches into a story about a man who had a fig tree that wouldn’t bear any fruit—an obvious metaphor of how Yahweh views the people Jesus is talking to. In the parable, the tree owner complains to his servant about the tree’s uselessness and says he might as well cut it down to stop wasting space on it. The servant replies:
“Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine. If not, then cut it down.” (Lk. 13:8-9)
Jesus’ point is this: Yahweh is fed up with His people’s spiritual fruitlessness and He’s ready to cut them off. He’s decided to wait just a little longer, but if they don’t repent and start seriously seeking Him, then it’s game over.
Alrighty then…does anyone else want to raise their hand and try to get Jesus to sympathize with their problems? Not really. By now, Jesus has thoroughly embarrassed multiple people who have called out to Him from the crowd. We have to love His blunt, pride-battering style that always turns the tables on people. He sounds so much like Yahweh who railed for centuries at Israel and many other nations through the mouths of prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Our Gods work as a unified Team and They find our willful defiance of Them to be quite irksome.
Today Christians are constantly sucking up to the political nation of Israel and acting as if merely being Jewish somehow makes it acceptable to spit in God’s face. But what you need to realize is that Yahweh has never just been pro-Israel. He’s always been pro-world. He loves every nation and He wants all people to come to Him. He chose one nation to reveal Himself to in a special way but, sadly, that nation never chose Him back. Under the current Covenant, merely being a descendant of Abraham isn’t going to save you from ending up in Hell if you refuse to submit to Jesus as God Almighty. Soul attitude has always been what we are judged by, and as Jesus says in this passage, there are dire consequences for willfully defying our Makers.
Now most of the people who were listening to Jesus speak in this passage didn’t care one bit about pleasing Yahweh. They were just there to watch the Miracle Man perform. Jesus knew this, which is why His sermons were so harsh and filled with threats of eternal damnation. Today, Jesus’ words are still making rebels uncomfortable, which is why many Christians try hard to promote this absurd notion of a “gentle Jesus, sweet and mild.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus undoubtedly had many tender moments, but most of them were never recorded. In the four repetitive Gospel books, we find a God who is on a mission to shock a rebellious nation out of its spiritual lethargy, and make souls realize their desperate need for a Savior.
When He strolled around Israel in human form, Jesus was not gentle, sweet and mild. He was harsh, rude, and shocking. He never said what people wanted Him to say and He didn’t do what they wanted Him to do. That’s why, in the end, a bunch of Yahweh’s chosen people demanded that Yahweh’s Son be crucified. Today, are we Christians doing any better? How often do we whine and cry about the injustices we face in this world, while we refuse to honor God in our hearts? How often do we try to claim biblical promises that God will rescue us from our enemies and destroy those who hate us, while we keep ignoring the Holy Spirit’s convictions?
What kind of Christian are you? Are you the lukewarm kind that Jesus speaks of vomiting out of His mouth in the book of Revelation? Are you the kind that always wants to whine and complain about your hard lot on earth? Or are you a fully devoted follower who rushes to do whatever the Holy Spirit asks of you? As He demonstrates in this story, Jesus isn’t available to host pity parties on our behalf. Our Gods are extremely compassionate, gentle, patient, and loving. When we are living in alignment with Them, They are pleased to show us Their gracious side. But if all we want to do is talk about what’s wrong with everyone else while we act like our own rebellion is no big deal, then we’d better get ready for some well-deserved discipline.
Jesus: The Arrogant Lawbreaker
Jesus: The Bewildering Teacher
Jesus: The Volatile Guest