Monday, 1 February 2010

Tragedies warn us that life is fragile, and that we need to be prepared for the next (Luke 13:1-5)

All this sounds a bit depressing, but Jesus offers hope. All of us are guilty of sin, but Jesus is the one who deals with sin. All of us face the grave, but Jesus gives life beyond the grave. We live in a world characterised by death and suffering, but Jesus has opened the way to a place where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). When this conversation in Luke took place Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where he would die for our sin so that we might know eternal life.

Look at Jesus’ warning. “But unless you repent, you too will perish.” In this chapter Luke will show Jesus teaching about the final judgement, unless we repent we will face something worse than any earthquake—we will receive the punishment our sin deserves. But there is an implicit promise here: ‘if you do repent you will not perish.’ This might remind us of the most famous verse in the Bible, 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 (John 3:16). Not that we will be spared physical death but that death will lose its sting (1 Cor. 15:55-56).

So what would Jesus say to us about Haiti? We can make a pretty good guess by looking at this incident where he points to two tragedies of that day. Some said that those people died because they were worse sinners than anyone else. Some say the same thing about the people of Haiti. Jesus denied that this was the case in those incidents, and we have no warrant to make judgements on Haiti. What Jesus did do was to use those tragedies as an opportunity to issue a warning. We are daily being reminded that life is fragile and so we should be making preparations for our own death. If we refuse to turn to Jesus we will face a situation that is worse than any earthquake. If we do take his warning and repent, confessing our sin and enthroning him as our king, then we will know hope, even as we live in the world that is marred by suffering.

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