“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
Today, as you well know, is Sept. 11th, 2005. It was four years, and just about four hours past, that the terror began. American Airlines flight 11, under the control of bloodthirsty Islamic terrorists, flew into the North tower of the WTC. Some 20 minutes later, United Airlines flight 175 slammed into the South tower. For the next two hours America watched in disbelief as the WTC burned and collapsed into a heap of rubble. In the meantime American flight 77 had been deliberately crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and United 93 supposedly intended for the White House, went down in Somerset Pa. In all more than 3000 people were killed and untold numbers were injured on that bleak Sept. 11th.
But my purpose today is not to re-hash terrible past events, events that we all recall so very well. My purpose today is to put those events into a Biblical perspective and to give a gospel call to you who are here but are without Christ and, because of that, in danger far graver than any threatened by religious terrorists and far more destructive than you can possibly imagine. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Please look with me at our passage today (we are going to concentrate on verses 4 and 5) and let’s consider another terrible day, one that occurred during the life of our Lord. (Read verses 4 and 5) We are not sure exactly what our Lord refers to in this passage. There is no outside historical record of any tower collapse in Siloam. Perhaps it was a minor earthquake or even a construction accident and was regarded as not deserving special note. Nevertheless we are certain of at least three things from this account;
- we are certain, according to truthfulness of Christ, that this tower did fall and that 18 people died in the collapse;
- we are further certain that in relating the story to the people Jesus did not dwell long on the details of that day, rather He readily used the event to teach an urgent spiritual lesson;
- finally, we are certain regarding the main point of Jesus’ lesson.
As we read the story we see that Jesus was adamant to point out that the 18 people who perished in the collapse of the Siloam tower should never be viewed as more sinful than others round about them. Tragedy, even tragedy of the magnitude of that witnessed on Sept. 11th, (or with hurricane Katrina) should never lead men to conclude that those who died were far more wicked than their fellows and, because they were, justly suffered their particular fate. The Lord Jesus does not, I repeat, does not, pigeon-hole sinners, some in slot ‘A’ as not so bad, some in slot ‘B’ as a little worse and some in slot ‘Z’ as the dregs of humanity. The 3rd chapter of the book of Romans is quite clear, “ There are none righteous, no, not one; There are none who understand; none who seek after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There are none who do good, no, not one.” Despite any personal delusions that maybe you are not all that bad in God’s eyes, and despite any proud and self-righteous notion that you are somehow more moral than your average axe-murderer, God tells you that all humanity is totally depraved, in His view, and that sinful humanity, across the board, is unrighteous, unfaithful, unprofitable and unclean!
We further understand, from Jesus narrative, that in view of our sinful condition there is a need, on our part, for something called repentance. He says, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” The great tragedy surrounding the tower of Siloam was not that 18 people died, as bad as that was. The great tragedy was that apart from repentance, countless others, just like them, will perish miserably.
But what is repentance? From the Greek term, met-an-o-eh’-o, we understand that ‘change’ is the central idea. This change involves first the mind and the thoughts regarding such things as sin, Jesus Christ and righteousness. From that initial mind change, our entire lives are altered as we are led by the Spirit into holiness. We might say it this way;
-When we experience true repentance we know for certain that we are vile sinners and that sin is an offense against God. We fully realize that sin surely and ultimately leads us only to eternal and spiritual death which is separation from God.
-When we experience true repentance we recognize that Jesus Christ is the Savior and the Lord and the only One worthy of our faith and allegiance.
-When we experience true repentance we realize that we are not righteous in God’s sight and that we desperately need the righteousness that Christ provides, by His death and resurrection, to make us acceptable in God’s sight.
-In brief, when we experience true repentance, we are led by God to acknowledge and turn from our sin, first in thought then in deed, then to embrace Jesus Christ as both our Lord and Savior.
Unless this life-transforming event occurs in our lives personally, unless we are changed and turned by God, we will, each and every one, beyond any doubt, perish in the most miserable manner.
Please notice what Jesus does not say here. He does not say that unless we are raised in a Christian family we will perish; or unless we go to church on Sunday we will perish; or unless we try to be good people we will perish. He does not even say that unless we believe that there is one God we will perish. He says that unless there is a definite and permeating change in how we think about ourselves and God, a change that ultimately alters our lives and leads us to salvation in Christ, we will perish. ‘Perish’ is an interesting term for it refers to being utterly destroyed, being put out of the way entirely, being abolished and ruined, being given over to the misery of hell forever.
Who will perish so? Violent criminals?, bloodthirsty men?, the dregs of society? Yes! But beyond that all who do not heed Christ’s warning to repent will, likewise, go away into everlasting destruction.
The worst thing that could ever occur in your life is not discovered in any possible, earthly calamity. Even one as horrendous as September 11, 2001. The worst thing is to fail to repent and be saved. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19)