Jesus is informed of a massacre that Pontius Pilate’s soldiers carried out in the temple against a group of Galileans, “whose blood…mingled with their sacrifices.” Jesus then recalls a disaster when the collapse of a tower killed eighteen Jerusalemites. Upon first reading of these tragedies we might want to enter into an endless discussion of why such things happen to innocent people. In the Jewish context, some would wonder what these people did to deserve what happened to them. In some way they, especially those Galileans, must be responsible for their massacre.
Jesus refuses to be drawn into that discussion nor does he rave against Roman rule or a demand for an investigation of the bidding process for the faulty tower construction. He turns to the people and asks whether the victims of the tragedy were worse sinners than all the rest of the people in Galilee or those living in Jerusalem. The answer is no. What the thousands gathered around him are to think about is their own need for repentance. It matters little how we die. It matters much whether we perish eternally. Therefore, repentance, that is turning from the things which threatens our relationship to God is vital. The goal of repentance is not sorrowing and sighing over our sins. At the end of repentance is Jesus. Jesus doesn’t warn us that we’ve got to do better; rather he forgives us.
Therefore, this evening we are able to do as Luther suggests, “Into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.” And in the morning, we can ask God to “keep me this day also from sin and ever evil, that all my doings and life may please you.”