When bad things happen, we like to know, why? The school shooting last year in Florida continues to claim victims, 134 are reported massacred in Mali. And so, it goes, storms, violence, almost daily thoughtless killings in our cities.
In the Gospel lesson in Luke 13, Jesus is interrupted for the second time during his sermon. Someone in the crowd asks about Galileans who were sacrificing, likely during the Passover in the temple in Jerusalem, when Pilate moved in with troops and massacred them, their blood mingled with the blood of their offerings. Why? Were they greater sinners? What of the eighteen people killed by a tower which collapsed?
In both situations, Jesus tells his listeners that its not a matter of who has the greater sin and deserved their violent or tragic death. No, Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” We all have failed to live up to God’s standards. We all need to turn toward God and ask for his grace. We cannot depend on our own rightness, because it’s tainted by our wrongness. We can’t claim we are better than those other folks, because we all are going to die, it matters not how.
Jesus was going to Jerusalem. He too was a Galilean. He too would die at the hands of Pilate during the Passover. Did he deserve his death? Pilate, himself declared, “I find no guilt in this man.” Yet, he handed Jesus over to be crucified, his blood mingling with his self-sacrifice. Upon his death, the centurion declared, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
It’s not a matter of why bad things happen to people. It’s a matter of turning toward the one truly innocent One who died that God might declare us innocent.