How are We to Make Sense of the Death of the Innocent, Such as Children? (Luke 13:1-5)

How are We to Make Sense of the Death of the Innocent, Such as Children? (Luke 13:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, August 28, 2022

A little boy’s legs were not developing as they ought. The pediatrician told his parents that their son needed to wear a leg brace, which would help to position the legs and feet to grow properly. The parents wanted to do the right thing for their son but were miserable following the doctor’s orders. The bar held the little boy’s feet and legs completely straight and unbendable. Each night when his parents would put the brace on and put him to bed, he would cry from discomfort and from his dislike of it. The little boy was sure to have felt hurt that his parents would treat him wrongly and possibly he even doubted their love for him. The mother was at times tempted to take off the bar but resisted because she felt in her heart that she was doing the right thing for her son.

As difficult as this time was, the doctor, the mother, and the father did what they did because of their concern and their thought for his future well-being years down the road. They were willing to sacrifice convenience now for a better life later.

God cares for His children. Right now He might use means of restraint and discomfort to achieve His desired result but He operates out of the love He has for us.941[1]

We are in a new sermon series on dealing with life’s difficulties. Today, I want to tackle the subject on the death of the innocent.

My theme today is: How are We to Make Sense of the Death of the Innocent, Such as Children? (Luke 13:1-5)

In the passage we will look at we see moral evil and natural evil. Pilate killed people and that is moral evil. The tower fell on people and that is natural evil.

  1. Context:
    1. Jesus is traveling and talking with the people as He is on His road to Jerusalem. 
    2. At this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. He is on His way towards Jerusalem in order to be crucified. From Luke 9:51-19:27 Jesus is on His road to Jerusalem. On this journey towards Jerusalem, Jesus goes right through Samaria. Most Jerusalem Jews went around Samaria, but Jesus did not do that. Jesus came for everyone. While in Samaria, Jesus told 10 parables that are not found in the other gospels.
    3. Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
    4. Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
  2. The question to Jesus (Luke 13:1).
    1. Look at verse 1, Luke 13:1: There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
    2. Some of the people present tell Jesus about something that happened.
    3. These people were “present.” This means they were present from the previous chapter and the teaching Jesus was doing.
    4. They share about something that had happened.
    5. I wonder if Jesus knew about this event.
    6. Maybe He had heard about it before.
    7. Maybe Jesus received a news alert on His cell phone or on Twitter.
    8. Seriously, maybe word got around.
    9. There were Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the sacrifices.
    10. We do not know anything else about this incident. We do know that Pilate was a cruel man. One source reads: It is not known why Pontius Pilate killed the Galileans mentioned here. The mention of their sacrifices specifies that their deaths took place in the temple area, probably in relation to a major religious festival, when all Jewish men were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.[2]
    11. The NET Bible shares: This is an event that otherwise is unattested, though several events similar to it are noted in Josephus (J. W. 2.9.2–4 [2.169–177]; Ant. 13.13.5 [13.372–73], 18.3.1–2 [18.55–62]; 18.4.1 [18.85–87]). It would have caused a major furor.[3]
    12. Another source shares: Luke linked this incident chronologically with the preceding one. Apparently messengers from Jerusalem had just arrived with news about Pilate’s act. This is the usual force of the Greek verb apaggello, translated “reported” or “told.” Some Galileans had been in Jerusalem offering sacrifices at the temple. This may have been at Passover since only then did non-priests offers sacrifices.318 Pilate, the Roman governor of the province of Judea, may have killed them beside the altar in the temple courtyard. However the figure of speech that Luke used to describe Pilate’s action permits a somewhat looser interpretation. There are no extra-biblical references to this event currently extant.[4]
    13. Sproul shares: We can guess, however, what happened. Some Galilean pilgrims, in Jerusalem to offer their sacred sacrifices at the altar, were killed by Pilate, either directly or through his soldiers. The narrative includes the ghastly detail that their own blood was mixed with the blood from the animal sacrifices. This was a particularly heinous offence, indeed it was sacrilege. So the question is understandable.[5]
  3. Jesus’ answer: we all must repent (Luke 13:2-5).
    1. Look at Luke 13:2: And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
    2. First example: Those Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled versus the other Galileans (Luke 13:2).
    3. In John 9:2 the disciples ask Jesus who sinned the man born blind or His parents. That was a fellocy of logic, the false dilemma, or either or fallacy. Behind the question in John 9 is that suffering is related to sin. People still think this way today.
    4. All suffering is because of sin in general.
    5. Here Jesus is saying that everyone must repent, no one is innocent before God.
    6. Jesus is responding that they are all sinners. Regardless of their suffering or punishment they all need salvation.
    7. Piper shares on Sproul’s message: Then R.C. made a devastating — jolting — observation. He said that these crowds, who were so amazed that some people had been judged for their sin, had put their amazement entirely in the wrong place — “a misplaced locus of amazement.” They were amazed that something horrible had happened to a few Galileans. What they should have been amazed at was that something equally horrible hasn’t happened to everybody in Jerusalem — indeed, R.C. added, everybody in the world.[6]
    8. In Luke 13:3 Jesus responds: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
    9. Jesus is saying no one is innocent in the eyes of God. We all ultimately face hardship because of the sin problem in the world. We all need salvation. If we all got what we deserved it would be God’s wrath.
    10. Then, Jesus gives a second example: those on whom the tower in Siloam fell (Luke 13:4).
    11. Let’s read Luke 13:4: Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?
    12. One source shares: The “tower in Siloam” may have been on Jerusalem’s city wall above the pool of Siloam; it may have been associated with Pilate’s construction of an improved water-supply system for the city.[7]
    13. It fell and killed people. Jesus is saying they were not worse offenders.
    14. That leads to Like 13:5. Let’s read Luke 13:5: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
    15. We all must repent.
    16. Sproul shares: Jesus is saying we should really ask why these bad things don’t happen to me and everyone.
    17. What is amazing is not the justice of God but the grace of God.
    18. These 18 innocent people weren’t worse, but why didn’t the temple fall on my head?
    19. We can never see tragedy as an act of injustice.
    20. The only antidote to perishing at the hands of God is repentance.
    21. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day believed that tragedy or accident was the direct result of some personal sin (cf. John 9:1–3). Thus they concluded that the Galileans who had perished must have been great sinners. They based this view on a faulty theory of divine retribution (cf. Job 4:7; 8:20; 22:4–5). Jesus repudiated this theory and viewed the death of the Galileans as the consequence of sin generally. Jesus stressed the error of their view by placing the word “no” (Gr. ouchi) first in the sentence for emphasis (cf. v. 4). He then drew a conclusion. Therefore everyone needs to repent because everyone is a sinner, and all sin brings judgment.[8]
    22. Sproul: Jonathan Edwards once asked his congregation to give him one reason why God hadn’t destroyed them since they got up that morning. He asked them to consider that every moment that we live, every luxury that we enjoy, every blessing that we participate in, is a matter of receiving the grace of God, that it represents God’s willingness to be patient with a race of people who have rebelled against him. God has called every human being to perfection. We are not allowed to sin. The penalty for sin is death, and yet we continue to sin and become astonished and offended when God allows suffering.[9]
  4. How do we make sense of the death of the innocent?
    1. In this account people thought there was a relationship between the degree of sin one commits, and the degree of suffering and Jesus responds that that is not true.
    2. There are no innocent people.
    3. As I already mentioned, Jesus also addressed this in John 9.
    4. In John 9:3 Jesus shares: Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
    5. He had been born blind for the glory of God.
    6. Sproul shares: God made him be born blind for His glory… He endured his pain for the moment and for all eternity he has the unimpeded vision of the panorama of the glory of God.[10]
    7. Think about that. He got to experience a miracle. He got to experience and testify to this amazing miracle.
    8. Sproul: Philosopher John Stuart Mill posed one of the most famous arguments against Christian theism. It goes like this: Christians claim that God is good and that He is omnipotent, but these things cannot both be true, not with all the pain, suffering, and tragedy there is in this world. If God is good, He would see all the pain and all the suffering and He would surely eliminate it, unless He were unable to. If He wanted to get rid of pain and suffering but He can’t, then He’s not omnipotent, and if He is omnipotent and doesn’t rid the world of pain and suffering, then He’s not good.
    9. Mill overlooked two salient points that were not part of his thinking—namely, the holiness of God and the sinfulness of human beings. If God is holy and we are sinful, there must be pain and sorrow in this world until it is all redeemed. Jesus, however, understood the struggle that these people were having regarding this tragic event, and He gave an answer to their question.[11]
    10. The Scriptures make clear that all of us from time to time are victims of injustice, and all of us at one time or another have injured others unfairly and unjustly. When we experience injustice at the hands of men, Jesus tells us we ought not faint but ought to pray, for He said, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (18:7). God promises to make right those injustices that we have either committed or received from others. But not once have we ever received an injustice from the hands of God. We have never been treated unfairly or unjustly by God.[12]
    11. Sproul: I taught theology for more than fifty years, and I’ve heard literally thousands of questions from students asking about difficult theological questions. One I hear often is closely related to what is dealt with here: Why did God allow this to happen? People ask, “Why did my baby die?” “Why did my husband die?” I get that kind of question all the time. Do you know the question I almost never hear? “Why did God save me?” That’s the biggest mystery in theology.[13]
    12. Docetic view of suffering: suffering is not real.
    13. Stoic view of suffering: have a stiff upper lip.
    14. Hedonist: epicureans; live for pleasure; maximize pleasure; 1 Cor 15: if Christ has not been raised, eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die.
    15. The Christian view: suffering for the Christian is never futile. The Christian faith is born in suffering. Jesus said we will have suffering.
    16. Grief is right and a legitimate human emotion. It is right to mourn the loss of a loved one.
    17. Tribulation works patience and patience character, etc (Romans 5:3).[14] 
    18. The evil we face in the world is a reminder that things are not as they should be. I believe we face these things because God is using them to woo us to Him.
    19. C.S. Lewis wrote: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[15]
    20. Honestly, I have wrestled with this. I really have. I have wrestled with the sufferings of the innocent. Then, I remember there are no innocent people. However, it is much easier to make sense of the suffering of a terrorist than a child.
    21. A number of years ago I was really struggling with this. I researched it. I listened to 4 messaged by Dr. William Lane Craig on the subject. I spoke with others about the subject. At the end, I did not get better answers, but I was able to renew the answers I had already learned.
    22. Interestingly enough, none of the other religions have better answers for suffering.
    23. To the Eastern religions the answer is Kharma. The people suffer because they were bad in a previous life. Their caste symptom and reincarnation is wrapped into their belief in kharma. That is why Mother Theresa had such a good ministry. No one took care of the poor because they are suffering because of a previous life.
    24. Christianity has the best answer.
    25. Why do the innocent suffer? No one is innocent. We are all sinners.
    26. We are victims of the sins of others.
    27. We are victims of our own sins.
    28. We are victims of a fallen world.
    29. We are asking questions that we cannot specifically answer.
    30. God is good. God is able to take something bad and use it for good.
    31. I want to say one other thing about the suffering of children, really anyone. God may take the life of a child to spare them of something in the future. Further, God is able to take the life of a child with less suffering than they would have experienced in the future.
    32. Creation (Genesis 1-2),
    33. Fall (Genesis 3),
    34. Redemption (John 3:16; 14:6),
    35. Restoration (Revelation 21-22)
  5. So, what do you do?
    1. Read, meditate on, memorize, listen to Romans chapter 8:
    2. Remember Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
    3. If we love God, there is no senseless suffering.
    4. We do not know why things happen the way they do, but we know God is a loving God with a purpose.
    5. He permits or causes all things and His goal is good.
    6. Romans 8:22: For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
    7. All creation is suffering.
    8. Evil is a parasite; it lives off of good.
    9. Someday God will renew all things.
    10. Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    11. Also, when you are struggling: journal, meditate on Scripture, spend time in spiritual disciplines, talk to other Christians, let me help, talk to Christian counselors, talk to God.

Joni Eareckson Tada hit her head when she dove into a lake and became paralyzed. Now, she has a worldwide ministry for people who are challenged physically. Today, Joni would tell you she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. She hasn’t walked for a long time, but millions of people who are hurting physically are encouraged by the hope she gives, because of the suffering she’s had. Her testimony is that she would have never known that God could be so real to her had she not experienced pain.942[16]

Pray


[1] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 314.

[2] Craig A. Evans, “Messianic Expectations,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1634.

[3] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Lk 13:1.

318 318. J. Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, p. 207, n. 4.

[4] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Lk 13:1.

[5] R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 275.

[6] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/unashamed-allegiance

[7] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Lk 13:1–5.

[8] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Lk 13:2.

[9] R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 277.

[10] Sproul; Renewing Your Mind; 09.07.2021

[11] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 378). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition. 

[12] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 379). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition. 

[13] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 379). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.

[14] Sproul, Renewing Your Mind, 02.08.2022

[15] Lewis, C. S.. The Problem of Pain (p. 59). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

[16] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 314.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s