«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’ » (Luke 13:1-3).
A group of church members had gathered on the last Sabbath of the year when a lightning struck the Chisiyo Church that was situated in the capital city of Lilongwe (Malawi). As a result, almost two hundred people were left unconscious and eight died instantly. The tragedy moved the community who rushed to offer help to the victims. However, this event created a certain concern among the rest of the church goers. Was it because other people associated the church with some dark omens? Could the tragedy be understood as divine punishment? Were its members more sinful than the rest of us mortals?
A similar situation occurred in the times ofJesus when some of Pilate’s soldiers invaded Jerusalem. Without any respect, the soldiers entered the temple where the usual sacrifices were taking place and killed some of the worshippers causing their blood to be mixed with that of the animals that were sacrificed. With this scenario, Jesus posed this question: «Do you think that because they had suffered such things, they were worse sinners than the others?»
Two factors are combined in both events. The first one is about the interpretation of suffering. In other words, are tragedies exclusive to the evil ones? The second factor is related to the identification of who are the worse sinners. The Jews considered suffering as a divine judgment; therefore, the affected ones must have been «worse sinners”
than the others. This entails that those who broke the news to Jesus about the tragedy could have considered themselves superior and had expected the Lord to approve their beliefs. However, Jesus recalled other similar tragedies and rejected the idea that suffering should be exclusive to the evil ones; instead He suggested that suffering was part of human nature. He also rejected the feeling of superiority and placed people on the same level and explained that those who suffer are not more sinful or guilty than the rest of the mortals. With a prophetic eye, he looked toward the day of final judgement and added, «Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.»
In Other words, we are sinners and need God’s repentance and forgiveness. In fact, the apostle Paul considered himself the first of the sinners (l Tim. 1:15) —the first In need of repentance and forgiveness. What about you? How do you think of yourself?