Luke 13:1-5 (ESV)
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 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? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 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? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
When we see suffering, we often have questions that we want to ask God. “How could you allow this to happen?” “Why are these specific people suffering?” “did these people do something to cause what has happened to them?” The problem is, we are asking the wrong questions.
One day, Jesus was asked about a group of people who suffered a terrible death at the hands of an evil ruler. The people who asked wanted to know why those men suffered worse than others seem to. Jesus told his inquisitors that they were asking the wrong question and thinking in the wrong way. They wanted to know why God allowed certain people to suffer tragedy. In reality, what Jesus wanted them to do was to understand that all people deserve the wrath of God. Anything less than his wrath that we receive is his mercy.
How do I know that this is Jesus’ point? He tells the people, if they do not repent, they will perish themselves. Jesus wants them to understand that they deserve to have hardship befall them—they deserve God’s wrath. God has the right to allow us to perish. Because of his great love and mercy, he has provided a way for us to live and be forgiven (cf. John 3:16).
What is the way for us to survive and avoid the wrath of God? The word Jesus uses is repentance. If we will willingly turn away from our evil thinking and evil acting and instead place our full trust in God, we will be forgiven. More specifically, again from John 3:16, we must turn from ourselves and place our full trust in Jesus Christ to avoid perishing.
We like to think that nobody deserves to perish, and so something radical and strange has happened when God allows someone to perish. We have forgotten that all have sinned before God and earned death for that sin (cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23). Thus, our entire attitude should have a paradigm shift. When we see how much we deserve to be judged by a holy God, we will be grateful to him for any mercy he has shown us. When we see hardships, we will be reminded of the grace that God has given so many and of our need to repent and turn to God for mercy.