Thi blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
60th anniversary of Hillary and Tenzing’s Everest Climb
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Jesus is asked about the supposed significance of disasters
13 1-5 It was just at this moment that some people came up to tell him the story of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with that of their own sacrifices. Jesus made this reply to them: “Are you thinking that these Galileans were worse sinners than any other men of Galilee because this happened to them? I assure you that is not so. You will all die just as miserable a death unless your hearts are changed! You remember those eighteen people who were killed at Siloam when the tower collapsed upon them? Are you imagining that they were worse offenders than any of the other people who lived in Jerusalem? I assure you they were not. You will all die as tragically unless your whole outlook is changed!”
And hints at God’s patience with the Jewish nation
6-9 Then he gave them this parable: “Once upon a time a man had a fig-tree growing in his garden, and when he came to look for the figs, he found none at all. So he said to his gardener, ‘Look, I have come expecting fruit on this fig-tree for three years running and never found any. Better cut it down. Why should it use up valuable space?’ And the gardener replied, ‘Master, don’t touch it this year till I have had a chance to dig round it and give it a bit of manure. Then, if it bears after that, it will be all right. But if it doesn’t, then you can cut it down.’”
These passages attack the belief that God arranges things so that the good prosper and the wicked suffer in this life. The parable about the barren fig tree is clear enough: God doesn’t rush to judgement, his patience always allows for a second chance. On the other hand, just because something continues in life doesn’t mean God’s pleased with it!
The first passage is much harder.
The crowd seems to think that sudden and tragic death is a sign of God’s judgement on sinners. Jesus says no to this kind of thinking. God is neither behind the imperialist atrocity of Pilate nor the accidental fall of the tower at Siloam. These events are the way of a world which is subject to evil and happenstance. Who knows when their lives may be cut short by an evil crime or an unfortunate accident? Today? Tomorrow? Then we fall into the hands of the living God. So, in the time that God’s patience gives us, let’s change our hearts and our lives and prepare ourselves for God’s kingdom. Jesus perhaps already knew that living even a perfect life did not guarrantee immunity from violent death. The mention of Pilate at this point may hint at Jesus’ own fate.
This is a stern message and not typical of the gentle Jesus imagined by some believers. On the contrary, it’s true, as the great Scottish scholar James Moffat pointed out a hundred years ago, that all the harshest judgements in the New Testament come from Jesus.
Let’s not turn him into Mr Nice. The life of the kingdom’s as tough as any other supreme endeavour.