Repent or Perish
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.”
Observations and Reflections
The events that were brought Jesus were widely known in Judea and the Samaria which is why the issue was presented to Jesus.The specific events that are being discussed was the Roman response to a group of revolutionary Galileans who wanted to revolt against the Roman government. These Galileans even murdered their own Galileans for not joining them in the charge. However, the revolutionaries that were put down by the Romans were given a chance to lay down their arms. The historian, Josephus, records in The Life of Flavius Josephus, that he went to Galilee in an effort to dissuade the revolutionaries but had little success.
I saw that it was not in my power to take their arms from them; but I persuaded the
multitude to allow them money as pay, and told them it was better for them to give them a little
willingly, rather than to [be forced to] overlook them when they plundered their goods from
them. And when I had obliged them to take an oath not to come into that country, unless they
were invited to come, or else when they had not their pay given them, I dismissed them, and
charged them neither to make an expedition against the Romans, nor against those their
neighbors that lay round about them; for my first care was to keep Galilee in peace.1
The mingling of these Galileans with the blood of their own sacrifices is most likely referring to an uprising that was squashed during a time of Jewish feast/festival. In these events the Galileans (and/or the Sicarii) would rile up the crowds against the Roman overloads, hoping to create a war. During the festivals the Jews would be offering sacrifices in the Temple as well. Thus, when the Romans put down the revolt, both the blood of the Jew and the sacrifices were spilled.
The incident with the tower is a lesser known even in history. It is assumed that the tower collapsed accidentally but we have no suitable references to the cause of the collapse. Had it been part of a war it seems likely that it might have been recorded by Josephus but it is not. Either way, the point being raised by the crowd was that these people who were will must have been bad sinners to die in such a way. But Jesus does not accept this notion.
Jesus made it clear that those who died in the tower and those killed by Pilate were not special sinners. Indeed, all will perish if they do not repent. Even though who thought themselves to be pious and devout Jews were not going to escape the coming judgment. One day we will ALL have to account before the Lord, both the righteous and unrighteous.
There are going to be times in our life when we use the phrase “bad things happen to good people”. Here the people are wondering as to why there was no warning or any chance given to defend themselves against what had happened tot he Galileans. They were good people and were not deserving of such a brutal event.
Jesus points out to them that sin is going to exist in this world and that their suffering had nothing to do with whether or not they were better or worse sinners. Jesus does not equate these tragic events with God’s judgment on our world. However, the point of this passage is more centered around addressing those who have lived and gone through these horrible tragedies. He wants to make the point that we should not mistake our easy way of life as evidence that we are living a good Christian life and therefore receiving God’s blessings.
Jesus ultimately wants to focus on the idea of repentance. The perishing that He refers to here is what happens when we do not turn away from our sin and give our lives over to Jesus Christ. He focuses on the true nature of perishing and what happens not just to our physical bodies but our souls. He wants the focal point to be that we are all sinners and each of us have our days numbered. Therefore, the urgency lies in the need to recognize that we ought to focus on what happens after death and not death itself.
We have the opportunity to live in the light of God’s Grace both now and forevermore. We are given the chance to repent of our sin and not fear life’s calamities or the end of our life. The hope that we as Christians have lies in spending eternity with Him.
1. [The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, Translated By William Whiston]↩