Have a look at this heart-rending picture from the deadliest industrial disaster to hit the South Asian nation of Bangladesh when an eight-storey building (called Rana Plaza) which housed five garment factories (that employed 4000 people) collapsed. In this chilling frozen frame we see two victims of this disaster lying covered in debris together — blood hardened on the man’s cheek like a permanent tear. Many photographers documented the April 24, 2013 tragedy, standing silent testimony to the high cost of cheap labor. As more bodies were recovered on Friday, 10 May 2013, the total number of people confirmed dead rose to 1,039, even though 2400 survivors were rescued, said Maj. Zihadul Islam, a fire service official. But Taslima Akhter, in particular, shot a heartbreaking image that put a face on the tragedy for countless viewers across the world — starting with Akhter himself. Workers continue to find bodies, many of them in decomposed state, difficult to recognize.
(From various websites)
Rewind two thousand years. The town – Jerusalem. In the country of Israel. Another tower crashes. 18 people get killed as a result. The tower had a name – the tower of Siloam. Some escape by the skin of their teeth. Narrowly. There was no newspapers then. No Times of India. No Hindustan Times. No Deccan Chronicle. By word of mouth the news reaches this man. Who? Jesus. God in flesh.
He told the crowd around him something which made their ears tingle: “Those 18 in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse sinners than all other Jerusalemites? No not at all. Unless you repent, you too will die!” (Luke 13: 3-5, The Message).
Jesus was implying that death for all of us is inevitable.
In the previous set of verses (vs. 1-2) Jesus was told about how the Roman Political ruler over the Jews in the area of Galilee named Pilate killed a few of them as they were making a sacrifice and went on to mix the blood of the dead folks in the sacrifice they offered. In the present passage, 18 people had died in an building crash accident. The implication is this: all of us would have to die – whether by assassination or by accident.
Jesus’ point here was this: those who escaped that particular building crash weren’t more righteous than those who died during it. Jesus’ message was this: all the survivors had to check there was sin in their lives and then repent from it, if there was. Jesus’ warning was this: if there was no sincere penitence there would be sure punishment. The punishment that Jesus referred to here was the punishment of perishing. “Perish” was a Bible word for an everlasting life in ever-burning hell.
Jesus is patient towards you that he does not want you to perish (in hell) but instead you would choose to take a U-turn and come to Him without wasting anymore time – that’s Peter’s point (2 Peter 3:9). Rahab, a prostitute did not “perish” because she repented (she was ready to relocate from her brothel and go with the True God believing spies who came to visit her) and believed in the True God of the Bible (see Heb 11:31). Would you also repent from sin and believe in Jesus so that you will not ‘perish’ in eternal hell?
Immediately after Jesus wrapped a message of repentance around the building crash event/the killing of Galileans event he told a story: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9). What did Jesus try to convey here? It is this: “If we have escaped an assassination bid or an accident, it’s not because we are more righteous than those who have perished by it. It is because I, Jesus, have been gracious to you to give you another chance. Another chance to repent. Another chance to take a U-turn and come back to me, who died for you on the Cross. But if you stay stubbornly in sin, a day is surely coming when you will be ‘cut off’ – go to hell!”
Having escaped “certain death” would you run straight to His arms, saying ‘no’ to sin? Do it now!