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When Towers Fall

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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May 3, 2023 12:01 am

When Towers Fall

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 3, 2023 12:01 am

When people sought comfort and understanding after tragedy struck, Jesus gave them a difficult word instead. Today, R.C. Sproul examines what Christ's response teaches us about our own response to suffering in this world.

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It's hard enough to understand how human beings could be so inhumane and so wicked in their treatment of other human beings, but how could God allow these things to happen? Well, those questions are the questions that every generation seeks to answer, and the people in Jesus' day were no different. When tragedy comes, whether to our own family or our own nation, our minds can quickly wonder, why me?

Why us? Or if someone we know or a public figure experiences loss, we can begin to question, what did they do? What sin did they commit to deserve that? Well, the people of Jesus' day were no different.

Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. We're quick to speak of innocent victims when tragedy strikes, but when people had some questions about some local tragedies in Jesus' day, His divine perspective was very different than our typical human perspective. Here's Dr. Sproul with A Hard Saying of Jesus. We're going to turn our attention to some of the hard sayings of Jesus.

Again, you will recall that what we call a hard saying is a saying that is either difficult for us in the sense that we perceive it as being harsh or severe, or we can call it a hard saying because it's hard to grasp or hard to understand. It's difficult to figure out what it means, and so we'll be choosing both of those types of hard sayings, and today I want to turn your attention to the Gospel According to St. Luke, to the thirteenth chapter, to an episode that is contained there that I, in an earlier series, have already spoken about under our series entitled The Providence of God, but I want to revisit this episode in light of its being a hard saying. Chapter 13 of Luke begins with these words.

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. Were those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, fell and killed them? Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?

I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Obviously, the questions that were being brought to Jesus were questions that people had about catastrophes that had befallen people in their day, and they were wondering how a good God, a loving God, could allow these tragic catastrophes to take place. I remember the bombing episode that took place in 1995, in April of 95, in Oklahoma City where terrorists took this huge bomb in a highly crowded federal office building that included a daycare center and detonated it, and the nation watched the news reports of this in horror. And this was one of those rare occasions where the news media rushing to bring fresh information to the viewers would bring in unedited tapes, and the usual shield we have from gory reports of violence in the world were absent on that occasion.

Who can forget the picture of the policeman carrying the baby and handing it over to the fireman and then later to realize that the infant had died? And I was interested in listening to the adjectives and the language that the news reporters groped for to give an adequate description of the degree of heinousness of this crime. I heard one newsman say that this was an inhuman, satanic act, and another newsman say, wait a minute, we have to realize that people are capable of this kind of atrocity. But there was a national sense of outrage, and particularly because children were included in this incident. Somebody said to me, why children? Why would anybody kill children? What's the purpose of terrorism? And I said the purpose of terrorism is obvious. It's to terrorize. It's to bring people to a state of fear that will cause them to react in ways by which those who are perpetrating this can control their responses.

That's what terrorism is all about. But again, the questions were how could something of the enormity of this tragedy take place in a universe that is governed by a holy God? How can God allow such a disaster to take place?

It's hard enough to understand how human beings could be so inhumane and so wicked in their treatment of other human beings, but how could God allow these things to happen? Well, those questions are the questions that are the questions that every generation seeks to answer, and the people in Jesus' day were no different, and they came to Jesus and reported two specific incidents from their own day. The first one refers to an event that took place in Galilee where while people were in the midst of worship in church, if you will, some of the soldiers under the authority of Pontius Pilate came in and massacred them, mixing their blood with the blood of the animals.

I mean, these were not warriors on the battlefield. These were supplicants in the worship environment who were stormed upon and treated with a brutal massacre so that their blood was flowing and desecrating the sanctity of the religious buildings there. And so they come to Jesus, and they say, you know, how can this be? 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? Jesus in a sense ducks their question and takes this opportunity to instruct them on a very weighty and difficult theological truth. Jesus answers the question with a question, and it's very similar to the response He gave elsewhere in His ministry that's recorded in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John where people brought a man who had been blind from birth to Jesus and asked this question. Trying to trap Jesus with a theological poser, they said to Jesus, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?

Now those who raised that question committed an informal fallacy of logic, and that fallacy is called the fallacy of the false dilemma or sometimes it's called the either-or fallacy. They came with Jesus, and they only gave Him two options to account for the man's blindness. Either, they said, the man was born blind because of his own sin or because of the sin of his parents. And how does Jesus answer the question?

Neither. It didn't have anything to do with this man's sin or his parents, but that God may be glorified, and He was indeed glorified through the healing of the man born blind. But what was behind that question that the disciples raised of Jesus in John's Gospel was the assumption that all suffering in this world is proportionately related to a person's particular degree of sinfulness.

This is a weighty matter. I don't know how many times I've stood in a hospital room and talked privately as a confessional situation with dying people who've expressed to me their conviction that the reason for their pain and their suffering was some particular sin that they had committed, and they wanted to get that off their conscience before they died. That is far more present and pervasive among people than we realize. We hardly ever talk about this because we want to divorce ourselves from any thought that there is a relationship between sin and suffering. Yet, in the broad picture, the general scope of Scripture, we are told that it is because of sin that suffering and death come into the world. So that there was a sound idea at least partially in the minds of the disciples when they asked the question, why is this man blind?

Is it because of his sin or the sin of his parents? Because the disciples at least understood that there is some kind of a connection between moral evil and physical suffering. But Jesus took that opportunity to teach them that though in general there would be no suffering and there'd be no death in the world if there were no sin in the world, nevertheless we cannot rush to judgment, leap to the conclusion that everybody suffers in proportionate measure to the degree of their sin. The Bible makes it very clear that that's not the case.

There are the wicked who prosper and the righteous who suffer. The whole book of Job is designed to belie that misunderstanding and to show that Job was the most upright man in the whole world when he was visited with untold misery and suffering, and the error of his friends was the assumption that because Job's suffering was so severe and so great that Job must have been the worst sinner in the whole world. Well, both John chapter 9 and the book of Job should put that idea to rest once and for all. But it should not lead us to a false conclusion, namely that there is no relationship between suffering and sin. Now when these people come to Jesus here in Luke and they ask Him about this incident in Galilee where Pilate mingles the blood of the worshipers with the sacrifices, Jesus says to them, do you think that these Galileans who suffered were worse were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered such things? And obviously Jesus is answering His own question, isn't He? He's saying, no, they're not worse sinners. So now you would expect Jesus to say, hey, accidents happen. This had nothing to do with their sin. Or you might expect Jesus to say these people who were killed were total innocent people, and it's just a dreadful calamity that took place, one of those fortuitous circumstances that happened by chance.

That's not the conclusion either. Jesus said, don't think that because they suffered you are better than they are or they were worse than you are. And then He turns to them and said, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Beloved, people do dreadful things to people who are innocent of any crime against those who injure them. The terrorist works indiscriminately. He doesn't aim at military installments. He aims at the general public.

He aims at children in order to terrorize as many people as he possibly can. And with respect to the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, the victim is innocent. And that's true, and we need to remember that. On the other hand, it is also true that when we look vertically in terms of our relationship to God, none of us is an innocent person before God. And that's what Jesus is trying to communicate, that unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

He's saying to these people, you're asking me the wrong question. Instead of being horrified that a good God would allow this catastrophe to befall these innocent people in Galilee, the question you should be asking is why your blood wasn't spilled in Galilee. Now, why is Jesus saying that?

That's a hard saying. Jesus is trying to remind these people that there is no such thing as an innocent person. There is no such thing as an innocent person. And He's trying to communicate to us that the real amazing question is not the justice of God, but the grace of God. We have a song that we sing called, Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound, that saved a wretch like me. We sing that in church with great gusto and with very little belief. Do we really believe that we are wretches who have been saved by the grace of God? Do we really believe that the favors we receive from the hand of God are unmerited, unearned, and undeserved? You see, Jesus is saying, we should be saying, why didn't our blood flow in that place? How did we escape? How could God, who is a good God, allow me, a sinner, to continue to enjoy all these benefits?

That's the question that should be being asked. And likewise, the next incident that is contained in this narrative are those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them. Do you think they were worse sinners than all the other men who dwelled in Jerusalem?

I tell you, no. They weren't any worse. They weren't any better. Eighteen innocent people in a building, and the building collapses. It's not like they were standing there outside the construction of this temple playing sidewalk superintendent and harassing the construction workers. And so, as a result, God judged them and had the tower fall on their heads. No.

They're walking down the street, minding their own business. The tower collapsed, and boom, they're killed. The question is, the question is, how can God allow that to happen? Jesus answered, it's hard. He's saying, why shouldn't God allow that to happen?

And the question you should be asking is why that temple doesn't fall on your head. If you really believe that we live by grace, that's the response you have to have. And sometimes it takes the hard saying of Jesus in a question and in a situation like this to get us to remember that, that we are not exempt from tragedy or suffering or calamity or injustice from the hands of people. As I've said over and over and over again, it's very possible for me to commit an injustice against you and for you to commit an injustice against me, because in terms of our relationship, we may be innocent with respect to one another, but anything that befalls me that is painful or sorrowful or grievous, that comes to me from the hand of God, I can never see as an act of injustice, because God does not owe me freedom from tragedies.

God does not owe me freedom from temples falling on my head or towers bearing me beneath their rubble, because I am a debtor before God who cannot repay. And Jesus' warning is hard. Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Let's look at that again. Jesus says that there's a necessary condition that has to be met here. Unless indicates something that has to take place for a consequence to follow, unless A, B cannot occur or unless A, B will occur. And in this case, Jesus said, unless there is repentance, you will all likewise perish. The only antidote to perishing at the hands of God is repentance.

So we can all look forward to the temple falling on us or our blood being mingled with the sacrifices, unless we repent. You know, it really gets hard when you realize that even if we do repent, temples can still fall on our heads in this world. Although the final tower will not collapse upon us, the tower of God's final judgment, we will escape that. And yet, if a person makes it safely through all of life, never has an automobile accident, never is in a plane crash or a train wreck, or never has the house fall upon their head, if they remain impenitent until their last day, there will be a tower that will crush them, and they will perish. That's the hard saying of Christ.

And so I say to you, beloved, watch out for falling towers. Surely we struggle with the kind of hard saying that we've looked at today, that Jesus is not being insensitive or thoughtless or trying to be harsh with His ears, but He does have to jolt them and jolt us into looking at things from the eternal perspective. And that's the only way we can deal with tragedy and with calamity. It's to understand that behind things that we're experiencing in the here and now stands the eternal purpose of God. And it's funny how differently we respond to pain and the sorrow and the tragedy. For some of us, if we lose a loved one or experience a painful loss, it makes us bitter and angry towards God. But for others, in the midst of that pain, we are driven to our knees and to rush to the presence of God to seek the solace, the consolation, and the comfort that He is prepared to give to His people. Remember the promise of God to His people, that on the last day, He will personally dry the tears from our eyes. And when God dries our tears, they stay dry.

Living in a fallen world, a world that's often filled with tears, we look forward to that day, don't we? That was R.C. Sproul from his hard-saying series. That series is actually 27 messages altogether. And for your donation of any amount, we'll give you lifetime digital access to that complete series. Dr. Sproul looks at hard sayings of Jesus, the apostles, the prophets, and other places in the Bible.

And it can be yours today, as I said, for your donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org, or by calling us at 800-435-4343. When you give your gift today, not only will you receive digital access to that complete series, but we'll give you a new resource from Dr. Sproul, Hard Sayings, Understanding Difficult Passages of Scripture. This new hardcover resource from Dr. Sproul was based on this teaching series, and we'll make it available to you when you give your gift today.

So visit renewingyourmind.org and receive the teaching series and this new hardcover book. Another resource that many Christians use every single day to help them understand difficult passages of the Bible is the Reformation Study Bible. It features more than 1.1 million words of commentary to help you take your study of the Bible to a deeper level. And I encourage you, if you do not own a copy, to learn more at reformationstudybible.com.

And with graduation coming up, I encourage you to also look into the student edition of the Reformation Study Bible, a wonderful gift for recent grads. That web address again is reformationstudybible.com. You and I don't know everything. After all, we're only human. But Jesus, on the other hand, was God incarnate, the God-man. So how do we understand it when the Gospels tell us that there was something that Jesus didn't know? Join us tomorrow for another hard saying here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-03 03:00:12 / 2023-05-03 03:08:07 / 8

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