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Mercy and Justice

Luke 13:1-9 

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"Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. [2] And He answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? [3] I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. [4] Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? [5] I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.' [6] And He began telling this parable: 'A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. [7] And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' [8] And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; [9] and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.''" 
 

The opening words of the unnamed people and Jesus' immediate reply, reference events that we have no definitive information on. The people mention an event where Pilate killed some Galileans and Jesus mentioned eighteen people that died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-both tremendous tragedies. I'm not sure if verse one is talking about this specific event, but there was a time when Pilate's soldiers killed some civilians while they were on a crowd control assignment. The mob scene occurred after Pilate decided to use temple money to pay for some government infrastructure. Jerusalem needed a new source of water, so Pilate chose to finance the project with money from the temple. The Jews reacted strongly against this commingling of funds and began to protest. Pilate ordered his soldiers to conceal their identity, mingle with the Jews, and use force to disperse the crowd when he gave the signal. They did as they were ordered and beyond-they used deadly force and several Jews lost their lives. Perhaps it was this event that the people in verse 1 were telling Jesus about. (Barclay, p 177) Look at Jesus' response to their news in verse 2: "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?"

Jesus raises the age-old question, "Is sin and suffering connected?" Do bad things happen to us because of the bad things we've done?

When I was a young tike, my brother and I were wrestling on the living room couch. Our mother told us to stop. And we did while she was in the room, but as soon as she left, we went right back at it. Before long, I was writhing in pain on the floor, I'd fallen off the couch and landed on my shoulder, with my brother in tow, breaking my right collar bone. Exasperated, Mom gave us both a spanking and then took me to the hospital. Before treating the injury, the doctor followed the standard medical procedure of the day and took an X-Ray of my collar bone. Sure enough it was broken. He gave me a sling to wear until the bone healed and sent me home. End of story, right? Well, not exactly. Thirty some years later, I felt a strange tightness in my neck and went into the private bathroom in my study to take a look in the mirror. There it was, just above my collar bone-a lump. My eyes immediately shifted from the tumor to my eyes. I don't know what startled me more, the size of the lump or the look in my eyes.

The next day, I saw my doctor who sent me straight to the hospital for an ultrasound and made an appointment for me with a surgeon. The surgeon didn't waste any time, "There's no need to biopsy the tumor," the doctor said, "It needs to come out." He described the operation and told me about the possible complications. The only one that caught my attention was that there was a slight possibility that he could paralyze my vocal chord while removing the right lobe of my thyroid. And of course, that's what happened.

Where did my cancer come from? We'll I'm not sure, but one cause of thyroid cancer is exposure to direct radiation as a child-the kind a person would get having their collar bone X-rayed. So was my cancer and subsequent problems with my voice punishment for disobeying my mother and continuing to wrestle with my brother on the family couch?

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