Repent or Perish

Rev. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 

And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things?
 

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
 

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
 

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
 

Luke 13:1-5

Jesus is somewhere in Judea instructing the people concerning His second coming in judgment and the need to be ready. 

Afterwards a number of His audience approach Jesus with horrible news. Pilate has slain a number of their countrymen in the temple, mingling their blood with their sacrifices. These bearers of ill tidings have already drawn their own conclusions about this matter. They now await Jesus' response.

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, informs them that their conclusions are erroneous.

Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay. 

Rather must those who bring this horrible news take pause to see their own sinfulness and to repent, lest they fall into judgment. 

Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish!


The incident reported to Jesus was indeed horrible! 

Pilate had mingled the blood of certain Galileans with their sacrifices. 

Although there is no other record of this incident, either sacred or secular, the details are not difficult to fill in. Certain Galileans were in the Temple in Jerusalem to present their sacrifices to the Lord. Seldom was anyone but the priests allowed near the great altar before the temple. In a few instances, however, it was required of the men of Israel to bring their sacrificial animals directly to the altar, where their sacrifices were slaughtered by the priest. Evidently the Galileans in question were presenting their sacrifices to the priest at the altar, when Pilate's soldiers rushed into the temple and slaughtered these Galileans, thus mingling their blood with the blood of their sacrifices.

We are not told the reason for this action on the part of Pilate. Any suggestion would be mere speculation. However, it is not speculation to say that atrocities abounded during Pilate's tenure as governor of Judea. 

And now the news of this has reached the vicinity where Jesus is laboring. A number of His audience approach Jesus with the report of this tragic event. They await Jesus' response. 

It becomes apparent from Jesus' response that an opinion has already been formed by those bringing these tidings. They have concluded that these Galileans were slain because they were sinners above all the Galileans, i.e., they were greater sinners than their fellow Galileans. 

It was a common notion among the Jews of Jesus' day that personal tragedy or physical handicap was God's punishment for some specific sin. This becomes evident from the question Jesus' disciples asked Him as they passed by a man born blind, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1, 2). 

Those who approach Jesus with the dreadful news of the Galileans slain by Pilate are of the same mentality. They have concluded that these Galileans were slain because they were sinners above all the Galileans. 

Interestingly, this same mentality is frequently found today in the church. The reasoning is simple. God punishes sin. He does so not only eternally in hell but also in this life with suffering. Hence, those upon whom great sufferings come must necessarily be great sinners. God is simply punishing them for their sin. 

This is the attitude some assume when they witness the sufferings of those around them. This is even the attitude taken by some who experience great suffering. Again and again the question is raised by those under great suffering, "Why is God punishing me?"


Jesus responds to those bringing Him the news about the Galileans that their conclusion is incorrect. 

Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay. 

Let us be sure we understand exactly what Jesus is saying. 

Jesus is not denying that God punishes sin. Nor is Jesus denying that God punishes sin already in this life with terrible sufferings. Nor is Jesus denying that sometimes there is an obvious connection between someone's sin and the suffering that befalls him. Obviously one who contracts venereal disease or AIDS through immoral living is suffering the just consequence of his sin. The same is true of the habitual drunkard, who finds one day that drink has deprived him of his health and wasted away his body. Examples of this kind could be multiplied. 

None of these realities is being denied by Jesus. The point of Jesus is rather that personal tragedy and suffering is not ordinarily a sign that one is a great sinner. When we see the suffering of another, we ought not quickly draw the conclusion that this suffering is the result of some sin this person has committed. 

This is the first piece of instruction Jesus has for those who bring Him this news. But Jesus is not finished. He also makes it clear that the tragedy and suffering of others ought to make each of us reflect rather on his own sin. 

Jesus makes this very clear by calling to repentance those who bring Him this news of the Galileans. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

Those who report this tragedy to Jesus have quite self-righteously focused their attention on the "apparent" sinfulness of those who were slain. They can think only of the great sin of the Galileans. To their surprise, Jesus speaks of their own need for repentance. By doing this, Jesus is teaching them that this great tragedy that befell the Galileans ought to make each of them reflect on his own sins. 

Unspoken, yet implied, is the truth that all suffering and tragedy is the result of the fall of the human race into sin, a fall which rendered all of us corrupt and depraved sinners. Before the fall there was no suffering and pain. All these things came only as the consequence of sin. Hence, when we see the suffering and misery of others, we ought to be reminded of the sinfulness into which the whole human race has fallen, also ourselves.


Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

The meaning is that, without repentance, those who bring these evil tidings of the Galileans shall all perish in the same manner as the Galileans have. Their blood will be mingled with their sacrifices at the altar. 

Jesus adds to this. He reminds His audience of the eighteen that were killed when the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem fell on them. Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay. But except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

And that is exactly what happened! They all likewise perished! 

Israel had gone apostate as a nation, forsaking the law and the prophets. Neither did they heed the call to repentance, not even when proclaimed by the Son of God Himself. In fact, they hardened their hearts against Him and crucified Him! 

Consequently the judgment of God came upon Israel as a nation. In the year 70 God sent the Roman legions upon Jerusalem to destroy it. Destroyed was the temple as well as the walls and towers of the city. During the course of this carnage the blood of many was spilled at the very altar of God. Many also lost their lives as the walls and towers of the city were razed. 

Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish! 

Bear in mind that the destruction of Jerusalem is a picture of the end of the world. As God destroyed Jerusalem in judgment, He will one day destroy a wicked world and an apostate church with fire on account of their grievous sin. 

Of this impending judgment all suffering is a warning. Through the suffering of others we are reminded of our own sin. We are also reminded that we will all perish on account of our sins, except we repent. 

Repentance is a change of heart and mind concerning sin. It manifests itself in a godly sorrow over sin, a forsaking of sin in the power of Jesus Christ, and a seeking of reconciliation with God in the blood of Jesus Christ. 

May God grant us to repent daily of our sins, as we live in a world of suffering.

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