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God’s Word for You

Luke 13:1-3 The Galileans

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 27, 2018


13 There were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea for ten years, and his term was filled with many outrages like this one. While Jesus was saying the things recorded in chapter 12, a few people came with news about an atrocity in Jerusalem. Some Galileans—the way this is put in the text confirms that Jesus was not in Galilee at this time, but across the river in Perea—had been bringing offerings in the temple when Pilate’s men had killed them for some offense or crime.

The very fact that the people wondered about the crime the Galileans must have committed and whether they got what was coming to them shows us just how perverse things were under Pilate. Under normal circumstances, the mere presence of a Gentile in the temple courts was an offense that would have caused a riot. Luke will report in Acts 21:28 that when Paul was wrongly accused of bringing Trophimus the Ephesian into the temple, “the whole city was aroused, and people came running from all directions” (Acts 21:30). But that was later, when Felix was governor. Now under Pilate, people had gotten used to violations and atrocities. This happens whenever a government or leader is more perverse than the people. The people follow along and imitate their leadership.

We don’t have any other record of the incident apart from this report in Luke. Whatever crime these Galileans had committed, Roman soldiers found them while they were presenting an offering in the temple and killed them with spears or swords so that their own blood was “mixed with their sacrifices.” Was this, the people wondered, a special, severe punishment from God because of their sin?

2 He answered them, “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you will all perish as well.

Normally God does not punish sins in this lifetime, but there are exceptions in the Bible. For instance, when King Herod did not give credit to God but accepted praise from people as if he were divine himself, God struck him down with worms, and he died (Acts 12:22-23). In this case, Jesus denies that there was anything special about the sin committed by the Galileans.

The point Jesus makes is that they died without repenting of their sins. This is the meaning of “perish” in verse 3. When a Christian dies without repenting (which of us will not fail to repent of something?) we know that we have the forgiveness of Jesus, and we trust in him that our sins are forgiven just as he has promised. But that was not the case for the Galileans. How do we know that these people had died without faith, in some sin that rejected Jesus? Because he says “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well.” The word translated “as well” is homoios (ὁμοίως), a word Luke uses often for “in the same way.” Since Jesus does not mean that all of his hearers would die by having Roman soldiers run them through while they were making sacrifices, he must mean the other way in which they died, which is without repentance and faith.

Faith is the final part of repentance. It begins with admitting or confessing a sin, and then knowing the fear or terror of God’s punishment reserved for our sins, which is eternity in hell. But God also extends faith to us through the gospel. Faith grabs hold of Christ (or rather, Christ grabs hold of our faith), and we have the gift of trust in the merits of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls.

One of the benefits of regular weekly worship is regular weekly confession and repentance. We are reminded again and again of the grace of God and we hold the absolution dear. “It is not the voice or word of the man who speaks it, but it is the Word of God, who forgives sins, for it is spoken in God’s stead and by God’s command” (Augsburg Confession XXV,3). And: “We also teach that God requires us to believe this absolution as much as if we heard God’s voice from heaven, that we should joyfully comfort ourselves with absolution, and that we should know that through such faith we obtain forgiveness of sins” (XXV,4).

Finally, the words of Jesus from the Bible’s most familiar verse comfort us in the most sincere way: “He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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