God’s Word for You
Luke 13:4-5 The tower of Siloam
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Seventeen years ago I used this passage on the day after 9/11 in chapel with the children of our elementary school. The shock of that day and the frightening uncertainty of that time still lingers for me in Jesus’ words about the tower that fell. Let’s treat them in their context today and how they apply to all Christians at all times and in all places.
4 “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think that they had a greater guilt than all the people living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no. But unless you repent, you will all perish too.”
The tower of Siloam stood on or near the outer wall of Jerusalem next to the Pool of Siloam in the southeast part of the wall. Jesus once healed a blind man there (John 9:11). We learn from Nehemiah 3:15 that the King’s Garden was very close by. The disaster to which Jesus refers might not have been recent news, but it was well-known enough for people to remember how many died. It might have collapsed due to its age or disrepair, but the region is known for earthquakes (Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5), and this might have accounted for the collapse.
Jesus assures us that these unfortunate men were no worse sinners than anyone else in Jerusalem. He uses the word opheilétēs (ὀϕειλέτης), “one who is guilty, in debt.” This isn’t a typical word for sin, but it expresses the accountability of all mankind to the guilt of their sins. The sudden collapse of the tower brought them to their judgment far sooner than any of the eighteen expected, but sudden death is a possibility for any of us. Rather than wonder whether they were guilty of some especially heinous sin like the people of Sodom (2 Peter 2:6), the incident should make all people consider their own—our own—guilt and the need to repent. We come to God with our sins and our sorrow, and he offers forgiveness to us through Christ.
The Formula of Concord summarizes the purpose of the gospel based on the judgment of the law: “Now that man has not kept the Law of God, but transgressed it [and he is] under God’s wrath, death, all temporal calamities, and the punishment of hell-fire, the Gospel is properly a doctrine which teaches what man should believe, that he may obtain forgiveness of sins with God, namely, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon himself and borne the curse of the Law, has expiated and paid for all our sins, through whom alone we again enter into favor with God, obtain forgiveness of sins by faith, are delivered from death and all the punishments of sins, and eternally saved.”
No matter whether you die peacefully in bed surrounded by family and the comfort of God’s word, or you die as Luther did with unbelieving enemies in the room waiting to pounce on him if he rejected his faith, or if you die suddenly in some unexpected way and have no time for prayer or even the verse of a hymn. You stand forgiven by God. You are at peace with him. You have a place with him forever in heaven. Listen to the comforting words of Moses (Deuteronomy 7:9): “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Pastor Timothy Smith
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