We’re told in the gospel today that it had been reported to Jesus that Pilate had mingled the blood of Galileans with a pagan sacrifice. There’s no proof that this event took place, but whether it was true or not, Jesus used the moment to teach. He even added an incident to the conversation: the death of eighteen people in a tower collapse.
We might add our own contemporary example to the two events that were presented, the horrific attack on Ukraine we’re witnessing today. Were the Ukrainians such terrible sinners that God would have unleashed such horrendous barbarity as a punishment upon them? It was common Jewish belief that bad things happened to bad people, and good things to good people. Jesus bucked this belief.
Jesus taught that suffering wasn’t God’s punishment for sin. To make his point, Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that wasn’t producing figs to address questions about sin, the sinner and God’s response.
The owner of a property wanted to cut down a fig tree, the symbol of a sinner, because it wasn’t fruitful. This was the human way of thinking. The gardener, God, committed to do all he could to save the tree, to make it fruitful. God’s purpose wasn’t to punish the sinner; God tried to bring new life to the sinner.
Today, I would suggest that that you take a renewed look at God. God’s desire is to help you, no matter what you’ve done or how you’ve acted. God’s way is not to condemn or punish. People may do so; institutions may do so; but that’s not God’s way. Throughout his ministry Jesus never spoke of sinners as being bad. Instead, he said they had lost their way. Examples of these are the woman who lost a coin and rejoiced with her friends when she found it, the sheep that wandered away from the ninetynine and was rescued by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine to search for the one that was lost, the son who abandoned his father and family and lost all his inheritance and was welcomed back home unconditionally.
I’ll leave you to your own thoughts, now, but before I do, I ask you to read these words Jesus spoke to Nicodemus to convince him of God’s love. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)