Jesus describes two types of tragedies in Luke 13:1-5. The first was state terrorism carried out by Pilate on some Galileans whose blood was mixed with their sacrifices. The second was a horrible accident when the tower of Siloam fell on 18 people in Jerusalem killing each one. Just as in John 9 and in the book of Job, Jesus knew it was the tendency of man to explain such events as retribution for sin. Reduced to a maxim it was concluded that bad things happen to sinners. We often don't say the corollary to it, i.e. if you are good nothing bad will happen to you. Don't you wish things worked that way? Well maybe not, since "there is no one righteous, no not one." (Rom.3:10) So, if we all were to get what we deserve for our sins, no one could be saved from the cruelties of life or the fires of hell.
So today, like the rest of the world, I awoke to yet another horrific scene of death in Las Vegas, often called "sin city." I know when I visited that city a few years ago, I felt a little dirty. With a slogan like "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," what do you expect? But before we connect the dots and conclude some kind of divine retribution on the partiers of Vegas (BTW this was a country music concert), we need to be reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 13. Were those killed by Pilate and those on whom the tower fell worse sinners than others who escaped these horrors? Jesus says, "I tell you 'no.'" But Jesus did add, "But unless you repent, you too will all perish." What is Jesus saying? Since we all are sinners, then we all need to repent of our sins. Such front page news stories serve to show that horrible things happen to all people at times for often unknown reasons. But, there is a day that is coming when destruction will come upon all mankind. No one will escape. No one will be able to plead personal righteousness as an exemption.
So what is the response we should all give to our sins? Jesus' answer is "repent." Since we do not know what any day or night will bring, we live in a state of repentance before a holy God, not to attempt to avoid being in the line of fire of an evil gunman, but to avoid waking up on the otherside of death before a just and holy God unprepared. What does Vegas show us? It shows us that life is unpredictable, there is a day of death for all of us, and some will die "innocently" and tragically. But, whatever day it is, and however we die, there is one thing we all have in common, i.e. we will meet God. In the meantime, we are like unproductive fig trees needing some digging and fertilizing so that we can bear fruit. Much attention will be given in the coming days to how can we avoid this happening again. Less attention will be given to how can we live in such a way that if it does happen again (and it will in many other forms), will I be in a right relationship with God?
May God bless the families of those who died, and the victims who are recovering, and all those who will forever be affected by this event.