Why Do Bad Things Happen? FFOZ
The Gospel of Luke records that after Pontius Pilate slaughtered some Galileans in the Temple, some Jews brought a report of the incident to Yeshua. Implicit in their report is a desire to understand why God had allowed such a tragedy to occur. Yeshua’s response gives us a glimpse into the workings of divine providence:
Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3)
The people bringing the report were not expecting the Master to make a political statement or denounce Rome. They could already safely assume the Master’s politics were anti-Roman, even if He did not advocate open revolt. No religious Jew could endorse subjugation to the wicked empire. Instead, they brought the news to Him as a theological question. They asked why those particular Galileans had died. Had they done something to deserve their fate? Pharisaic Judaism believed in a simple cause-and-effect relationship between sin and death. Judaism attributes human suffering and mortality to the measure-for-measure system of justice. Based upon the numerous biblical texts that equate sickness and suffering with the punishment for sin, the sages assumed that all suffering, in some way or another, results from sin:
There is no suffering without iniquity, for it is written [in Psalm 89:33), “Then will I punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes.” There is no death without sin, for it is written [in Ezekiel 18:20], “The soul who sins shall die.” (Talmud)
The Torah says, “Each one shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16), and every man “died for his own sin” (Numbers 27:3). The Talmud explains that “Satan, the evil inclination, and the angel of death are all one.” Our Master and the apostles firmly equated sin and death. “Sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death came into the world “through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12), and sin results in death (Romans 6:16). Paul refers to the sin-equals-death equation as “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Yeshua, however, did not believe in a simple one-for-one equation between a person’s death and a particular sin. Yeshua asked rhetorically, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?” Natural disasters, accidents, and tragedies offer no proof that those who suffer from them deserve that fate more than others, nor do they indicate that those victims were worse sinners than anybody else. Although Yeshua objected to the oversimplified “bad things happen to bad people” conclusion, He did not reject the sin-equals-death notion. The discussion in Luke 13:2-5 has more to do with the Master’s predictions about Jerusalem’s impending doom than it does with a doctrine of suffering or questions of theodicy. Rabbi Yeshua taught that the Galileans who died in the Temple suffered the same fate deserved by the whole generation: “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). In other words, the Galileans who fell by the sword of Rome within the Temple courts portended the doom hanging over the generation.
The Master’s eerie prediction came to fulfillment forty years later when thousands of Galileans and Judeans died by the sword of Rome. As Jerusalem fell to the Romans, the Temple courts were filled with bodies of the slain. According to the Master, the death of the Galileans in the Temple served only as a precursor of the judgment to come.