What do you think was the answer to Jesus’ question – the one in bold above? It was a question addressed to unidentified people among the crowds that thronged this man around AD 30. He could well ask us the same question about Twin Towers or the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
These unidentified people in the crowd had just told Jesus about folk from Galilee who had been cruelly killed by Pilate because they were taking part in a religious ritual. This was the same Pilate who later sanctioned the death by crucifixion of Jesus. He was the Prefect of the Roman Province of Judea with its capital city Jerusalem. They asked “Why?” We do too.
Jesus’ answer regarding the Galilean dead came in the form of a question the answer to which would be very clear to the crowd. Let’s rephrase Jesus’ rhetorical question in 2012 terms. Were the Libyans who were killed in recent months by Colonel Gaddafi worse offenders, worse sinners, than other Libyans?
The answer is rather obvious. Of course not. Not worse.
Then we come to Jesus’ question about the tower in Siloam. This is different. Why did the tower fall? Was it an earthquake? Was it shoddy building? Was it a bit of both?
Let’s try putting Jesus’ Siloam Tower question into another rhetorical 2012 question. Were the Japanese folk who died in last year’s earthquakes and tsunami worse offenders, worse sinners, than others who live in Japan? Again, the answer is obvious. Of course not. Not worse.
Interestingly even the asking of such questions in 2012 is regarded by many as unacceptable. How much more is the fuller answer that Jesus himself gave to his own rhetorical question......
He said, “No, I tell you, but unless you change your minds, you will all likewise perish.”
In fact, this dialogue with Jesus is today, in Jersey, regarded as presumptive and false. Presumptive because his words pre-suppose a God who hates sin and a God who punishes offenders. Presumptive also because his words indicate an Almighty God who does (not only through Jesus but also in those deafening ways) call all people to change, to repent, before it is too late. False because isn’t God is a God of love (and not of righteousness)?
The Libyans (and the Galileans under Pilate) did not think that their activity would definitely result in their own deaths despite the apparent righteousness of their cause. Those on whom the catastrophe in Japan (and on whom the tower in Siloam) fell did not think that the terrestrial instability that they knew was present beneath them (combined with the insufficiency of their building work) would actually get so many them.
It wouldn’t happen to them. Even the word “happen” indicated, by its background of unpredictable randomness, the mind-set that dominated them – and to a much greater extent dominates us in Jersey.
The stability of Jersey is stressed today partly because we don’t have a crazed dictator and his family in command of everything (Libya – and, to a degree, Pilate).... Jersey also doesn’t sit upon a meeting point of tectonic plates and its building work cannot be faulted (Japan and Siloam).
And Jersey is financially stable too – no public debt, balanced budgets. Jersey watches whilst the Eurozone countries (and the UK) attempt to stabilise their financial tsunami – it doesn’t affect us really. Jersey watches whilst the world as a whole struggles to make even an iota of progress on the causes of ecological damage and climate instability. Only others die.
When awful things occur outside Jersey we don’t learn anything from them.
And therefore we don’t “change our minds” before it’s too late. We wait and watch.