March 12th Lenten Devotional

Blame and Mercy

Jeremy Marshall

Luke 13:1-9

Two days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 3000 innocent American citizens were killed and the Twin Towers fell, a pair of well-known televangelists appeared on a syndicated show. These prominent pastors pointed the finger of blame at some of their fellow citizens, saying the attacks were God’s judgment on America for tolerating sinfulness.

Jesus was mid-sermon, and had just warned of a coming judgment from God (Luke 12.47-59) when some in his audience asked for his opinion on a recent attack on some of his neighbors.  Local jefe Pilate had “mingled their blood with their sacrifices” in what can only be described as an act of terrorism. Was that the kind of divine judgment Jesus was warning them about—a judgment aimed at those (bad) people (not us)?

Jesus replied that those murdered by Pilate weren’t particularly wicked. Nor were those killed recently when the tower of Siloam had collapsed on them. The justice of God wasn’t subtly lurking behind those senseless tragedies. He warned his hearers to turn their judgments inward, to examine their own hearts and lives. “Repent or perish!” isn’t a call “those people” need to hear. It’s a word for each of us. Jesus goes on to tell a parable about an unfruitful tree saved from destruction by a compassionate gardener, who begs the vineyard owner to give the tree another year. Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming a “year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4.19). The time of God’s patient mercy is now. And according to Jesus, a better use of this time is making peace, rather than accusing others (Luke 12.57-59).

Jeremy Marshall is preaching minister for the Central Church of Christ in Stockton, CA.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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