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None Is Righteous: Galilean Blood and the Tower of Siloam

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None is Righteous

Galilean Blood and the Tower of Siloam

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None Is Righteous: Galilean Blood and the Tower of Siloam

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Jesus' 3.5 years of ministry took place at a time of widespread civil unrest. And in the midst of this walked Jesus Christ. Who by doing the will of the Father and walking in the spirit of God, cut a straight and true path right through the middle of it all... preaching repentance and the coming rule of God on earth.

Transcript

None  is Righteous … No Not One

Jesus’ 3.5 years of ministry took place at a time of widespread civil unrest. The nation of Israel had been conquered by the Romans and was subject to them. They had to pay heavy taxes, their sense of national dignity was stripped away, and it was only through a great deal of unrest that they had been granted immunity from the requirements to pay religious homage to the emperor as a God. Some of their protests   had borne fruits of religious liberty…. however…

They were oppressed, harassed, and often brutally treated by the Roman soldiers who occupied and policed the land. There were protests [some of which turned violent], there were massacres, religious beliefs were often meshed together with political agendas… there were racial tensions, there were cultural tensions, economic tensions, nationalistic tensions. The situation was so bad that within a few short decades Roman would send in an entire army to completely flatten the entire city of Jerusalem.

And in the midst of this walked Jesus Christ. Who by doing the will of the Father and walking in the spirit of God, cut a straight and true path right through the middle of it all… preaching repentance and the coming rule of God on earth.

Luke 13:1-8 Luke 13:1-8 [1] There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. [2] And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? [3] I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. [4] Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? [5] I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. [6] He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. [7] Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why encumbers it the ground? [8] And he answering said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
American King James Version×

A group of people had gathered and were questioning Jesus about current events. Based on the answer He gave they were expecting Him to tell them which side He considered right. They wanted Him to give His opinion: who’s cause was righteous, and who’s was not? And I think the assumption was, if a person was aligned with the more righteous cause… they were themself more righteous.

Jesus said, “what makes you suppose, the people in this group were more righteous in the eyes of God than the other”… and then followed up with “the only path to righteousness is to repent before God”.

Practice justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.

Galilean Blood

There is no historic account of this particular massacre of Jewish people which must have  occurred between 27 A.D. - 31 A.D. [when Jesus ministry took place]. Presumably, the Galileans were killed in the temple area where their blood ran down and mixed with the blood of the sacrificed animals. The religious setting to what happened is plain to see… but its silly to think that Pilate’s men swooped down suddenly and killed a crowd of innocent Jews quietly observing the rituals of the temple.

We can gain insight into what was really happening based on records of similar events from Pilate’s rule. In particular the writings of 1st century Jewish  historian  Flavius Josephus. From these, we know multiple Jewish religious groups considered the Roman occupation an affront to God. For them, the only righteous position was to resist, undermine, and seek to overthrow the Romans. Furthermore, it is known that such groups seem to have used gatherings at the temple to incite the people to take action. Some of which turned violent.

To deal with it the Romans built a large barracks for soldiers right next to the temple [Fort Antonia] so they could quickly mobilize large numbers of men to put down the riots, rebellions, and unrest that took place in the temple precinct. Josephus tells of an instance where 2,000 dead bodies were left strewn all over the temple courts, another where 20,000 died. He also tells about a time when Pilate had soldiers disguise themselves, mingle among the demonstrators, then pull out their short swords and start killing people. So, it could get pretty nasty.

The incident with the Galileans who were killed by Pilate’s soldiers was probably something of this sort. It was tragic, people died, and the crowd wanted to hear what Jesus had to say about it. Was it better to respect the Roman authorities and cooperate with them like the Herodians, or the Sadducees? Was it more noble to resist like the Galileans and the zealots? What about the Romans themselves… they’re the real villains, right?

Jesus’ answer was: “none of these are more righteous than the other, all people are equal before God… equal because they are all equally guilty! The only meaningful course of action is to repent or you too will die in your sins.”

Who today knows or cares about the plight of the people of Galilee in 30 A.D… almost no one. You know a bit about it now because I just told you about it… otherwise, what would you care. Hopefully, some of the crowd heard Jesus’ preaching on the Kingdom of God, believed, repented, were baptized, took up their cross and walked with God. Otherwise, they’ll all just wake up in the second resurrection… and all their grievances will be meaningless.

The God who sits upon the great white throne will not be interested passing judgment on the justice or injustice of Roman taxation policy, or the legitimacy of their occupation of Judea, or should the U.S. have dropped the atomic bomb on the civilians of Hiroshima in 1945. The God who’s eyes burn like the fire of the sun, the God of mercy, the God judgment, the God who holds the gift of life in His hands will say… “I want to talk about you”.

The Tower of Siloam

Jesus adds to the discussion by referencing  those who died when the tower of Siloam fell.

A surface reading of the text leads many to conclude this is some sort of random calamity where a large public building just fell down one day and killed a bunch of people passing by… so, repent now because you never know what’s gonna happen… lightning could strike you tomorrow”.

There is nothing wrong with that interpretation. It’s true… some random accident could take you out this afternoon. But, it doesn’t seem to fit the context or have much to do with the question about the Galileans, and who is righteous and who is not. Such an interpretation makes Jesus appear to be changing the subject to talk about something very different.

I am of the opinion that Jesus mentioned the incident at Siloam because it was also related to the political, religious, cultural uproar taking place at the time.

The tower was a large public structure next to the small city reservoir called the pool of Siloam, which is mentioned in John 9. The reservoir was next to the temple where they needed a constant supply of water to wash away all the blood from the sacrifices.

 

The tower of Siloam was a controversial place. It was part of an aqueduct system Pilate was constructing to improve the water supply to the city. The people were up in arms about it because the Pilate was taking money from the temple treasury to help pay for the project.

I’m sure the Roman perspective was, why not do something with that money that will benefit everyone. A fresh supply of clean water is an obvious public good. The Roman saw their rule a blessing of peace and prosperity everyone can enjoy. They stopped the constant warfare among petty kingdoms, they built roads, they stimulated international commerce… people who resist Rome for the sake of their own petty causes simply don’t see the big picture and needs to be forcibly put down.

The people of Judea of course saw it differently, they were outraged at this affront to the chosen nation of God, there were lots of public protests. Some of these protest may have taken place near the tower of Siloam. The tower was right next door to the temple which was a common gathering point for political and social agitation.

It could be that the tower of Siloam just fell down of its own accord and crushed 18 unsuspecting people below. If so, then Jesus was just citing two unconnected incidents where people died violently and suddenly, then urged His listeners to repent now before its too late.

I am of the opinion that the massacre in the temple, and the deaths near the the tower were connected…  because I think they were both involved with public demonstrations against the policies of the Roman overlords and the Jewish officials who were seen as collaborators. Perhaps during the demonstration some people pushed part of the upper portions of the tower over onto the crowd below? Perhaps they were symbolically trying to tear it down. Large stone towers don’t usually fall unless something causes them to fall… like an earthquake or a fire that burns up supporting wooden beams.

If it were an earthquake, or an accidental fire, where’s the connection to the massacre of the Galileans?

The connection between the two events was the question: were the victims righteous, or were they guilty? Were they on  the right side of history or not? Does aligning yourself with the right side in a fight affect your standing with God? …. answer: everyone needs to look deep within themselves and repent.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

Luke 13:6-9 Luke 13:6-9 [6] He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. [7] Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why encumbers it the ground? [8] And he answering said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: [9] And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down.
American King James Version×

On one level the parable is about Israel [the Jews]. The true king and Messiah was there among them. Would they listen to Him? Would they hear and do? If they did not they would be uprooted and replaced.

On another level the parable is about us. God is displeased when there is no fruit on the tree. He does not like to His time and resources wasted. God is also patient and willing to, listen to the intercessor and give the tree more time. But, there will come a time when the waiting is over.

The fruit on the tree are the attitudes and ensuing actions that reflect the mind of Christ John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
American King James Version×
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Matthew & Simon: Disciples of Christ

One of the disciples was a man named Levi/Matthew he had been a Jew who collaborated with the Roman overlords. Specifically, he had been a tax collector. He made his living by extracting money from the poor, the working class, the struggling business entrepreneurs of Judea to finance the rule of men like Pilate. Collaborators like Matthew added to the burden and oppression of their people, and turned a profit doing it.

Another one of the disciples as a man named Simon. He is a lesser know disciple. He is distinguished from the other disciple with the same name by his nickname, he was called ”Simon the zealot’. In popular usage the term zealot was used for people who were extremely zealous for the Torah, and strong religious nationalism… even to the point of public resistance to Roman rule, violent and non-violent.

This doesn’t mean Simon the Zealot was a reformed urban terrorist… but it indicates he was no sympathizer with Romans or with the Jewish authorities who collaborated with Rome.

[interesting conversations among Matthew, Simon, and Jesus?]

Placed in the context of worldly struggles for power, freedom, and personal gain these two men: Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot… were natural born enemies. But within the context of God’s calling to repentance and preparation for eternal life and the coming kingdom of God… these men were called to love one another.

What is Love?

Let’s read the love chapter. But first, notice that the previous section leading up to this is about unity and diversity within the body, which is the church.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 [1] Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. [2] And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. [3] And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
American King James Version×
 all the zeal, all the knowledge, even willingness to give up your life or all your possessions for a righteous cause gains nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 [4] Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up, [5] Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; [6] Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; [7] Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [8] Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [11] When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. [13] And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
American King James Version×

Luke 9:57-62 Luke 9:57-62 [57] And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go. [58] And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head. [59] And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. [60] Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go you and preach the kingdom of God. [61] And another also said, Lord, I will follow you; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. [62] And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
 discipleship takes priority over community, clan, family, race, class, nationality, patriotism, ideology… every allegiance.

The society you see all around you is a dead man walking. God says, “Let the dead bury the dead”, instead “follow me”. Seek first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness. You will get a much better return on your investment.

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