Jesus Explains the ‘Why’ of Tragedies

Pastor Terry Reich

Worship Theme: Jesus Explains the ‘Why’ of Tragedies

First Lesson: Exodus 3:1-15 (NIV)
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NIV)
Gospel : Luke 13:1-9 (NIV)


  • Remember Your Love
  • CW 803: Day by Day
  • CW 404: Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing
  • CW 849: Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me

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Message: Jesus Explains the ‘Why’ of Tragedies

Pastor Terry Reich

Remember the Waukesha Christmas Parade? Four months ago tomorrow, November 21, 2021, 6 people died and 62 were injured. The driver of the SUV was one Darrell E. Brooks. He had posted bail just two days earlier on the 19th. He was in jail for running over an ex-girlfriend with the same SUV just three weeks earlier. Witnesses say he zig zagged through the crowd trying to hit as many as possible. The ages of the dead ranged from 8-81. The big question of course was ‘why’? Such horrific loss of human life and senseless tragedy is nothing new. During Jesus’ brief 3-year ministry, at least two such events had occurred and are discussed by our Lord in our lesson today. People at that time were going through the same things we are today and not much has changed in 2,000 years. How does Jesus answer the ‘why’ of such tragedies?

Jesus Explains the ‘Why’ of Tragedies
  1. Bad things will happen because of sin
  2. Worse things will happen if we don’t repent of sin

The first tragedy the people asked Jesus about sounded like our modern-day news. These people were slaughtered in church while worshipping! Why this happened is purely open to speculation. Maybe Pilate thought these folks were involved in some plot against the Roman government. Pilate had a history of such violent and ruthless killings. Maybe Jesus could answer the ‘why’? Apparently some people figured this was a punishment of God and these people were guilty of some unknown sin. Jesus’ response to that? “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?” That misguided thought can affect us too. It’s ridiculous, because there were ‘worse’ Galileans – those Pharisees plotting the Lord’s death? Or how about those Galileans who had tried to stone Jesus to death after his sermon in His hometown. “I tell you NO!”

Jesus makes His case by bringing up a similar tragedy. “Or those 18 who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, do you think they were more guilty than all others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no!” The Greek used here is not just a generic ‘no’, but MUCH stronger. It could properly be translated ‘absolutely not’. Bad things will happen in a sinful world. Jesus uses these tragedies to make a point and teach a lesson. Jesus says these are warnings to you and me that needlessly and violently dying is not the worse thing that can happen to us. His warning was the same in both cases – “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

All misery is the result of sin. Bad things will happen because of sin, but far worse than dying is to die in our sin apart from our Savior. On March 15, 2019, a crazed gunman shot and killed 51 people in New Zealand. He lived-streamed it. The shooting was in a Mosque. There were no Christians there! I recently read that one in three Americans under the age of 30 are now committed atheists. The reality is, thousands of people around the world die every day and will be lost eternally in hell apart from the Lord. If ever there was a time for us to renew our commitment to missions and sharing Christ, this would be that time!

Jesus tells a parable to show our absolute need for repentance. “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.” It’s a simple story. The Master of the vineyard is God. The fig tree represents God’s chosen people Israel. God planted the fig tree. He had cared for it and given it every opportunity to thrive and flourish and produce fruit for the master. For three years He came back with the reasonable expectation of fruit. For three years Jesus had proclaimed the Gospel, but they didn’t produce. He did everything for the vineyard, it did nothing for him, and so He decided to cut it down. This decision was not made in a quick fit of anger, but was reasonable and prudent. Why waste time and effort on it. “Cut it down. Why should it use up the soil?”

But a loving gardener steps in on behalf of the barren tree. This keeper of his vineyard is Jesus. “Sir, “ the man replied, “leave if alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” This is what Jesus does. He pleads with His Father in heaven and intercedes for fruitless trees. He will do anything in His power to cultivate, fertilize and try to save it. He cultivates the soul with God’s holy Law and works up the soil in our hearts. He applies the saving Gospel and faith in Himself as our Lord. This Savior will go so far as to suffer and die and endure the punishment of hell. He eagerly seeks every lost soul to turn to Him and live. In Isaiah 5:4, the Lord once asked, “What more could have been done for My vineyard than I have done for it”?

What more could the Lord have done for us? He gave us faith in our Savior at our baptism. He made you and me His children through water and the Word. I was blessed with parents took me to church every Sunday, to catechism classes, and saw to it that I sat at the feet of faithful teachers and pastors. How many of you sat at the feet of vineyard workers, pastors, whose only desire was to cultivate and fertilize your faith? The problem is never with the Master of the Vineyard. If there is a problem, it’s with us barren trees. Last week we heard our Lord compare Himself to the mother hen who would offer up its life to save, and yet Jesus sadly commented, “But you were not willing.” Sin will cause bad things and tragedies, but the greater tragedy is when souls refuse to turn to God’s answer in Christ.

One of my first conferences when I came to my church in Minnesota was in Woodbury. I wasn’t real familiar with the eastern metro area, but the pastor at the church gave me directions over the phone. I left early and figured I had lots of time to get to the 9:00 a.m. conference. The directions seemed easy enough. I turned right off the freeway, headed south, took a left and kept going. I drove, and drove, and drove. I finally stopped at a gas station, where the attendant told me they had never heard of that church. I drove across the street to another station where the young lady confidently said, “it should be right down the road, keep going that way.” Ten minutes later, with time growing short, the housing developments gave way to cornfields. Finally, fumbling around in the briefcase, I found my misplaced directions. I had turned left where I should have turned right. Journeying through life, we often get little help from some and well-meant but wrong directions from others. May the Lord lead each of us back to His Word, His directions, and then always make the right turn of repentance that leads back to Him. AMEN.