Who will forget what they saw on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001? Our collective jaws gaped open when we saw jet airliners filled with passengers veer off course and plunge into the World Trade Centers. We were dumbfounded to learn that another jet had plowed into the Pentagon and yet another crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Unless we lose our ability to remember anything about our lives, we will never forget that day.
We watched thousands of people die right before our eyes. We saw people jump from windows, preferring a quick death of a fall to the tortuous death of fire. We watched in utter dismay as the two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed, one-by-one, with clouds of dust and debris spreading for miles and lasting for days.
And as Al Mohler noted, “The symbolism was unavoidable.” In attacking the Trade Centers the terrorists were attacking America’s economy. In attacking the Pentagon they were sending a message to the world’s greatest military power. America didn’t seem quite as powerful that day. No, she seemed more vulnerable than ever.
9/11 has been the subject of millions of conversations. With events like these and the ensuing conversations, accusations are made, fingers are pointed, and countless questions are asked. That’s pretty much the way it’s always been, and it was certainly that way in Jesus’ day, just read Luke 13.1-5.
Should we remember what happened on 9/11? Absolutely. But, there’s more that must be remembered…
Our depravity is equal
Pontius Pilate issued an order that caused innocent Galileans to be killed either on their way to offer sacrifices at the Temple or possibly within the very precincts of the Temple. And to make matter worse, he had their blood was mixed with the blood of their sacrifices!
The common misconception of Jesus’ day and ours: when tragedy strikes, it’s partly because of some sin in the lives of those who hit the hardest by the calamity. Evidently some thought that about the murdered Galileans. Someone probably thought similar thoughts about those who died on 9/11. So, what was Jesus’ take on such a conclusion? “No! These people didn’t die because they were worse sinners!”
Okay, so what about the 19 terrorists themselves? Were they greater sinners? Surely they were! And it’s easy for us to think back to 9/11 and feel utter disdain for those Islamic terrorists who murdered “innocent people.” How wicked! How despicable! Yet, anyone of us, left to himself, could commit the vilest of sins. After all, haven’t we thought the thought? Haven’t we murdered others in our mind? Haven’t we conceived, yea, even dreamed of sexual escapades in violation of our marriage vows? Haven’t we wished so-and-so would go to hell? Such thoughts come from our wicked hearts (Matthew 15.19).
All people are born equally depraved? Every human being is dreadfully sinful (Jeremiah 17.9; Romans 3.10-12). At the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.
We all have the same sin problem. We all have the same need for our sin to be cleansed and forgiven. We all have the same need of a Savior!
Our enemy is spiritual
Our enemy is NOT Islam! It’s not any other religion for that matter. Our enemy is NOT flesh and blood (Ephesians 6.12).
Our enemy is spiritual and he has several names and descriptive titles: Satan, Lucifer, that great dragon, the old serpent, the deceiver, the accuser, the deceiver, the father of lies, the prince of the power of the air, and the wicked one.
Who do you think motivated Pontius Pilate to murder these Galileans while they were trying to offer sacrifices to the God of Israel? None other than the one who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8.44)!
Satan hates God, despises Jesus, and can’t stand the Holy Spirit. He loathes the church of Jesus Christ and everything even remotely connected to Christianity. And he has a great host of fallen angels, demonic spirits, who are anxious and ready to do his evil bidding. These demons love to occupy a human body so that they might accomplish hellish destruction in and through that person.
One day he will empower the antichrist, also known as the man of lawlessness and the Son of Perdition, and will create hell on earth during the Great Tribulation. That’s partly because Satan is the ultimate terrorist (Hebrews 2.14-15)!
Our theology is crucial
The problem of evil and suffering is one that demands an answer. It’s the widespread presence of evil and suffering that causes many to doubt whether there is a God at all, or if there is one he must either not care about our condition or if he cares, he’s too weak to do anything about it.
Evil and suffering is commonly divided into two categories: moral and natural. And both are included in our text. The murder of the Galileans is clearly a moral evil, just like the attacks on New York and Washington. Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls and people die. A tornado twists and people die. An earthquake shakes and people die, a tsunami comes ashore and people die. A hurricane blows and people die.
And then there’s cancer, infections, and a vast variety of diseases that weaken, cripple, and kill people every single day…many of which are Christians.
How can a God of love and omnipotence allow such natural disasters? Why does He allow “good people” to suffer so? Why does God allow terrorists to terrorize? Why doesn’t He put His foot down and stop this madness?
Who is God anyway? According to the Bible, God is sovereign (Daniel 4.35; Psalm 115.3; 135.6). As Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe, He is completely in charge and rules without exception. He builds up kingdoms and tears them down. He elevates and humbles.
God’s sovereignty is universal and unlimited, because limited sovereignty is no sovereignty at all.
Secondly, God is holy. Evil cannot be attributed to Him. His holiness and righteousness are absolute. The same can be said about His love and grace and mercy.
So, if God is holy and just and loving and kind and merciful AND He is also in complete control of all the affairs and all the events of all the people on planet earth, then the question becomes, “How does He exercise His rule?”
The Baptist confession of faith gives us a solid answer: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.”
God decrees with purpose. He permits with purpose. He allows evil people to make evil choices, BUT He’s always in control of the whole, and He holds everyone accountable for their decisions.
Our death is inevitable
Unless the Lord Jesus comes and raptures all believers, we are going to die. It’s not a matter of if but when (Hebrews 9.27).
Regarding the tower that fell in Siloam (Luke 13.4), R.C. Sproul wrote, In effect what Jesus was saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t that tower fall on MY head?’” (The Holiness of God, p. 161).
The thousands who died on 9/11 went to work that Tuesday morning much like they had done on any other Tuesday. They showered, ate breakfast, stopped at Starbucks, kissed their spouse and kids, jumped on the subway, read the morning paper, and then DIED! One day, you and I will also.
Our soul is eternal
C.S. Lewis wrote: “Pain insists upon being attended to; God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
And that’s exactly what He was trying to do to his contemporaries in our story. He was shouting as it were and trying to awaken them to repentance (verses 3, 5)!
Ultimately, repentance is of utmost importance because, if you do not repent, you do not merely stop living life here on earth. No, if you refuse to repent of your sin and trust Christ as your Savior you perish, that is, you die twice. The one death involves the separation of the soul from the body; the body goes into a cold, dark grave; the soul goes to Hell.
When a person’s soul goes to Hell, that’s the second death because then your soul is separated from God for all eternity (see Revelation 20.11-15; 21.8).
With all due respect to those who died on 9/11, and with all due honor and respect to those first responders on the scene that Tuesday morning, the ultimate Ground Zero was at Calvary 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ died on the Cross to make atonement for sin!
Jesus suffered and died to make atonement for your sin. He wants to save you, and He will, if you call upon Him, confessing and repenting of your sin and trusting in Him and Him alone as your Savior and Lord. Just don’t wait until it’s too late! Turn to Him before you experience your own 9/11.