Many times in scripture there are two paths that are laid out for people to follow. One is often called the way of folly, and the other the way of wisdom. The path of folly is the one of abuse, the way of wisdom is the one of loving God and loving your neighbor.
These two paths resurface mightily as themes in all four readings for this Sunday. They are drawn into sharp focus in Luke 13:1-9 through a curious pastoral conversation Jesus has with some people. These folks came to Jesus and told him about tragedies that recently happened. First an abusive ruler who killed some people as they worshiped. Then about some towers that fell killing people. Jesus asks, do you think they were worse sinners or offenders than anyone else?
Sometimes it is easy for us to think that when bad things happen to a person (they get cancer, they are murdered, they lose their job, etc) that it was a result of their moral failings, or for their sin. Jesus clearly answers that isn’t the case. “No, I tell you” (Luke 13:5). The victims aren’t to blame for their deaths. Their deaths are not part of God’s will nor intention for the world. God does not give rulers like Herod power and authority so that they can kill their people while they worship. Neither is it God’s desire that towers fall on people to kill them. These are outside of God’s intention which we see in Jesus Christ, God’s aim of saving and redeeming the world.
Interestingly, Jesus goes on from there to use it as a teaching moment to guide his hearers – and us – into God’s way. Note the extra “encouragement” that Jesus gives us in the warning in 13:5 “unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” As well as the “encouragement” in the parable about cutting down the unfruitful fig tree. One year. Get to it.
I think that Jesus knows that we know where the path leads that we take. I think he’s letting us know that. You know where the path of abuse leads, that path that is outside of God’s intention to save and redeem all. You also know where the path of wisdom – the path of loving God and your neighbor leads. It is the path walked and lived by Jesus; it is the abundant life he shares with us; the life to which we are called to return this Lent.
In the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 63:1-8); may the God who holds you fast be the One whom you seek, the One to whom your entire being clings.
Why would Jesus want to lead us onto the path of God?
Why would He want to lead us away from the path of abuse, the path of Herod?
How will the lives of those closest to us be better if we devote ourselves to the path of God instead of the path of abuse?