After 9/11, Jerry Falwell reasoned it happened, at least partly, because homosexuals had conjured God’s wrath.
Falwell is just one of many examples of people being ridiculous. Because when people make self-declarations of divine judgment and eternal destruction, it is insensitive, hypocritical, holier-than-thou, judgmental.
In Luke 13 Jesus is ridiculous.
Some people tell Jesus about a recent tragedy where Roman military entered the Jerusalem temple and ambushed a group of unarmed people as they worshiped.
Jesus’ response was to declare divine judgment and eternal destruction. He called the innocent victims sinners, all people like them sinners, and told the people listening to Him they were due a worse fate unless they repented.
Then Jesus Himself brought up a tragedy, that of an earthquake that collapsed a sizeable tower and crushed to death eighteen people. And then Jesus again declared divine judgment and eternal destruction. He called the eighteen innocent victims deadbeats, everyone else like them deadbeats, before, again, warning the people listening to Him they were due a worse fate unless they repented.
But it’s what Jesus said next that was ridiculous.
He told a parable in which a man who planted a fig tree in his vineyard makes a visit every year to seek out that tree for some fruit. But on the third year the man finds what he found the first year and the second year — no fruit. For the third time in as many years the man is disgusted his tree is dead, mocks it as though it was making the ground around it dead, and instructs the vineyard-keeper, his servant, to cut it down.
But the vineyard-keeper begs to save the tree. Passionately. He makes a personal plea, for a tree!
Jesus’ story was of a same, well-worn, predictable routine. Over and over and over. Owner checks tree. Tree is dead. Owner says cut down tree. Servant pleads for tree — promising to personally put out his hands ... to the dirt to cultivate it, in the dung to fertilize it. The servant’s passion was to bring the dead to life.
We live the same, well-worn predictable routine. Over and over and over we covet, lie, steal, lust, hate, rebel, despise God’s Word, misuse God’s name, replace God with idols. We are dead trees. We bear no fruit and ought to be cut down.
But the Good News is Jesus Christ is ridiculous. He is God’s Servant who put out His hands for you ... to the nails. His Passion was to bring the dead to life. On Him, the sinless Son of God, the tower of God’s judgment fell and crushed Him. On the tree Jesus was made the greatest sinner, the worst deadbeat, and was cut down. For you, God perished.
Then on the third day the dead was brought to life — Jesus Christ, the first fruits of those who are dead. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
In blaming people for conjuring God’s wrath, Jesus isn’t insensitive. He’s righteous. Not hypocritical, but honest. Not holier-than-thou, but holy. Not judgmental, but true. When Jesus declares divine judgment and eternal destruction, He isn’t ridiculous. He’s just.
Jesus Christ is ridiculous for conjuring God’s mercy — to forgive us and bring us to life.
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.