◊ Timeline of 9/11/2001 and a moment of silence with prayer.
7:59am Flight 11 carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members departs from Logan Airport in Boston with destination for LAX. In minutes the flight would be hijacked and would make a 100-degree turn to the south heading toward NY City.
8:14am UA Flight 175 carrying 5 passengers and 9 crew members also departs Logan. After 30 minutes the flight is confirmed hijacked.
8:20am AA Flight 77 with 58 passengers and 6 crew members depart from Washington Dulles Airport in VA. Within 30 minutes the flight is hijacked and deviates from its assigned course, turning south over Ohio.
8:42am UA Flight 93 carrying 37 passengers and 7 crew members depart from Newark bound for SF. After 40 minutes flight is hijacked and reverses direction over Ohio and flies eastward.
8:46:am Flight 11 crashes into the north face of the North Tower World Trade Center. At 10:28am the North Tower would collapse.
8:55am President George W. Bush arrives at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, FL as part of a scheduled visit to promote education. 10 minutes later he would receive a whisper in his ear of both flight crashes and that “America is under attack.”
9:03am Flight 175 crashes into the south face of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. At 9:58am the South Tower would collapse.
9:08am The FAA bans all takeoffs nationwide to or through New York airspace. 9:45am all U.S.A. airspace is shutdown and flights ordered to land at the nearest airport.
9:35am The White House is ordered immediate evacuation based on reports of Flight 77 hijacking and circling the area. Yet, 9:37am Flighty 77 crashes into the western side of the Pentagon. All 64 people aboard the plane are killed, as are 125 Pentagon personnel. At 10:50am, 5 stories of part of the Pentagon collapse due to the fire.
9:57am Passenger revolt begins on Flight 93. At 10:03am, the flight is crashed in Somerset, PA. The hijackers intended destination was likely either the US Capitol building or the White House.
A variety of emergency, rescue, and military operations occur throughout the day.
7:24pm Members of Congress join the steps of the U.S. Capitol to sing “God Bless America”.
8:30pm U.S. President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the White House. Among his statements: “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts,” “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve,” and “The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts…we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
è Pause for a moment of silence in memory of the 15th anniversary of those who lost lives and loved ones, in honor of the brave heroes of our military & emergency responders, and in reflection for how life has changed since 2001.
è Request prayer of comfort for those grieving… prayer of discernment and strength for our nation and world to protect against evil… prayer of faith for turning toward Jesus in hope and salvation,
EXAMINE Luke 13:1-9 Fate on Earth, Fruit in Heaven
Luke 13:1-9 (ESV) 1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
On this occasion there were people crowding around Jesus to discuss the latest tragic events. Life on earth frequently has tests, trials, and tragedies. Their incident involved people who were present when Pilate had murdered Galileans and mingled their blood with the temple sacrifices. Obviously, the Roman soldiers had no respect of their religious sacrifices and slaughtered the people along with the animals. The account recorded by Luke is unknown in any other Scriptures or other writings, except to characteristically correspond to Pilate’s vile and violent behavior. The incident is an ominous and gruesome introduction to Pilate in advance to what he would have done to Jesus (Luke 22-23).
The discussion seems to involve questioning Jesus for a response, and perhaps why God allowed such a terrible happening. In their minds, evil should happen to unrighteous people, while blessing should happen to righteous people. Jesus’ reply sought to correct their thinking and have compassion for their eternity: “Do you think the Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3-5).
Jesus brings up another tragedy that would have been familiar to their setting, when a tower fell to kill 18 unsuspecting people.
If this text were taking place today, we would come to Jesus and say, “Did you hear about…?”
– The numerous tragedies…
– or the students attacked and killed at Columbine High School in Colorado; or those 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut
– or the thousands on the shores of Indonesia…
– or the thousands in the earthquake in Nepal…
– or the 9 individuals in a church in Charleston, SC..
– or the 49 in a night club in Orlando, FL..
– or the individuals in the floods of Louisiana…
– or the senseless murders in our cities… or the unfortunate deaths of loved ones… etc.
– and certainly the thousands in the falling towers in NY or burning pentagon building in DC on 9/11
In Jesus’ reply we can understand simply that evil exists on earth and all tragedy teaches us to prepare for eternity.
This text provides us at least 3 truths about tragedy:
1) Tragedy occurs through evil persons.
As you can tell from the Gospels, Pilate was an evil person. The Jews and Galileans all knew Pilate was evil. They saw his deeds and understood his character. The people raised this discussion with Jesus to see how He could help them understand how such an evil person could exist, while simultaneously the truth that a good and all-powerful God exists. Why doesn’t God remove evil from the world?
The problem of pain, suffering, and evil is an age-old question. I cannot solve the problem, and certainly cannot respond better than Jesus. Jesus’ response is meant to show us that if we desired to remove all evil from the world, then we would have to rid the world of ourselves.
Romans 3:10-12 “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Luke 13:3, 5 “No I tell you; but unless you repent, you will ALL likewise perish.”
So, we must affirm there are evil people in the world merely because we affirm our own existence. Yet, in our pride we think ourselves good and still seek to differentiate between evil-evil and good-evil, if there was even such a thing. The summary of the matter is evil exists because good exists; we cannot have good without evil, or light without darkness.
C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain) “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”
1Peter 5:8 “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
è Embrace God the Savior from evil in the world.
2) Tragedy occurs through the effects of a fallen world.
The reality of suffering exists not only because of an evil person but because we live in a world that is ruined by our sin. Genesis 3 shows the tragic effects of the fall ecologically (cursed animals and dust, thorns & thistles), biologically (cursed childbirth process), sociologically (cursed interpersonal relationships), physiologically (death of life), psychologically (fear, shame, guilt), epistemologically (knowledge is deceptive), and most certainly spiritually (separation from God).
So, we live in a world of suffering where
– People yearn for a true and good king-leader
– People yearn for justice and fairness
– People yearn for safety and security
– People yearn for mercy and hope
Romans 8:19-24 “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves.”
Luke 13:3, 5 “No I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all LIKEWISE perish.”
Jesus’ response is that all will perish, likewise to those who die from the hands of an evil person or simply the circumstances of living in an evil, sin-stained world that is under God’s curse (Gen 3).
è Jesus entered suffering and experienced suffering that we would not have to eternally.
3) Tragedy occurs through the evasion of repenting of sin and readying for eternity before God.
Jesus is not trying to give a heartless or reckless response. He cares about the physical suffering of people, but His greater concern is also eternal suffering.
Luke 13:3, 5 “No I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all LIKEWISE perish.”
Jesus calls each person to repent (μετανοέω). The term implies a turning of thinking and a change of mind. Jesus states that if there is no repentance then the result is perish. Perishing is occurs elsewhere (Luke 9:24-25; 17:27-33; 20:16), and each time refers to God’s judgment. Jesus wants to warn and rescue people from eternal suffering.
The effects of sin whether they be turmoil or tragedy is to cause us to turn to God. Turmoil and tragedy should teach us not to rely on the temporariness of life on earth, but to prepare for eternity with God.
C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain) “We can ignore even pleasure. But 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.”
Jesus continues with the parable of the fig tree that is not producing fruit (Luke 13:6-9). The vineyard owner wants to cut the tree down, but the servant pleads for one more year. The servant says, let me dig around the tree to remove the weeds and impurities. Let me add manure to fertilize and help the tree to grow. Following this work if the tree grows then there will be fruit to enjoy, and if not then we can cut down the tree.
This interesting parable about a fig tree is representative of Israel. Yet, the fig tree also represents us.
v Grow in faith in the midst of suffering.
God, the Vinedresser is patient and pursuing us in the midst of earthly pain in order that we may have fruit in heaven. He arrives expecting and inspecting fruit in our life. The question becomes, if there is no fruit then are we connected to the root of faith in God?
The mess and manure of life is meant to produce maturity. While some of us say I have too much manure in my life… and God is saying, “I’m trying to help you grow”. Do not bypass the manure pile; allow it to move you to maturity.
– Repentance of sin
– Resolve to grow.
– Revival of hope.
What we need most of all is not escape of problems or earthly solutions, but an eternal perspective. We need to see Christ in His majesty and mercy, His great love and purpose that He has for us.
 Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 370). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.