This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on February 28, 2016.
In last week’s lectionary text (Luke 13:31-35), the narrative began with a group of Pharisees bringing frightening news to Jesus about a threat upon his life. We begin this week’s text with another troubling political report. Jesus is informed that Pilate has killed a group of Galileans. The events described in this passage cannot be located in Jewish resources from this period, but the historian, Josephus, acknowledges that Pilate was known to act with brutal force to maintain the balance of power. We are not given a reason for Pilate’s actions. It is possible that the Galileans were accused of insurgency and then executed. Their blood flowed together with the blood of sacrifices at the temple which suggests that they were likely in the vicinity of the temple when they were killed. This fact makes the report seem even more horrific.
Luke’s account does not provide insight into the intent of those who bring this report to Jesus. Perhaps they expected him to speak to the relative injustice of the situation as many of us might do. Perhaps they wanted him to be outraged and come to the Galileans defense, pronouncing God’s judgement against Roman perpetrators. Instead, Jesus responds in an unexpected manner by raising questions about judgement and suffering. There are references in scripture pointing to the fact that some Jews wondered if tragic events occurred as punishment for personal sins (for example, John 9:2-3). Why did these Galileans have to suffer so greatly, and what about the eighteen souls killed because the tower of Siloam fell upon them? We continue to ask difficult questions of theodicy today about why bad things happen to seemingly good people.