I think Sharon H. Ringe explains pretty clearly what Jesus means by offering these tragedies as illustrations, “Having been informed of the action of Pilate, Jesus responds by addressing not just this incident but the larger and very human question, Why do bad things happen to people? Jesus denies that their suffering occurred because they were worse sinners than other people who were not killed. Instead, the question, Why? is set aside in favor of a warning to the hearers: ‘But unless you repent, you will all perish as they did’ (13:3). Of what they are to repent, we are not told, nor is there any explanation of why death should follow (Luke: Westminster Bible Companion, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995, p. 184).
Reading the Scripture
Here is a way you might read the scripture or tell the story:
• Biblical Storytelling: Helps and audio examples for telling the story from the GoTell webpage: http://gotell.org/pages/stories/Luke/Lk13_01-09.html
o The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the library and the church office.)
o WatchWord Bible, New Testament on DVD is available in the library. (These videos display and read the text in Contemporary English Version with background pictures, video and sound. Not exactly dramatized or all that exciting, but could be another way to read the text.)
• Illustrate the fruitless fig tree: Buy a package of Fig Newtons. Empty and reseal it ahead of time. Offer Fig Newtons to your class and pass the empty package of Fig Newtons without saying the package is empty. Let them figure it out as you study the lesson.
• The Formations Teaching Guide (p. 45, Remembering Tragedy) suggests providing pictures of high-profile disasters. I have posted on the webpage images of the Twin Towers from 911, Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and Hurricane Sandy.
• This passage in Luke touches on the difficult questions of God’s role in suffering. Is suffering the result of God’s punishment and is a lack of suffering a sign of God’s blessing? People on our Prayer Board who are suffering from illness, grief or other hardships may be wondering where God is in the midst of their suffering. They may feel abandoned by God. They may wonder if they are being punished. They may be asking “Why God?” There may be no definitive answers in this passage, but you can help the hurting by assuring them of God’s love through your concern and presence. Who on our Prayer Board right now could use an expression of your care today? Who needs your prayers?
I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.
• For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)