Because God dealt with a few people directly regarding their sins, many in the Bible believed that personal distress or calamity was always the result of God’s disfavor with an individual.
Job’s friends certainly believed this, as Eliphaz first words of “comfort” were to tell Job what a horrible sinner he was by asking, “whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? Even as I have seen that those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8).
The apostles believed as much when they foolishly asked of the blind man, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that the was born blind?” (John 9:1).
In today’s reading, it appears as though Jesus’ audience was attempting to divert the spotlight away from their own failings enumerated by Jesus in the previous verses in chapter 12 (not unlike Peter in John 21:15-23). Responding to Jesus’ teaching concerning their lack of faith (Luke 12:22-34), their lack of diligence (Luke 12:35-48), and their lack of discernment (Luke 12:54-56), they introduced into the conversation the Galileans whom Pilate had killed as they sacrificed.
Undeterred, Jesus said that these were no worse sinners than anyone else and unless those standing there repented, they would likewise perish (Luke 13:2-3). Moreover, Jesus added the account of those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, noting that they were no worse than their living companions (vv 4-5).
The primary message of Jesus is that there is no good time for the sinner to perish. Moreover, death comes suddenly and tragically on those who are unprepared to meet God.
The wise man put it thusly, “For a man does not know his time; like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them” (Ecc 9:11).
May we always be diligent in looking for the coming of the Lord, whether in our death (Heb 9:27) or by His unannounced return (Luke 12:40).