As a bus full of junior hockey players lay on its side in the Saskatchewan snow the question echoed like the wind in the wire, “Why?”
It’s the old question, hoary with age and perennial like winter’s chill. It’s the question that looks above the wreckage to make sense of the world. Why is the world filled with teenage promise on cruise control and then empty of life drained by a can-opener crash at the crossroads of death?
Its as if the Tower of Siloam fell in Humboldt. The ancient tragedy was a different accident with a death toll of 18 when the tower fell. The old question, “Why?” must have surfaced again. That time as now, it was on people’s minds as they looked for someone who had answers.
Jesus beat them to it. He brought it up, remembering, “those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them.” He set the table with the tragedy that the crowd was grieving. But there was more. He knew they would speculate further as all grieving people do. Did they do something extra bad that brought this on themselves? Did they step on a sidewalk crack? Pull the wings off of a fly for fun? Or was it their parents who tipped the scales and invited a special curse or a particular calamity? Like the question about the man born blind, “Who sinned– this man or his parents?”
The Humboldt Broncos family is likely having the same cascade of questions pouring through their minds. And they all start from a spring that refuses to run dry, saying, “Why?”
Jesus answered the question with a question. He said, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” Jesus was checking to see if they were slipping into some cynical calculus. Were they comparing the lives of the tragic to the lives of the tranquil? Were they looking for a reason to explain the accident, without having to do the most difficult thing of all—look in the mirror?
With earnest resolve Jesus answered twice, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the reality. Life is precious and it is a gift each day. In response to the gift, we twist and tarnish it for our own small fame. Jesus was saying that we are all on borrowed time. How we respond now affects the life of the world to come.
Jesus didn’t explain the why. The tower fell. The bus crashed. But he brought the brevity of life into focus for each conscience. Unless there is a turning from sin and a turning to the Savior from sin and death, only death and perishing await.
After the bus crash, one mother said what every mourner and survivor thought, “I wish we had a time machine and could go back 24 hours.”
The trouble is, there is no time machine. There is only the urgent, clear summons to repent and believe in Jesus Christ—today. That is the only preparation we can make, to receive the promise which Jesus gave, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”