Last week the world watched as the sad saga of the missing Titan tour sub came to a deadly conclusion. The crisis began on Sunday, June 18, when OceanGate Expeditions lost touch with their Titan submersible only one hour and 45 minutes into its dive to explore the wreckage of the sunken Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland. This kicked off an intense five-day search, as rescue crews raced to find the vessel before the passengers ran out of oxygen.
But by Thursday, OceanGate delivered the sad news that all five passengers had most likely perished. In a public statement, OceanGate Expeditions said:
“We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost. These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.
The U.S. Navy confirmed that their demise had likely been sudden. CNN reported that “A senior Navy official told CNN the Navy detected an acoustic signature consistent with an implosion on Sunday in the general area where the vessel was diving and lost communication with its mother ship.”
A debris field was also discovered: “The tail cone and other debris from the missing submersible were found by a remotely operated vehicle about 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic…The debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel,’ US Coast Guard…told reporters.”
Now, there have been numerous reports that OceanGate made incredibly questionable decisions in regard to both their hiring practices and engineering choices for Titan. But whatever the reason, the bottom line is that five souls have been lost to an untimely death in the ocean depths in one of the most high-profile public disasters of 2023.
And the entire event centers on one thing in all of our minds: Death. Memento mori — “remember death.” This tragedy is just such a reminder. How should Christians think about what happened with the Titan? Thankfully, the Bible, as always, shows us the way.
In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus directly addresses two different tragedies, including a natural disaster, and tells us exactly what we should learn from such sudden and deadly events. We read:
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’”
Repent or perish. That’s what we should learn from the fate of the Titan and its five passengers.
More specifically, Jesus is reminding His listeners, and us today, that life is uncertain, tomorrow isn’t promised, and death comes for us all without exception. He explains that those who suffered the misfortune of being murdered by Pilate, or killed by the collapsing tower, didn’t suffer these calamities because they were worse than everyone else, but because in a fallen world disaster can strike at any time. Ever since our spiritual parents took that bite out of the forbidden fruit in disobedience to the Life-Giver, death has been present, unavoidable, and unpredictable.
But Jesus isn’t primarily concerned about physical death here. No, He is warning His listeners about the final judgment. We read in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
This is why Jesus doesn’t tell the people to avoid Pilate or watch out for towers but to “repent!” We all perish physically — it’s only a question of when and how, not if. But without repentance of our sins and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection to atone for our sins, we will perish spiritually for eternity, as we suffer not under the collapse of a tower but under the eternal wrath of a righteous God who is committed to His glory and true justice.
Unexpected events like the Titan should shock Christians out of our complacency and yield sober reflection. As Christians, we must regularly recall the fragility of life and the reality of death in our sin-stained world. Death is simultaneously unavoidable and unpredictable.
This paradox brings tension to our lives that is often resolved by pushing death out of our minds. Tragedies like these bring it back to the forefront — which is, in many ways, an uncomfortable blessing. After all, it’s only by being prepared to die and face God in the final judgment that we can truly live.
And how do we prepare? By obeying Jesus and heeding His one-word command: “Repent.”
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