Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

I thought I’d share John Piper’s thoughts on the bridge collapse. They are much-needed, wise pastoral counsel:

Putting My Daughter To Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed

At about 6 PM tonight the bridge of Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. I am writing this about three hours after the bridge fell. The bridge is located within sight of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Most of us who minister at the church cross this bridge several times a week. At this point I don’t know if any staff was on the bridge. Desiring God offices are about a mile from the bridge.

There are no firm facts at this point about the total number of injuries and fatalities. When we crossed the bridge Tuesday on our way out of town, there was extensive repair work happening on the surface of the bridge with single lane traffic. One speculates about the unusual stresses on the bridge with jackhammers and other surface replacement equipment. This was the fortieth anniversary of the bridge.

Tonight for our family devotions our appointed reading was Luke 13:1-9. It was not my choice. This is surely no coincidence. O that all of the Twin Cities, in shock at this major calamity, would hear what Jesus has to say about it from Luke 13:1-5. People came to Jesus with heart-wrenching news about the slaughter of worshipers by Pilate. Here is what he said.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus implies that those who brought him this news thought he would say that those who died, deserved to die, and that those who didn’t die did not deserve to die. That is not what he said. He said, everyone deserves to die. And if you and I don’t repent, we too will perish. This is a stunning response. It only makes sense from a view of reality that is radically oriented on God.

All of us have sinned against God, not just against man. This is an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge. That any human is breathing at this minute on this planet is sheer mercy from God. God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on those who do not treasure him above all else. He causes the heart to beat and the lungs to work for millions of people who deserve his wrath. This a view of reality that desperately needs to be taught in our churches, so that we are prepared for the calamities of the world.

The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my only hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God’s message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.

We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha (11 years old) and Noel and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed “Please don’t let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved.” When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her a few minutes ago, I said, “You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people ‘blame’ God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That’s what “blame” means: accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.” Talitha said, “With his pinky.” “Yes,” I said, “with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.”

Talitha said, “Maybe he let it fall because he wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.” “Yes, Talitha,” I said, “I am sure that is one of the reasons God let the bridge fall.”

I sang to her the song I always sing,

Come rest your head and nestle gently
And do not fear the dark of night.
Almighty God keeps watch intently,
And guards your life with all his might.
Doubt not his love, nor power to keep,
He never fails, nor does he sleep.

I said, “You know, Talitha, that is true whether you die in a bridge collapse, or in a car accident, or from cancer, or terrorism, or old age. God always keeps you, even when you die. So you don’t need to be afraid, do you.” “No,” she shook her head. I leaned down and kissed her. “Good night. I love you.”

Tonight across the Twin Cities families are wondering if they will ever kiss a loved one good night again. Some will not. I am praying that they will find Jesus Christ to be their Rock and Refuge in these agonizing hours of uncertainty and even loss.

The word “bridge” does not occur in the Bible. There may be two reasons. One is that God doesn’t build bridges, he divides seas. The other is that usually his people must pass through the deadly currents of suffering and death, not simply ride over them. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2). They may drown you. But I will be with you in life and death.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Killed all day long. But not separated from Christ. We go through the river. Not over it. He went before us, crucified. He came out on the other side. He knows the way through. With him we will make it. That is the message we have for the precious sinners in the Twin Cities. He died for your sins. He rose again. He saves all who trust him. We die, but because of him, we do not die.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Talitha is sleeping now. But one day she will die. I teach her this. I will not always be there to bless her. But Jesus is alive and is the same yesterday today and forever. He will be with her because she trusts him. And she will make it through the river.

Weeping with those who weep, and those who should,

Pastor John

Psalm 71:20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again.



  1. Jesus had many words of comfort for people killed in tragic accidents.

    Luke 13:4-5 ‘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.’

    Words that reach down through the centuries, offering comfort for the distressed and bereaved.

  2. Dear Pastor Piper,

    Yours was the first reflection on the Minneapolis bridge collapse I found on the internet after I typed in “minneapolis bridge collapse tower of siloam Jesus repent”.

    Within a few milliseconds of receiving the news of the collapse, Luke 13 and the tower of siloam came to my mind – as well as the state/condition of our unbelieving world walking in darkness.
    You have said many of the same things I would have said regarding the bridge collapse and it’s connection to the tower of siloam and the need for the world to acknowledge our fallen, lamentably wretched and wounded human nature in need of God’s Mercy and a life of CONVERSION. “Be conformed not to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…to know the will of God.”

    We have forgotten why Jesus Christ has come into the world!

    “Having conceived by the Holy Spirit, she will bear a son, whom you are to call ‘Jesus’ for he will set his people free from their sins.” (Matt. 1)

    “On the evening of that day…the doors were locked where the disciples were…but Jesus came and stood among them…”Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” After saying this he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit; for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” (John 20)

    I thank the Lord Jesus for instituting this sacramental gift of Reconciliation (Confession of our sins to the priest) so that we can RECEIVE GRACE TO BECOME HOLY, and in deed be conformed not to this world, but become another Christ through the graces received in humbly admitting our sins to Jesus – through the priest – to become a new creation in Christ, more fit for our apostolic duty to witness the Gospel Message, both in witness of life, and announcing Jesus in word to believers and unbelievers alike.

    Unfortunately we hear little today about the fact that God’s merciful and just sovereignty reigns over all – and that the consequences of sin are death. Thank you so much for your reflections John Piper, for putting things in perspective so well. As Saint Jose Maria Escriva puts it so well, “The worldly souls are fond of speaking of the Mercy of God. And so they are encouraged to persist in their follies. It is true that God is infinitely merciful, but he is also infinitely just: and there is a judgment, and he is the Judge.”

    So I say to all, please dig deeper and consider how we offend God in our sins of fornication, contraception, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, etc. these sins against the very essence of LIFE. Turn back to God and be Reconciled. CHOOSE LIFE! ( I know many will not recognize the sin of contraception, but consider how by accepting it, we tell God that He made a mistake when he made us when we choose to decide to put a barrier between the “unitive” and “pro-creative” aspects of conjugal love. See Gen. 1:27,28)

    My Prayer:

    O Heavenly Father, please stretch forth your hand in strength and scatter the proud in the conceit of their hearts, fill the lowly with good things, and fill all with the Spirit of Truth, that we may understand who we are, and what our short lives on earth are all about in Christ Jesus.

  3. Why do people ‘deserve to die’? We didn’t ask to be born. The idea that death is a form of righteous punishment is horrific. What kind of creator brings people into existence and then permits them to be damned from the moment they are born?

    And to say that God committed this act so that people might fear him. Do you realise the callousness of your words? You are suggesting that the people whose lives ended in fear and pain were merely pawns in a divine publicity stunt.

  4. Luke 13:4-5 ‘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.’


    I find no solace in those words. The only thing that I see in those words is the usage of a tragedy to coerce the meek and to cull the weak into your destructive train of thought. This event should not be used as a recruiting tactic or should it be approached as such.

    My heart goes out to the fallen, not because of some religious dictation, but because I can empathize.

  5. This is just horrible and it makes me incredibly sad. All the lives that have been touched by this great tragedy. I am of course referring to the child abuse that millions of children, not least in the US, are going through as we speak, of which Talitha is a prime example. The collapse was an accident, and these things happen. In fact, in recent times we have gotten better at avoiding accidents, we just hear more of them due to the increased media coverage over the last couple of millenia. Your God-theory doesn’t work and it is pulled from your backsides.

  6. Pastor, you sicken and disgust me. I am almost brought to physical tears confronted by the knowledge that anybody exists with this horrible, twisted view of life. I once talked to someone with Stockholm syndrome and they sounded pretty much like you.

    If I had a god, I would pray to it that you, and anybody who holds this view, was able to get help before spreading this debilitating view any further. I normally hesitate to use the word ‘evil’ because it confuses religious people when I do, but I can’t find a more appropriate term for the point of view you advocate.

    Again, you sicken me. Good luck getting your head on straight.

  7. I am a Baptist Christian at Taipei, this message is come from Taiwan, my name is Mr. Prayer Lin (in Chinese : 林尤超)

    Many many Taiwanese were feeling sorry about the collapse accident of bridge, and so am I.

    Now I try to introduce you a special method of praying which may let some prayers visualize Jesus & the belived past relatives.

    I developed it in Taipei’s biggest Baptist Church ” White N” about 10 years ago,

    because I was eager to see my late father again , who was a colonel of Taiwan’s Air Force, had learned

    piloting in Texas at the War II.

    During the past 10 years, more than 15 children saw Jesus and got His teachings in White-N church, and

    some of them also saw their ancestors via the help of Jesus.

    I had been NYC for 50 days in 2004 fall , only to introduce this special method , I hope every family in the

    world, if who is missing their past families, can see them again by Closing- Eyes Praying.

    ————————Describing of this method of praying:—————————

    First, the whole family had better go into a big church, and sit down inside,

    then all close eyes to recite The Lord’s Prayer or sing a holy song such as

    “The Silent Night” or others you are favorable repeatedly about half or one hour, then some members

    will watch bright colors or patterns appearing in their closed eyes,

    (Some people has already & usually seen color bright or patterns when closing eyes without praying, such pupils can certainly succeed to see Spirits after a short period of praying.)

    go on this process, finally the brightness will become the figure of Jesus,

    or some Spirits , then the seer can talk to Him , also can pled Him to

    bring the deceased coming to meet , usually He agrees generously.

    The very point is that the seer’s eyes must be closing, if he want see Spirits.

    (Hint:not everyone can visualize views by closing-eyes praying in a short time period, and don’t be depressed, Jesus will give steers about how much time of praying in order that you can see, via your families (or neighbors ) who are successful seeing Him.

    For any Q. or good result plese email to me.

    my telephone Num in Taiwan is 886-2-8218-1450 ,

    also you can use Skype to contact me.

    my name is Prayer Lin, and my job belongs to

    engineering of Taipei Subway System. I orinigal majored in mechanics & aeronautics.

  8. I am sorry but does anyone else see the irony in preaching about a God who loves us and indeed created us, but yet says we ALL deserve to die, then proceeds to produce random tragedies to bully us into “submitting” to his authority????

  9. Kristy,

    Yes! It’s like a school-yard bully saying to another child something akin to “I’ve always liked you. Be my friend or I’ll break your legs.”

    Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Religion is delusion on a massive scale!

  10. Hey Brother-

    I have to moderately disagree with the “piper” on this one. I’d say that humans made the bridge (probably lowest bidder), human’s didn’t maintain it (city leaders stealing money and putting their kids through college), and human’s decided to but millions of pounds of equipment on that old bridge (incompetence). God didn’t deem it or ordain it, humans created a set of circumstances, cause and effect.

    God has an ultimate plan but I think he leaves the details of something to cause and effect or choice….if not then it IS the MATRIX and there is no reason to ever try to influence your outcome.

  11. I do not believe-as some do-that God is like the ancient clockmaker, Who created the intricate mechanism, winds it up, then lets it go, ticking away of its own accord. God is in the details. The power of God INCLUDES the ticking of the clock, the breathing of the human, the very existence of every single thing in the universe, and beyond. Furthermore, God is Sovereign. People who do not understand the sovereignty of God cannot grasp that God has a Purpose for everyone and EVERY THING that happens. We do not know nor could ever know His reasons for why things (ie. tragedies) happen. Nevertheless, He has a Will, which determines a Purpose, which Governs every iota of experience. That is my understanding of the bridge collapse, anyway. When I get to heaven, I will (Praise the Lord!) enjoy a greater understanding of Why anything happens. In the meantime, I trust the Who that is making it happen.

  12. I receive your point well, Christian. I did not express myself well; I was trying to explain my belief that God-in His sovereignty-uses everything that happens (tragedy as well as blessing) for His eternal purpose and His glory. I was trying to allude to the fact that everything is within the power of His will. You expressed it much more succinctly than I, for, as you say, some things He allows to happen; He wills to allow it to happen. Nothing happens that He has not allowed to happen; therefore, everything is within His will; not that everything IS His will. I’ll probably never be able to explain it clearly enough. (Which is why I am a much better reader than a writer.) I thank God He has blessed others (like Piper) with the gift to write well and clearly. I’ll shut up now. 🙂

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