10th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 19:41-48 + July 31, 2016
Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity
O God, Who declarest Thine almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity, mercifully grant unto us such a measure of Thy grace that we, running the way of Thy commandments, may obtain Thy gracious promises and be made partakers of Thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) Today’s gospel lesson occurs as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As He drew near to the holy city of Jerusalem, the place where He had put His name and dwelling place in the Old Testament, He weeps. He weeps not because He knows what His own people will do to Him. He doesn’t shed tears in anticipation of the great pain and unfathomable agony which He is about to undergo. He weeps because His own people will reject Him. It was as St. John would write years later, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). This was that which “many prophets and kings have desired to see” (Luke 10:24). Yet the Jews will have none of it. Their God had finally sent the long-promised Seed of woman who would crush the serpents head. God Himself in human flesh stood in their midst as source of living waters, yet they would not drink. The second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Word approached Jerusalem fulfill all the words of the prophets. He was to be the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). He was that which brought peace between God and sinful man. This was the His glorious visitation by which He would atone for the sins of the world and win a perfect righteous which would avail before God for all who believe the good news of His suffering, death, and resurrection. This is why Jesus weeps. The Jews will stop up their ears, turn away their eyes, and close their hearts. He says, “If you had known , even you, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” God has not hidden these things from their sight. They have thrust Christ away from them and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life.
2) The punishment for their unbelief would not come about immediately, for God’s mercy tempers His wrath for a brief season. If he punished sinners immediately there would be no time for sinners to repent. The punishment for their unbelief and rejection will be devastating. “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Jesus’ words are fulfilled nearly forty years later when the Roman General, Titus, sieges Jerusalem and eventually destroys the city and razes the temple to the ground. The historian Flavius Josephus records the horrors of this siege. It happened during the Passover festival, so the city was many times its usual population. The siege lasting so long that provisions and water ran out. The situation was dire, even worse than the siege of Samaria in 1 Kings 6, where people resorted to eating donkey heads, dove droppings, and in absolute desperation, even their own children. Such was the case when Titus laid siege to the Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Jews would still not repent of their rejection of Christ after such a wretched punishment, but continued to persecute the gospel and rebel against the secular authorities. So in 135 AD the Lord used the Roman Emperor Hadrian to punish them once again. Hadrian expelled all the Jews from Jerusalem and made it illegal for Jews to enter or dwell in their holy city. The siege of Jerusalem serves as a grotesque picture of the wrath that awaits all who reject the gospel.
3) But this isn’t the Lord’s will. He shows us that in the midst of His prophecy by His tears. The Triune God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). This echoes the words of the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel, where He swears a solemn oath by His own name, “As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). If Christ did not want these unbelieving Jews to be saved, why would He waist His time weeping over them? When we consider that the only other time in which Jesus weeps is at the tomb of His friend Lazarus, we see the depth of Jesus’ emotion here. His is not deceiving us. He is not duplicitous. He genuinely desires all men to be saved through repentance and faith in His gospel. He cannot, and will not simply overlook sins, tolerate them indefinitely, or ignore them entirely. God is just and so violations of the divine law must be punished. God is also holy, meaning that He is sinless and cannot dwell with sin. Those who want to have a God that simply overlooks their sins, tolerates them, or ignores their sins have a false God who is not the God who has revealed Himself in nature or the Holy Scriptures. Because God is just and holy, sin must be punished severely and with extreme prejudice.
4) But here again we see the Lord’s great love for sinners! He provides a way to escape the wrath of God against sinners. God the Father provides the Only-Begotten Son. Christ sacrifices Himself upon the altar of the cross and thereby atones for the sins of the entire world, for as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). In the mystery of the ages, Christ bears the full severity and weight of God’s terrible wrath for all sins. As St. Paul teaches, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ becomes the sinner for all, so that all to flee to Christ for refuge become the righteousness of God. All who believe the gospel have their sins forgiven by Christ’s blood. All who place their trust in Christ’s death for the forgiveness of their sins possess everything Christ wins for them, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). There are many in our day who want to have that idol I mentioned a moment ago, a false god who merely winks at sins, overlooks them, and pays no attention to them. That idol serves only as a placeholder for all out apostasy. Think about it. If you want a God who ignore your sins, you don’t want a God at all. Sadly, this false god is paraded around in our world and worshiped as the true God because sinners do not want to have the true God, they do not want repentance. They do not want Christ. Like the Jews of old, Christ comes to them in the gospel, and they receive Him not.
5) As many of you hear this your mind naturally thinks of loved ones, friends, even family members, who place themselves in the position of the Jews in Jesus’ day. Those thoughts can only be extinguished with faith in God’s mercy and devout prayer for the Lord to work in our loved one’s hearts through His Word. But we must also, and more importantly, turn the bright beam of this text upon our own hearts. For although we sit in the Lord’s house on the Lord day and hear the Lord’s Word, and though we confess with our mouths and believe with our hearts the gospel of the forgiveness of all of our sins, we still live in world, with the devil and the sinful flesh. These want to tear us away from the gospel. These want to drive a wedge in between Christ and us by leading us to despair of God’s mercy, doubt in God’s Word, not to mention shameful vices and sins. This text serves as a warning and reminding to us who confess Christ do as St. Paul admonishes in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The Christian must be ever vigilant against the fiery darts of Satan who seeks to mortally wound us. The Christian, since he lives in the flesh and with the temptations of the world, must continually disciple themselves against sin and also so that they do not neglect God’s Word. For if the Christian neglects God’s Word of law and gospel, he will find himself an easy prey for the devil.
6) We see a picture of this in the second half of the gospel lesson. Jesus enters the temple and cleans it out. Out with the moneychangers. Out with the shrines set up to Mammon. Out with anything that distracts from the temple’s true purpose. Jesus drives out those who bought and sold in the temple saying, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer.” The Jews had the promises of God. They had the oracles of God in the words of Moses and the prophets. They had the temple, the sacrifices, the incense and ablutions. Yet they neglected the Word. But look what Christ then does! He does not sweep the house clean and leave it empty so that more wickedness can rush forth to fill the sacred space. He graces the temple with His presence and with His gospel. “He was daily teaching in the temple.” Here again we see the graciousness and mercy of Jesus. He purges sin so that He might enter in and teach His gospel. He cleanses the hearts of men through the bitter medicine of repentance so that He can then dwell in the heart and daily teach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins, life, and everlasting blessedness and righteousness with God. So we see even in this action of cleansing the temple a picture of what He does to the hearts of all who repent and believe the gospel, in that He dwells in hearts and daily teaches us through His Word. As it was in those days, so it is now, that where there is a faithful hearing of the word, Christ’s enemies cannot dislodge Him, for though “the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, they were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to Him.” When we hear and cling to the Word in faith, nothing can dislodge Christ from our hearts.
7) So this text is a terrible warning to all mankind. Let us be mindful of how we are hearing the Word of God, how we receive the things that make for our peace, and how we are welcoming the daily visitation of Christ into our hearts through His Word. The Lord promises great wrath and peril to all who reject Him in stubborn unbelief. But He promises every grace and blessing to those who flee to Him for mercy and the forgiveness of sins. For He does not desire the death of the sinner, but that you daily turn from your sin, and by faith in Christ, live. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard you hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.