We Beg You on Behalf of Christ. Trinity 10 2013
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 19:41-48
August 4, 2013
“We Beg You on Behalf of Christ”
Dear ones in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel reading shows us that our Lord Jesus Christ is not carved out of marble like the statues the Greeks made of their gods. He was not put together by dietitians, personal trainers, and cosmetic surgeons like the celebrities whose superhumanly happy lives Americans set before themselves on television to worship, either.
He isn’t cut out of stone. He isn’t airbrushed. Jesus is flesh and blood. He breaks down in sobs. He gets furious in the temple. He gets loud.
Jesus is not one of our gods who lives above it all. He’s one of us. He loves someone who doesn’t love Him and is left crying, pleading, begging.
He is one of us, and He is the true God.
This is the time when our Lord should be rising above it all. He’s on the way to Jerusalem riding on a donkey with the crowd praising Him and waving palm branches. He’s like the high school basketball player who just got drafted to the NBA or the young musician who just got a contract with a major record label. Except better: He’s not on His way to being one of the immortals. He’s being recognized as the king promised by the only true God.
Then they come around a bend in the road and see the spires of the city of Jerusalem rising in the distance above them. This is when the crowd would start to cheer louder. And it’s the time when they would expect Jesus to lift up His head and smile and enjoy His glory.
But instead as Jerusalem appears, the shouts of the crowd quickly fall silent. Jesus does not smile. He breaks down in tears.
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Relationships depend on honesty. That’s what we say. If you’re unhappy about something in your marriage or in your friendship, but you don’t say anything because you want to avoid conflict, it destroys real intimacy. It’s not based on truth. The other person doesn’t really know you.
The same thing applies to God’s relationship to us. Of course in every relationship on earth there are things with which we have to be patient, things we have to forgive again and again. Our relationship with God is the same. Relationships can continue where there is sin as long as there is repentance on the part of the sinner and forgiveness on the part of the one sinned against.
But relationships can’t exist where one person refuses to acknowledge their sin or where another refuses to forgive. When one person sins and refuses to acknowledge it the relationship dies even where the other person is ready to forgive and doesn’t leave.
God’s relationship with Israel was like that. God was still with them. His house was in Jerusalem. So the Israelites said, “Everything is fine. The Lord and us are still together.”
But the Lord had been telling them for centuries that things were not fine. Our relationship is broken, He had told them through the prophets. For years you worshipped other gods. You committed adultery. And now, even though on paper you have Me alone as your God, your worship of me is false, hypocritical. Outwardly you say my name, but inside your heart is given over to other gods. You love pleasure and prestige, you trust money and your own wisdom, but not Me.
After telling Israel this for centuries, finally God sent His Son, who told them in person. He did miracles to show them they should pay attention to His teaching because He had come to heal them and make them worshippers of God in spirit and truth.
But they didn’t listen to God’s Son either. Some of them paid attention to the miracles but not to His preaching and they went on believing that everything was basically fine between them and the Lord. Others rejected Jesus and His miracles as the work of a false prophet.
There are two ways to try to wake someone up when you’re in a relationship with them and the relationship is broken. One is to make threats. “I’m going to leave if you don’t pay attention to this!” “If you don’t quit this, you’re going to be fired!” And Jesus has already done this. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in your presence had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.” (Matthew 11)
The other way is not to threaten but to weep. That is when you say, “I’ve begged, pleaded, and threatened, and said and done all I could, and you still insist on going this way that not only destroys our relationship but will destroy you. What else is left but to weep for you?”
That is why Jesus weeps when He sees Jerusalem. Everything is not okay like the crowds think. If He goes and becomes king He only presides over a nation that is at war with God but insists that it has done nothing wrong.
He weeps because He wants blessing and peace for Jerusalem, but Jerusalem won’t have it. Jerusalem wants to continue to worship God with their lips but lift up their hearts to gods that they have made after their own image, that reflect the lust of their hearts—money, power, earthly comfort and pleasure. They love these things, not the Lord.
That is refusing God’s friendship and insisting on His anger. Jesus weeps because He knows what will come of it. He doesn’t want Jerusalem to be destroyed. He has no pleasure in it. But He knows it will come because they have shut the door on having a real relationship with the Lord.
43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
When you have chosen God for your enemy, insisted that you are innocent and have no disease and refuse the cure, the consequences are grim. The consequence is utter devastation.
God who loved Jerusalem and the forefathers of her children will tear Jerusalem to the ground and slaughter its inhabitants, showing no pity.
Not because He did not want to show pity! Look, He comes to Jerusalem weeping, warning, pleading!
But they didn’t want God’s friendship, because God’s friendship is found in Jesus, who is one of us.
So a few decades later a revolt started in Jerusalem. The Roman emperor sent an army to put the rebellion down. And he slaughtered so many people before he got to Jerusalem that the Jordan River could not be crossed because of the number of dead bodies that were in it. Then downstream the dead sea was also filled with bodies. The source of this information is the history of the destruction of Jerusalem which was in the first hymnal printed in our Synod; it was printed there because it was traditional to read that history in Lutheran churches in Germany.
Why? Because God’s wrath is a terrible thing. And everyone who refuses the true mercy of God and ignores God’s visitation in the Word of God will have God’s wrath. There is no third possibility—either God’s friendship and grace, where He remembers your sins no more and counts you righteous. Or the full force of His anger and wrath.
After slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people in Judea, the Roman general Vespasian came to attack Jerusalem, which was the last stronghold of the Jewish rebellion. He put up blockades around Jerusalem as Jesus said, and no food was able to get in. Before the invasion of the city countless people died of starvation. People gnawed the leather of their boots, belts, and shields, ate dung of cattle and from the sewers. They were found dead with straw in their mouths. One source says that 600,000 people had died by the time the invasion of the city had begun.
Then Vespasian became tired of waiting for starvation to break the resistance, and after taking the walls and the gates of Jerusalem, he ordered that the remaining soldiers, who were holed up in the temple, should be chased out with fire. So the temple was burnt to the ground. And then when the rebels were finally ready to make peace, there was no peace. Even though the general had commanded his men only to kill armed men, they slaughtered the old, women and children and set the whole city on fire. Of those who remained, many of the young were sold into slavery, and many of the older ones were sent around the Roman empire to fight lions and gladiators for the entertainment of the citizens.
According to the history in our old hymnal, which was drawn from the Jewish historian Josephus, 100,000 Jews were made prisoners and slaves during this war, and 1,100,000 people died in the siege of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem itself did not have that many inhabitants, but the attack on Jerusalem started during the feast of Passover, when there were pilgrims filling the city.
The destruction that comes from rejecting Christ.
Does Jesus weep over us?
Our world? Of course. It is doomed!
The churches of our nation? They were corrupt before, before theological liberalism was invented, when the Antichrist’s church really believed the antichrist’s doctrine, when Baptists really believed that people who trusted in holy Baptism received as an infant could not be saved. And now that they have rejected even the authority of the Scripture, are they likely to repent?
And our synod?
And our congregation? Does Jesus weep? We have the doctrine written down still. We have a constitution that says that we believe it. And like Jerusalem we have many traditions that make that doctrine difficult to hear. And when Jesus comes and fights against those traditions with the sword of his mouth, there are many who stand in the shadows, trying to figure out how to get rid of him and anyone with him.
Gross immorality is rampant in the nation but also among us. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s obvious. Yet we hunger less for God’s word than generations before us, we actually have the audacity to say “I know that stuff already,” and to insist that we not be interrupted with the catechism or with the few children God has given us to care for when we want to eat donuts.
The heart’s trust in other gods—pleasure, security, money—more than Christ. It’s not simply the gross immorality of our age and which is even inside the church alone that should frighten us…but above all the love of pleasure, the love of security that lives in the heart of good church people. The desire to be loved and spoken well of by all that is so deep rooted that we would rather deny Christ than risk being called bad people.
Thus when we have those things we are content. This disease afflicts the synod and our congregation and let us pray God that it has not reached the stage in us that it had in Jerusalem where there was no longer any repentance possible, where the Son of God could only look at it and weep.
Cleansing of the temple.
Why Jesus did it—to make the Gospel heard instead of performing rites; the temple is to be a place where God is truly worshipped—that is, by faith alone in the Gospel.
A house of prayer—the fruit of a happy conscience that believes the Gospel and is confident of the forgiveness of sins.
What was the point? Everyone fell away anyway. The priests stand in the shadows trying to decide how to kill him and put the salesman back in the temple a few days later.
Because He does not will the destruction of the wicked, but also because He will save His elect out of the judgment that is coming.
Just because the world will be destroyed, or (God forbid) corrupt church bodies—even (God forbid) this congregation does not mean the Church will be destroyed. Judgment begins with the house of God, and even the disciples fell;
But they were saved; they fell and rose again. They died and were raised. Jerusalem was razed but the church of Christ was saved out of the midst of the flames in order to preach the Word elsewhere before death or persecution sent them to another land, like a raincloud passing across the land.
Judgment has already begun with us.
He clears out His church so that His gospel will be heard—not with the help of men or demons, but in spite of them
He pleads and He fights even though it seems futile. Out of love for rebels, helpless and hopeless sinners.
He gets his hands dirty. He weeps and He yells and does not cease to hold out His hands—not when they are nailed to the cross, not when He is risen from the dead. “therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5)
God makes His appeal through the ministers of the word; Jesus Himself still pleads with us to be reconciled to God.
When He comes and judges, He also bears the judgment and gives us deliverance.
His plea with us to confess our sin and wretchedness is His plea for us to see His cross for what it is—God’s reconciliation with us. Our peace. The evidence that the true God is not a marble celebrity rising above the weakness and pain of mere mortals. The true God is love; so He weeps and watches those He loves reject Him and be lost. The true God is love, so He makes a scene and disrupts the peaceful arrangements we’ve made to lie to ourselves and to silence our consciences with false peace. He makes a scene. Then He becomes a spectacle, lifted up in shame before men’s eyes on the cross; and He is our peace, and the horrible destruction that comes to the enemies of God comes to Him for you.
When He comes and visits, He comes not only to expose sin and to preach wrath but to give healing.
If you are weak in faith, know that He is your peace, even if you are the worst sinner in the world.
Then pray for those who do not believe; plead for them to God and plead with them, not as though it’s not your problem, but as if it is your own suffering, as Jesus does here.
Come to His table to be first of all strengthened in faith in Him who is our peace with God, and secondly to be filled with love that does not try to escape pain and weakness like idols, but takes it on out of love, like the true God, Jesus.
The peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.