10th Sunday after Trinity
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 19:41-48
August 9, 2015
“The Things that Make for Peace with God”
Jesus approaches Jerusalem, riding on a donkey’s colt. Around Him is the crowd that has greeted Him with palm branches as the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. They are rejoicing because He is coming to the city of God, the city where God dwells in the temple. They believe that when He arrives peace will come to Jerusalem and from there to all the earth.
But when Jesus sees Jerusalem rising in the distance he begins to weep. “If you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace,” He cries. “But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Peace is not going to be the result of His coming, but rather devastation. The enemies of Jerusalem will besiege it, burn it and its temple to the ground, slaughter hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants. All this will happen because they did not know the time of their visitation by God. They did not know the things that belonged to their peace.
Jerusalem thought that it already had peace with God. All the cities on the earth were filled with temples dedicated to the worship of demonic idols. But Jerusalem was built around the temple dedicated to the one God who made earth and heaven. All day long the blood and smoke of sacrifices poured out in pagan cities to honor those that were not gods at all. But in Jerusalem every morning and evening a whole bull burned on the altar to remember and honor the Lord. Every day the priests that God Himself had ordained carried out the duties of the divine worship that He had assigned them. They offered sacrifices for sin, sacrifices of thanksgiving. They burnt incense in the Most Holy Place before the presence of the Lord. Once every year they entered behind the curtain into God’s presence on earth and sprinkled blood to make atonement for the people, so that the Holy God could dwell in the midst of sinners and not destroy them. All these practices were carried out regularly. God had commanded them. And the leaders of the people of Jerusalem believed that through them they had peace with God. They believed He was pleased with them because they performed the worship He commanded.
But now Jesus is saying that God is not at peace with them. The things that belong to their peace are hidden from them. They are actually at war with God despite their temple and sacrifices. And Jesus weeps for them because He knows that the only result of warfare with God is destruction.
The blood of bulls and goats cannot make peace with God. God commanded that these sacrifices be made, but they could not take away God’s wrath against sinners. The leaders of Jerusalem didn’t know this. They didn’t know the things that belonged to their peace. So Jesus entered the temple in anger and zeal to clear it out and make room for His own teaching, which does give peace with God.
The world is no different today. It doesn’t know the things that make for peace with God. Today people don’t perform blood sacrifice to God. In fact more and more any kind of public honor and worship of God seems to be declining. People believe that they have peace with God without being involved in the public worship of His name. They believe that they have peace with God without any sacrifices. They believe that God lets just about everyone into heaven when they die, as long as they have made some effort to be good or at least have a good excuse. They don’t believe that God is angry with us because of our lack of fear, love, and trust in Him and because of our selfishness toward our neighbor. They think they already have peace with God.
But to stubbornly trust in your own goodness when God calls you to repent is warfare with God. Our world is at war with God. They reject the peace that God sends. He sends His Son in our flesh to give us peace with Him. But the world doesn’t believe it needs Jesus. God is already at peace with us, it insists.
Even within the visible boundaries of the Church, there are many who do not know the things that make for peace with God. They say they believe in Jesus but they live like those who reject Him. Jesus visits us in the Church. He comes to us in flesh and blood in His preaching and in His supper. He teaches us and gives Himself to us. But man y who have the name of Christians don’t come out to Jesus when He visits. They act like our world, which believes it has God apart from Christ. They say they believe in Jesus, but they ignore Him and stay away from Him when He comes.
And what about those of us who are here, who do come to hear Jesus when He visits us? Aren’t we often like the people in the temple? They were so distracted with their work of buying animals for sacrifice that they missed the whole point of the public worship of the temple. It wasn’t so that people could make sacrifices and thereby merit God’s pleasure and peace. The purpose of the temple worship was to put before the people’s eyes their sin and their need of a priest to make satisfaction for it. The sacrifices and the priesthood of the temple were not what made peace with God, but they pointed to what was coming that would truly make peace and purify from sin.
The things that make for peace with God are also not all our works and efforts to care for the church, even though those efforts are necessary and good. The things that make for peace with God are Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. There God provided a spotless lamb, a man who was innocent from all stain of sin and who was God with the Father from eternity. He was given by God the Father to make peace for us by His agony, suffering, and death in our place. God is not pleased with us without a sacrifice. In that respect the ancient world was smarter than our world today. They knew there needed to be a sacrifice of blood to remove our guilt before God, to make peace for us. But they were wrong about what the sacrifice was. The sacrifice is provided by God. It is His only-begotten Son. By His one sacrifice He takes away all the sin of the world. He makes peace with God for us.
This peace with God has been prepared and accomplished by Jesus’ suffering on the cross. The reason why we are gathered together for public worship is so that this sacrifice that Jesus made that brings peace can be proclaimed. It is proclaimed to us for the forgiveness of our sins in the preaching and in the Lord’s Supper. But it is also proclaimed by us as we gather and receive the message of peace with God through His blood. Paul says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” When the Lord Jesus has consecrated the bread and wine to be His body and blood, He proclaims through the minister, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” This is not just a greeting or a wish. The peace of God is with us because Jesus has made atonement for us through the sacrifice of His life on the cross. We are about to receive a share in that sacrifice as we eat His body and drink His blood. And as we do, we are also remembering and proclaiming before the world the death of Jesus that makes peace with God for us.
“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is obtained only through hearing what Jesus has done for us and believing it. We are justified by faith alone. It is a free gift. By faith alone in what Jesus did on Calvary we receive the peace that He made with God for us by the sacrifice of His body on the cross.
The world does not know or believe in that peace. It thinks it has peace with God on its own merits. That’s why we gather to the Church where Christ visits us bodily in word and sacrament. We come to receive forgiveness of our sins, to receive the peace that He won for us. But we also remember, proclaim, and give thanks for His sacrifice where He won us peace. In doing this we offer sacrifices that truly please God. They are not the sacrifices we do to justify ourselves but to praise and thank and proclaim the honor of Him who made peace for us on the cross.
How blessed we are to have peace with God, solely through the sacrifice of Christ! Whether the world smiles at us or no, whether death comes near, we have peace with God. God is not angry with us but pleased. Even the city of Jerusalem with its temple couldn’t boast of this. But we can, through Christ’s cross.
As we gather together we proclaim the things that truly make for peace with God. We proclaim by receiving Jesus’ blood, sacrifice, and righteousness. Come receive the things that have made peace with God for you—Jesus’ body and blood. And as you receive, you proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ alone gives us peace with God.
At the close of our text we read: “And he,” that is, Christ,” taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him.” V. 47. After they had become blind to that which belonged to their peace, after they had lost all fear of God’s judgment, they fell from this sin into another without considering it sin; the most bitter enmity grew from their contempt of Christ, until finally they plotted to murder him, the Innocent, and did not rest until their bloodthirstiness was appeased by seeing Christ on the cross.
In their example you see the condition of a person who is hardened. He has fallen so far that he no longer knows what belongs to his peace. In vain God’s Word is preached to him; he no longer knows what belongs to his peace. His heart is hard as a rock. Though the Gospel with all its strength and comfort is preached to him, though Christ is presented ever so movingly in his love of sinners, and though he is in an ever so friendly and urgent a manner incited and enticed, it does not move the hardened person. And though the Law is preached to him in all its threatening severity, though God is described in his frightening righteousness and holiness, and though he is ever so earnestly admonished and warned, it does not move the hardened person. Though grace or wrath, life or death, blessing or curse, heaven or hell, salvation or damnation is presented to him, it is all the same to the hardened person…
…as little as God’s Word enlightens, awakens, and moves a hardened person to repent, so little do also the events of his life, which God permits him to experience. If all goes well, he does not let his heart become soft; the more love God shows him, the more secure, proud, and impudent he becomes, the more he believes that he is in no trouble. On the other hand, if things do not go well, he absolutely refuses to let himself be humbled. Then he murmurs against the Ruler of his fate, and insolently reviles the Almighty in heaven.
Finally, he comes to the point where he no longer feels any sin. His conscience is branded; it no longer carries out its duty; it no longer accuses him; it has become silent. He does only what he wishes without fearing God’s punishment; he becomes a declared enemy of Christ, his work, his Christians, and finally even persecutes them. The tears of anxious parents, brothers, sisters, former fellow-believers, and friends are in vain; the hardened laughs at those who sympathize with him and thus he hurries to meet the day of the revelation of God’s righteous judgment, hell and damnation.
C. F. W. Walther, “Sermon on the Gospel for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity”
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 19:41-48
August 24, 2014
“Not some, but All”
God is not satisfied with some. He wants all.
The crowd of disciples has just finished greeting Jesus with shouts, making a carpet of their clothes on which the donkey walks.
One day, at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. But at His first entry into Jerusalem, there is only a small crowd hailing Him as king.
The whole city of Jerusalem should be out to greet Him. All of creation is straining toward Him to cry out in joy. If the little crowd hadn’t opened their mouths to shout “Hosanna!”, then the rocks and stones would have burst out with the praise men did not give.
But most of Jerusalem is silent. They go about their daily business as usual.
God is not satisfied with business as usual. He is not satisfied when most of the city called by His name does not acknowledge His King.
He will make an end of the city of Jerusalem for proudly despising His only Son. 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 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.
And Jesus, the rejected king, weeps for those who despise Him.
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.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 19:41-48 (Jer. 8:4-12)
August 12, 2012
“The Peace of Jerusalem”
Dear Congregation, called together by Jesus Christ to be God’s dwelling place forever:
Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray:
Almighty, Eternal God! You have revealed and made known Your Word to us through Your Holy Spirit, concerning Your Son, Christ Jesus. We pray, awaken our hearts, that we receive Your Word with seriousness and not beat the air or listen casually or indifferently, as did Your people, the unbelieving Jews. Grant us, in true fear and faith towards You, to live in Your grace and to daily increase in it, and finally to come to eternal blessedness, through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. Johannes Eichorn (1511-1564)
- 1. Intro: Letting wayward children have their way.
I can remember my grandfather taking me into his office and having a talk with me when I was a teenager. I’m pretty sure my mother asked him to do it. I was probably about 14 or 16.
It was strange because I couldn’t remember my grandpa ever talking to me about anything personal. He was strict. He had spent his whole life as the headmaster of a primary school for the children of missionaries out in central Africa. He came from an exceedingly strict church—not just strict in doctrine but in life, in the pursuit of holiness. So my grandpa would talk with my dad or mom about theology or politics or Africa in a very intellectual way, but also a very—seemingly—unemotional way.
So he took me into his office, sat me down, and started talking to me man to man, and it was very unusual. He said something like, “I understand you’ve been getting into some trouble with the friends you’ve been hanging around with.” Then he asked me about where my interests in school were and what kind of plans I had for what I would do with my life. And he told me about his teenage years, before he felt that God was calling him into the mission field, how he was getting into trouble for skipping school to play handball and I’m not sure what else. And then he said, essentially, “If your friends are causing you to stumble, keeping you from doing God’s will, you just have to let them go.”
Did I listen? I heard him, but I didn’t obey. It wasn’t really about my friends then, though. It was really about the way my mind was set. I did not at all have a heart that was fixed on Christ and wanted to do His will. What 14 or 16 year old does, many ask. Wise 14 or 16 year olds. Blessed ones. In fact, what 34 year old has a heart fixed on Christ that wants to do His will? Only those whom the Holy Spirit has given repentance and faith in Jesus alone.
But my grandpa was trying to turn me from the error of my way. He knew that to set up your own life apart from the Word of God is to choose pain and destruction and grief. And if one won’t listen to God’s Word, eventually eternal punishment is the result. When God’s Word is persistently rejected, when the Holy Spirit is resisted again and again, the time comes—we don’t know when—when God allows the rebellious person, or nation, or congregation, or denomination—to have its way.
Sometimes parents have this experience. They fight with their kids and do not allow their kids to do what everyone else is doing. The fashion now is to let kids decide everything for themselves. But when your kid is in your house and under your authority, it is your responsibility to set rules for them—to make sure they hear God’s Word and learn it, to discipline them when they do wrong but also to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to them—because it is the Gospel that changes sinners so that they begin to do God’s will gladly and willingly instead of to avoid punishment. Still, parents can’t refuse to punish their children, unless they want their children to learn that forgiveness is just a license to do evil.
But there comes a time when there is no more you can do for your children. Sometimes—frequently—people have their hearts set on foolishness and evil. The worst case of this is not when a person wants to break the law or choose a career path that won’t result in a good job. The worst case is when your child refuses to listen to God’s Word and rejects repentance and faith in Christ. Sometimes kids do this right out in the open: “I just really don’t believe what the church teaches anymore. Christianity has been the source of so much oppression—of women, of non-european people…” Other times kids still profess to believe in Jesus, but they have no desire for His Word and Sacraments. Or they still attend church, but their lives testify to rebellion against God’s Word.
Sometimes you have spoken the word to your children, warned them, prayed for them, spoken gently to them—done everything you know how to do—but they won’t listen. And sometimes then you are faced with the painful reality that your kids are going to reject God’s Word and there is nothing you can do besides pray for them. That is a painful experience.
God also meets with rejection from His children. And though God is able to force us to do His will He does not do so. It is a mystery we cannot comprehend, but when a person trusts Christ alone it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not their own.
Yet unbelief is our own rebelliousness. It comes from rejecting the word. God permits himself to be rejected.
Today we see Jesus’ reaction to the rejection of the children that the Lord had carried so long. He weeps. Then he begins to show his anger and the way he will drive out of His house those who will not hear His word and who wish to set up their own worship in His house.
2. The people of Israel, false Christians, and our sinful flesh insist on a false peace and security based on some goodness or deserving in us, and so reject Christ when He comes (and finally will be cut off).
Jeremiah: “They have rejected the word of the Lord.”
God’s presence would destroy us if it was naked; so He veils it. He hid His glory behind the curtain in the temple.
Because God’s holy presence leaves us “undone” (Isaiah), we cover it up and invent our own ways to enter His presence;
The house of God was not a house of prayer, but became a religious spectacle where you paid your fee, did your religious work and went home.
Like the Hajj to Mecca for Muslims.
Like the indulgence, mass, and relic trade in the Catholicism of Luther’s day (and also today in a less crass form.)
Instead God wanted that people enter His presence—which is dangerous and deadly to sinners—with a good conscience through faith in the sacrifice which God would provide and which were pointed to by the temple sacrifices.
They were to come with nothing of their own but trust in God alone to be propitious—to be satisfied with them on account of the sacrifice which He would provide.
But when the Messiah came whom God had long promised to this rebellious house of Israel—the one whom prophets like Jeremiah proclaimed when the people would be crushed after their rebellion had brought punishment on themselves—they rejected Him.
Even at this point many people would listen to Jesus. Jesus was impressive; like the Old Testament prophets, He dared boldly to rebuke the leaders, tell them they were wicked, demand repentance, clean the temple out, predict the destruction and desolation of the temple because of the rebellion of the people. People were willing to listen because it was impressive, and to see His miracles. But the majority of the crowds did not believe that He was the promised one who would take away the sins of the world. They didn’t believe in their need for such a Savior; they believed in their own goodness coupled with their obedience to the rules propounded by their leaders. They did not repent and believe.
Through most of the last 2000 years most of our ancestors were like the crowds…they heard from Jesus a lot, and everyone said they loved Him. But most did not really believe in Him. Now the crowds have turned against Jesus, but that doesn’t mean the church is any worse off than it was before.
When we refuse Christ when He comes to us in His Word, when He visits us in His Word, we put ourselves in danger of also being cast off, hardened, so that God will no longer wrestle with us.
Don’t put off following Christ until tomorrow.
We, like the Jews, would like to have a more comfortable way into the presence of God that can be achieved by the exercise of our will.
We forget to fear the Lord who is present with us in His House in Word and Sacrament.
We forget that Jerusalem was razed with “her children within her.” That we have deserved the same.
God’s wrath on those who will not have His word is severe.
When we insist that we are “good Christians,” His wrath terrifies us with the word of John the Baptist: “Repent, brood of vipers!” “Good Christians” can put in religious duties and then feel like they’ve done well.
Real Christians come into God’s presence knowing they ought to die; yet they boldly come before Him through the blood of His Son alone.
3. Jesus visits us to be our peace and builds us on Him alone, through faith, as God’s eternal house or dwelling or temple.
Peace with God—shalom—well-being, blessing, is a pure gift of God to sinners.
He gives us peace through His blood.
We do not need to invent cute ways of making it possible for us to enter His presence; to enter His presence is death, and yet we do not receive death. It’s not because we pretend that God’s presence does not destroy the sinful; but because we trust the blood of the lamb shed for us.
The temple worshippers were not to pay attention to their work, or to the big crowds, or the impressive temple, or the “temple-approved” sacrifices they were buying with their “temple grounds” money.
They were to pay attention only to the promise of the sacrifice that God would provide that would come and be a fulfillment of all the sacrifices the temple offered.
Jesus’ blood and righteousness—Jesus alone, God and man, and His suffering and death—He is the cornerstone on which God would build His eternal temple—the church, the assembly of believers in Christ.
A Christian looks in himself and sees nothing worthy of anything except God’s wrath; he looks at Jesus suffering on the cross and sees the absolute assurance of the forgiveness of sins and the ability for a damnable sinner to enter the presence of the Holy One.
He looks to the name of God in Baptism which was given to him—a covenant swearing that God receives us as His own sons, apart from works, through Christ.
Jesus visits us today just as He did Jerusalem.
He visits us to bring us peace. He did not desire the destruction of Jerusalem, but its salvation. Their rejection brought damnation.
Jesus comes to give us peace; His body under the bread and His blood under the wine—they are our peace with God. They were given and shed to make peace for us, and He gives them to us now so that, eating them with faith in the promise, we would be assured of peace with God.
Jesus will run out of His church every device of man, every sin in our flesh, every work of the spirit of Antichrist that now oppresses the church and keeps people from the true and living God.
The Jews because of their rejection of the Word were keeping people from God. The big animal market and spectacle made the temple worship an exaltation of human works and religiosity instead of a house of prayer—that is, communion with God through the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts.
Jesus was filled with anger and drove all of them out.
Then by the shedding of His blood He inaugurated the true and lasting house of God—the church.
Even now He visits and casts out of His church those traditions of men that obscure the law of God and the Gospel of God; the law which hits blind and lying sinners like a hammer, saying, “Repent or be damned;”
The gospel which speaks to those crushed by the law, and does not instruct about works or ceremonies, but simply proclaims; “The Son of God suffered for your wickedness on the cross. You are washed in His blood; You are forgiven.”
That word attacks Satan’s lies and traditions even now;
In Luther’s day it greatly undermined the Antichrist’s kingdom of false worship; even today there are a great number of Christians who no longer fear the lying pope who claims to be the Lord of Christendom on earth and claims to have the final word on the doctrine and discipline of Christ’s Church.
Today the word attacks also the foolish lie that God has no wrath and we need not fear Him, but instead can make church safe and fun and appealing to the world, with latte stands and snack bars—thus turning the house of God into a mall instead of a house of prayer.
But on the last day the Word will finally drive out all oppressors from God’s church—whether false teachers, or the evil that still lives within the flesh of Christians—
The church will appear in the splendor of Christ which He gave to us in Baptism;
He will already have cast out the wickedness of our flesh;
And no false teachers or devils will ever again set up their trade within God’s holy dwelling;
That holy dwelling is you, Christ’s holy bride.
4. Conclusion: Though you have a rebellious nature still, Jesus still visits you today and builds you together as His eternal dwelling through His death for you.