Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sermon for 7/28/11--Tenth Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

Know What Makes for Peace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The atmosphere was tense with excitement. Steadily Jesus and His disciples had journeyed to Jerusalem, the holy city. As He made His way to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His coming Passion. Just a few days earlier, He had said to His disciples: "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him and on the third day he will rise." Then Luke adds that the disciples understood none of these things.

Approaching Jerusalem, the Lord sends His disciples to a nearby village to bring Him a donkey. Israel's King will come into His royal city, righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah's ancient prophecy. The crowds welcome Him chanting: "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" The very stones would have broken forth in high doxology if the people were silent, for Messiah is here!

But note the turn in the opening verse of today's Gospel: "Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it." Jesus did not weep for Himself, although who would have blamed Him for doing so, as He looked on at the torment that faced Him that week. No, Jesus weeps for Jerusalem, the holy city, the apple of God's eye, the dwelling place of God's glory, the location of His presence. He weeps for His own people. In the opening chapter of John's Gospel, the evangelist tells us that the Son of God came to His own people and His own received Him not. In rejecting Him they reject the Seed of the woman who came to crush Satan's head. They reject the One who is the "I AM" who was before Abraham. They reject great David's greater Son who is also David's Lord.

Jesus weeps for His own people. As Paul recounts in Romans 9, they had received the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises. They had the patriarchs and the prophets. From their flesh came the Christ, who is the eternally blessed God. They will not hear Him. In stubborn unbelief they close their ears to His words of repentance and salvation. And in doing so they blaspheme the God whose name they claim to bless. Rejecting the One who came as the Lamb of sacrifice, they are left only with their sin and God's wrath against their sin.

So our Savior weeps for them. "If you had only known, even you, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes." God hides Himself in order to reveal His mercy and love. He covers Himself in the lowliness of the baby of Bethlehem and the Man of Calvary. Wrapped in our flesh and blood, He comes in the likeness of sinful man to redeem the world. He exchanges the throne of His heavenly glory for the cross. He wears no other crown than the crown of thorns set upon His brow in ridicule and derision. Jerusalem cannot see in this Man the things that make for peace. The blind beggar knew who Jesus was and called out, saying, "Son of David, have mercy on me," but Jerusalem is blinded to this truth; she remains in the darkness of unbelief.

Jerusalem had a long history of rejecting God's call to repentance and faith. She had a reputation for slaughtering the prophets God sent to her. Now she would do the same with her Messiah. And without Him, Jerusalem would have no peace with God. The apple of God's eye would become the object of His wrath. His lament over Jerusalem would find its fulfillment in the devastation that would come in 70 AD. The destruction of Jerusalem stands as a sign for the fate of all who reject God's Christ. Jesus says that this fate befalls Jerusalem because she did not know the time of her visitation. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, sang in his Benedictus, that "the Dayspring from on high has visited us." When God visits His people, He comes with the purpose of bringing them salvation. The intention of this divine visit is blessing. But Israel did not know the time of God's visitation. She did not know the day of salvation; and she rejected the Son who came to be her Savior.

The words of today's Holy Gospel are not only descriptive of what happened to Jerusalem long ago. The Spirit inspired the evangelist to record these happenings for our instruction in repentance and faith. As we heard last week in I Corinthians 10, after Paul describes how the Israelites who had been baptized in the Red Sea and partook of spiritual food and drink only to come under God's judgment on account of their idolatry, he goes on to write, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition on whom the end of the ages have come." In other words, God is calling us to repentance and faith in the same Christ who came to Jerusalem.

Now is the time of our visitation. The Gospel which Israel rejected is now being proclaimed to us. God has preserved unto us His saving Word and His holy sacraments. These are the means by which He visits us today to bestow on us the salvation that He won on Calvary's cross. In Christ God was making peace through the blood of the cross. Peace with God is the forgiveness of sins. Peace with God means that God does not hold our sins against us but instead has laid those sins on His Son. To have the Son is to have peace with God. To have the Son is to be reconciled with God. To have the Son is to have life in that heavenly Jerusalem that will never be destroyed or pass away. To be without the Son is always to be at war with God. And if you fight God, you always lose.

But God has brought that warfare to an end in the cross of His Son. His body carried the punishment of our sins and His blood blots out all of our guilt. The body and blood of Jesus Christ are the things that make for peace. And as surely as Jesus came to Jerusalem to suffer and to die, so surely He comes to give you the fruits of His redeeming sacrifice. God grant you faith to live in the peace that He bestows. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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