”When [Jesus] drew near and saw [Jerusalem], he wept over it…” (Luke 19:41).
But when Jesus weeps, we more readily remember Lazarus, who died, and the shortest verse of the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Today, Jesus weeps, but it’s not the same.
He weeps because of death, that’s the same, but today Jesus weeps for those who had the word of God and abandoned it.
Over Lazarus, Jesus wept, knowing that he would be raised, on the Last Day, to life eternal.
But over Jerusalem, Jesus wept, knowing that city and those dwelling in it would reject the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
It sounds most unLutheran to say it, but this is true: not everyone who’s baptized will be saved. Hitler was baptized. And Stalin. And Judas. Caiaphas and all the Sadducees were circumcised. It’s possible they were believers at some point, but we must say it’s also possible to deny the faith, to turn away, either in a conscious choice for power and evil, or by the slow descent into sin and an unrepentant, irreverent approach to faith.
An unbeliever cannot choose to believe in God.
And a believer can choose to reject God.
Just because every Christian currently has the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed memorized, doesn’t mean that every Christian is currently in the club, so to speak.
Confirmed Christians have vowed to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith.
We vainly think, “I would die for God, for the Truth. I would never deny the Lord or burn incense to Caesar…”
“Just don’t ask me to give up the desires of my heart. Don’t expect me to be slightly inconvenienced.”
Because Jesus never wants us to be inconvenienced, right? He wants everyone to get everything they want, right? Jesus doesn’t want anyone to suffer.
But see, he does.
Look at stanza five of the Christmas hymn, “O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is” (LSB 372).
“The Lord prepared thee for all earthly sadness.”
Did you know that God prepared you for all earthly sadness? Do you know what that looks like?
It’s a cross-shaped sadness that God gives each Christian to bear—that you would bear it faithfully.
“The angel host can never boast of greater glory, greater bliss, or gladness.”
We incorrectly think of angels as something to aspire to, but they can’t bear a cross in patient, quietness like you can.
Jesus does want us to suffer the cross God gives us, as we follow Him.
His grace is sufficient for us.
And St. Paul writes: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance character, and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Jesus would rather see us inconvenienced and faithful than “convenienced” and unfaithful.
If Jesus drew near to our city, he would weep over it, too, 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. 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” (Luke 19:42-44).
Jesus speaks these words first to Jerusalem.
In fewer than forty years from the day Jesus speaks these words, Rome wars against Jerusalem, walls are torn to the ground, and men, women, and children are dashed to pieces against the stones.
It was hell on earth.
On this Sunday, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, the account of the Destruction of Jerusalem has historically been read so that Christians don’t make a name for themselves and rebuild Babel.
The Destruction of Jerusalem was hell on earth.
But the hell in hell is worse.
So, while Jesus speaks these words first to Jerusalem, they fall on our ears, too.
We don’t know the time of our visitation, and yet we’re complacent with all manner of sin.
If somebody sins against us, if we’re inconvenienced, or made to feel the slightest bit uneasy, we get grouchy and kick and stomp until somebody pays us attention.
That’s human nature, and it’s true for everyone.
But when your sin is mentioned by name, how quickly does it become no big deal? Or how quickly do you play the 8th Commandment, Pharisee, All Law, and That’s-How-We’ve-Always-Done-It cards?
That’s human nature, and it’s true for everyone.
When it’s your sin, you cover it up.
But when someone sins against you, you paint the town with their blood. You gossip and slander and lie.
You make assumptions.
Why ask questions when you can just assume?
That’s human nature, and it’s true for everyone. Repent.
Now is the time of your visitation. The great day of the Lord is coming, and every knee will bow.
Jerusalem was a warning that we should heed.
Had Jesus found a house of prayer instead of a den or robbers, He wouldn’t have had to drive anyone out. But, as “[Jesus] entered the temple [He] began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have made it a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:45-46).
When considering what is Christ-like, remember that He made a whip of cords and drove the people out of the temple with the sheep and oxen (cf. John 2:13-17).
But it’s not just the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice that requires Jesus to do and say these things.
If that were the case, Jesus’ words would be pointless for us.
No one, that I know of, tries to sell animals—for sacrifice—before, during, or after church.
Harvesting beef is one thing, animal sacrifice another.
If the congregation and her Christians are more concerned with making money, preserving a building, and selfishly being seen, then they’re not concerned with God, Forgiveness, Jesus, Heaven, Grace, and Peace.
What Jerusalem needed is what we, ourselves, so often need but don’t want to hear—though we would never say we don’t want to hear it: Jesus’ words.
Because ”[Jesus] was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words” (Luke 19:47-48).
You can’t defeat the Word of God. You can disagree with it, ignore it, or refuse to preach it.
You can teach as commandments the doctrines of men and plug your ears to the Gospel, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.
The Words of Christ endure forever.
And teach. And Save. Forever.
We know what Jerusalem forgot.
We know what makes for peace:
Jesus, the Word. Jesus, the Christ, the Crucified.
A stumbling block to Jews, because God died a real death and rose again.
And foolishness to Gentiles, because we worship one God alone—not a pantheon or stadium full.
“Even were a Greek disposed to love Zeus—not honor, admire, or beseech, but love—he could never love Zeus alone, without rousing envy among Poseidon, Apollo, and the rest. And he did not want to do so” (cf. Tony Esolen on Facebook. August, 14, 2020).
If you consider all beliefs held by all the peoples of all times and places, it is perfectly unique to Christianity to love one God alone—who lives and dies for you and lives again.
The Jews and Greeks thought one dead Savior couldn’t help them. They miss the point.
But we know the things that make for peace.
The death of Christ, His shed blood, and the proclamation of the Gospel bleach the stain of our sins away.
We know the things that make for peace. The flood of water poured upon us in Holy Baptism, that inoculation against the devil. Less a membership card and more a war that’s already been fought and won for us.
We are the army when David fought Goliath. We simply receive the victory and rejoice in it.
We know the things that make for peace. The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
If you are what you eat, Christians literally eat and drink peace with God and with each other.
Our cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is with us.
We know what Jerusalem forgot: God’s house is a house of prayer. And Jesus teaches us to pray:
God is our Heavenly Father.
We give thanks for all He gives us.
We ask, boldly, for all we need.
We pray for forgiveness.
We pray His will be done and evil defeated.
We pray—knowing our Father in heaven hears our prayers and gives us all that we need for this body and life.
We pray in Jesus’ name, because “there is salvation in no one else…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Jesus wept, because so many who knew that forgot it.
But we remember, and at that, there is joy in heaven.
The chief priests and scribes and the principal men of the people—they still exist today. Who feign would tear from off Thy throne, Christ Jesus Thy beloved Son.
But the Word of the Lord endures forever.
We hang on to that Word, we cling to it.
We believe. We trust. We wait for Jesus and hope in Him.
And weeping is turned to joy.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 10 Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt