Almighty God, who by Your Holy Spirit have revealed and made known to us Your Word concerning Your Son, Jesus Christ: we beseech You to awaken our hearts, that we may receive it earnestly and not cast it to the wind nor listen carelessly, as did Your people, the unbelieving Jews, that we may daily live and increase in Your fear and in true confidence in Your mercy, and at last obtain salvation; through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. [LPC #108]
God’s grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Today, as in many times through history, there are wars and rumors of wars in all the news. Since Mohammad invented a new religion in the early 600’s AD, he and his most devout followers have been tearing the world apart. Now the rest of the world thinks all religion brings conflict, especially when the believers are devout.
But a false religion like Islam is no measure of peace. Mohammad never wanted peace for his followers or others, and even if they have peace on earth, it will end forever.
Because of the false religions of the world, Jesus said that even He did not bring peace on Earth.
It’s ironic, because He’s the Prince of peace, but the world’s false religions can’t even tolerate Him. They change His teachings or deny them, and they make war upon those who believe them. This is the future Jesus saw for Jerusalem, the holy city. To this day, it remains a city of conflict, because so many have made themselves His enemies.
True peace comes only when Jesus visits.
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 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.”
Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.
Dear fellow redeemed:
There was a sharp contrast in the way Jesus was received. The common people were eager to hear Him. The leaders and experts wanted to do away with Him. Why such a division?
Because what He said is true (Luke 11:23): “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”
And again (Luke 16:13): “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”
It seems as though there are many possible masters in the world, but there are only two.
One is the living God, who sent His Son Jesus into the world. The other is the deceiver and murderer, Satan. Satan doesn’t care if his slaves kill one another, as long as they don’t believe the word of Christ. But when someone begins teaching the exclusive Gospel, he can’t sit still.
In the United States, Satan has usually twisted the Gospel. In some other places, he attacks it with violence. Even in Jerusalem, in the very city of David, there were those whose hearts were captive to the deceiver. They thought political security and personal power more important, even though Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of the Christ. They were trying to preserve earthly peace instead of eternal peace, and in the process, they lost both.
How did the chief priests, scribes, and leaders lose peace? By rejecting Jesus as their Messiah, the Christ, they rejected the Prince of Peace, their Redeemer. It may be surprising to hear that, because they continued to be Jewish. Likewise, some today reject the Gospel and Jesus, while continuing outwardly as Christians or Christian churches. As a matter of fact, the split over Jesus at that time continues now.
Today, most of those whom the world considers to be Jewish are following those chief priests, scribes, and leaders. They reject Jesus, and forsake their own eternal peace. Meanwhile, there are others of Jewish descent who follow the multitudes who listened to Jesus in the Temple, and were very attentive to hear Him. They are despised by the first group and rejected. Yet they are the ones who know their Messiah.
All of this sounds like chaos, like great strife. It is. Some would put the blame at Jesus’ feet for that conflict. In a sense, they’re right. If God made no attempt to bring forgiveness and eternal life, to enter the world with His saving message, then the enemy would give us rest on earth. But God is not content to leave you as His enemy, lost to Him and doomed by your sin, self-absorbed, with only the outward shell of peace, slaves to death, with hope only for this short life.
No, He entered Creation. Jesus came here, even to Jerusalem. Jesus visited us to reconcile us to God and bring true peace. So the enemy rages and fumes with violence against Him, and against His Word, and against all who are His. But it’s not Jesus who causes the chaos and the strife, who instigates the conflict that some associate with all religion. No, it’s the enemy and his human slaves. It’s the wickedness within humanity, in rebellion against God. But it only serves to illustrate your need: without Jesus, all you would have is rebellion against God.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have outwardly nice people. Some of the nicest people on earth are unbelievers. But God’s standard of righteousness goes far beyond “nice,” because we owe Him our full love, obedience, and trust. So mere civic righteousness in outward behavior doesn’t cut it. We need someone to rescue our hearts and souls.
Without Jesus, we are lost to God. But when Jesus comes, the battle is on, and we are the prize. That’s why Jesus entered Jerusalem anyway, though He knew He would be rejected in the end. He fought like a perfect man for His people, for you. He fought to bestow true, eternal peace.
True peace comes with the certainty that God has forgiven you. It comes with the sure hope of a future in heaven, and it’s assured by the substitution of Jesus in your place. These things all depend upon Jesus.
Outward decency in earthly life, and limited earthly peace: you might see them as effects of what Jesus provides, but they are not the final objective.
God’s greatest intention for you is not an outwardly moral life. He wants to give you a victory over death. He wants you to have an eternal life free from sin and sorrow. He wants you to belong to him, to enjoy paradise even better than the one He first created.
Paul wrote (1 Cor 15:19), “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” There are some who lack any kind of hope beyond death. But those who know Jesus; that is, who trust the forgiveness of their sins through Him, they have a peace that none on Earth can fully understand.
Think of how strangely the martyrs were regarded by the world. Here were men and women willing to die, and to a worldly mind, that means forever! They would rather die and remain true to Jesus and His Word, than escape death by compromising their faith.
One example was Bartholomew, the apostle of Christ. He is said to have brought the Gospel to Armenia. There, the King himself was converted to Christianity, but his brother put Bartholomew to death. On August 24 the Church remembers Bartholomew, but how strange in the eyes of the world: to honor the faith of a man whose work brought him shame and death.
And yet when so many martyrs were tied to the stake, or when their necks were placed upon the block, or when they were lined up against the wall to be shot, or when the noose was placed over their heads: so many of them showed a peace unknown in the world.
It’s a certainty that whatever may happen here, nothing can touch my true, everlasting life with Jesus.
When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He knew what was in store. Even His studies of the prophets’ writing was enough to know: Christ would suffer and be put to death. It was His innocent, divine sacrifice that changed death forever.
Haven’t you seen in the Bible that we will all rise again? Even unbelievers will rise from their graves again, because physical death has utterly lost its power to Jesus. So all will rise and stand before the judgment of God, but instead of judging according to His Law that condemns us, He will judge according to His mercy. In fact, you receive His judgment already when your sins are pronounced forgiven.
Not everyone trusts in this forgiveness, but all who do will shine with His holiness. They will see the new heavens and new earth. Isn’t that glorious salvation what you’d like for yourself? Isn’t it what you want for your children, and your family? How about your neighbors, coworkers, and fellow students? How about their children and grandchildren?
This certainty is the peace of God that can’t be stolen, because it doesn’t depend upon these decaying bodies. It depends upon Jesus alone, and He is risen.
Jesus entered Jerusalem knowing He would be killed, just as that earthly city also killed many prophets before Him. This is the way of all mankind. Like Jerusalem, we would reject our own Savior, in the very time that He comes to visit us in mercy.
So let us repent of this wickedness, and show our repentance sincerely. Give your filthy righteousness to Jesus, and let Him clothe you in His purity.
Only in Him may you have peace. This now is the time of His visitation, as He comes in Word, in Baptism, and in His body and blood. Trust His promise to you.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria