12 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12, Rom 9:30-10:4)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus weeps over Jerusalem as He draws near. He knows that He will enter the Holy City welcomed as a King, and He will be driven out of Jerusalem reviled as a criminal. And yet His tears are not for Himself, but for Jerusalem. As in the case of Lazarus in the tomb – which also brought the Lord to tears – Jesus laments the results of sin. “For the wages of sin is death.”
Jerusalem was dying. The city whose name literally means City of Peace was going to be destroyed in an act of war by the Romans exactly 40 years after the Lord moistened the ground with His tears and with His blood on a Roman cross. The temple – where God Himself would make peace with man through priestly sacrifices – was also to be leveled in the process. But unlike the temple of the Lord’s body that was to rise on the third day, the Jerusalem temple was never to rise again.
The Lord weeps because Jerusalem was so corrupted by sin that she refused even to receive the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace Himself in the priestly sacrifice of His own body and blood at the cross. She refused the gift of forgiveness that makes peace between God and man won for man by the Man who is also God.
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Their lives were occupied by other things. Their minds were filled with other priorities. Their worship was reserved to other gods. Their attention was drawn to other words. And when the Word Made Flesh came and dwelt among them, when the Prince of Peace came into the City of Peace to make peace, when God Himself consented to be both Priest and Sacrifice – in order to make for a final and lasting peace, an end to sin, and the death of death itself – Jerusalem didn’t care.
Her spiritual life was more concerned with buying and selling in the temple than worshiping God, than having their sins atoned for and forgiven by the sacrifice of the Lamb, than by seeking peace with the God who made them, loved them, brooded over them, suffered for them, and brought them the “peace of God that passes all understanding.”
Instead, they used the temple as a business opportunity. Instead they allowed themselves to be manipulated by their leaders. Instead, they wanted to free a terrorist. Instead, they wanted His blood on them and on their descendants.
“And He entered the temple and 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.’”
The Lord cleansed the temple. The Lord cleansed Jerusalem. The Lord cleansed the world.
In the terror of the cross and in the pain of the passion, in the loneliness of rejection, and in the agony of betrayal and denial – our Lord carries out His mission of love, of mercy, of atonement, of peace.
For just outside the walls of the City of Peace, the Prince of Peace made peace: true peace, eternal peace, the peace that passes all understanding.
This was all part of our Lord’s plan to save us, dear brothers and sisters. For was “laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”
“Whoever believes in Him…”
The Lord weeps over Jerusalem, they who “have healed the wound of My people lightly, saying ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” The Lord weeps for all who refuse to receive the free gift, the most precious gift in the universe, the most costly gift in the cosmos – yet a free gift nonetheless –a peace offering from the God against whom we poor, miserable sinners have declared war. But more importantly, the Lord dies “for the sins of the world, paying the price for all of the sins of the cosmos, and then extending this “peace that passes all understanding” to everyone, offered with His own blood-drenched hands, sealed by the blood and water that flowed from His side, poured out upon us in Holy Baptism and dispensed to us in Holy Communion.
Dear friends, our Lord offers us peace, true peace, eternal peace, cosmic peace – the kind of peace that overcomes sin, conquers death, and restores “everyone who believes” to a state of perfect innocence, forgiveness, health, and salvation. It is fitting that this congregation is called “Salem,” peace, the second half of the word “Jerusalem” – a congregation of the people of God who have been baptized, forgiven, and united with Jesus in His body and blood. We have come here to partake of the Lord’s cross and to receive the Lord’s gift. We have come here to affirm the Word of life presented to us at baptism and to claim the peace the Lord offers us in the foretaste of the eternal banquet at the Eucharistic feast.
Let us wage peace, dear friends! Let us be instruments of the Lord’s peace to our friends and neighbors who know nothing but trouble and strife. Let us live in the joy of the Lord’s peace in what we say and do, in how we worship and work, in our conduct of life among our friends and our foes.
Let us not be like the sellers in the temple, ever distracted by the world’s obsession with money and trinkets, with things that ultimately don’t matter. Let us rejoice that the Lord cleansed the temple and that He has come to chase away the sin in our own lives, cleansing us with baptismal water, and making war on the evil one in order to win the peace for us sinners.
Let us come to this temple of peace to receive the Lord’s peace as He draws near to us anew, to renew our lives of peace, to receive the gift of peace. For our King is also the Prince of Peace. The one who weeps for Lazarus raises Lazarus from the dead. The one who weeps for Jerusalem dies and rises again, redeeming the world and rolling back the curse of the wages of sin. For “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
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In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.