4 August 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Luke 19:41-48
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Jeremiah had a reputation of being unhappy. He was not a grouch, or a curmudgeon. He was not a pessimist or a Debbie Downer. He was a genuinely sad preacher, heartbroken because of the Word he was sent to proclaim to his flock. Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.”
Our Lord Jesus is also greatly distressed at the spiritual condition of the people to whom He was sent to proclaim the Word of God. Our Lord is making His way to Jerusalem, the City of Peace. And He is going there to make peace: peace between God and man, and peace between men, peace unto all of creation. But the people want no part of it. They reject Him. They reject God. They reject His Word. They reject peace.
Our Lord laments in tears: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
There were multitudes of people who followed Jesus who were not interested in peace, but wanted Jesus to provoke war with Rome. They expected a blitzkrieg into Jerusalem on a gallant steed, a blast of the trumpet, and then the battle cry and bloodshed. The first century Jews hated the Romans, but they loved the Roman version of peace – which was really instilling fear into one’s enemies, domination, revenge, killing, and self-righteous rage.
And that about sums up how we see peace, dear friends. We are a bloodthirsty people. We love vengeance, victory, valor, and shock and awe. We love to see people “get what they deserve.” We love to see our enemies exploded in shrapnel and under a mushroom cloud. As General Patton pointed out, we love a winner and hate a loser, and we love the sting of battle. As General Lee pointed out, it is a good thing war is so terrible because we would grow too fond of it otherwise. We civilians love wars especially because we don’t fight in them. Politicians love wars because they send other people’s children to fight them. But beyond all of that, we love war because we are sinners, and that part of us, the sinful flesh, is at war, at enmity with God, in a state of war against the very Prince of Peace Himself.
We, whose church bears the name “Salem” – the part of the name “Jerusalem” that means peace – likewise love war and hate peace. We think peace is for losers and suckers. We want to win, and win at any cost. Our congregational history, even in the 1800s, is one of upheaval and rival factions. Even the early name of our congregation placed the name of our proud dominant ethnicity before the name of our church’s confession.
And in that, we are like every other congregation comprised of poor miserable sinners the world over. We are no better and no worse than every other people in need of repentance.
Jesus weeps. He cries in frustration, acknowledging how we squander the treasure He has given us purely as a gift of grace. A free gift that was paid for in His infinitely valuable and precious blood. Jesus gives us His life, and we treat this salvation He has won for us as though it were worthless. We take it for granted. We place a very low value on anything spiritual because the Old Adam still clings to us.
Just as Jeremiah the prophet warned the Old Testament Jews of the consequences of their idolatry and unbelief, Jesus warns the New Testament Jews of the consequences of their own idolatry and unbelief. They didn’t worship statues in the New Testament, but they rejected the Prince of Peace because the only blood He was willing to shed was His own. But, dear friends, don’t get too comfortable, for the Holy Spirit did not cause this account of our Lord to be written down for us to feel superior to first-century Jews. No indeed! For we too bear the flesh of the Old Adam, and we are eager to declare war against the Prince of Peace. We may not worship statues or deny the divinity of Christ, but we reject the Prince of Peace with each and every sin, with every instance of our own clever idolatry, when we choose to invest our time and affections in other gods, be it the false gods Mammon, Entertainment, Caesar, or simply the god of Self.
Jesus is not weeping for Himself, even though He is headed to the worst suffering ever experienced by a human being. He weeps for us, dear friends, we lovers of war and haters of men, we worshipers of self, and despisers of God. And if we do not repent, our “enemies will set up a barricade,” we will be surrounded and torn down, even our children – all because we “did not know the time of [our] visitation.”
Jesus is here, dear friends! He has visited us! He brings us peace – for He is peace. He offers us a celebratory banquet that declares this peace with God that passes all understanding, this meal of armistice, this table of joy, this Holy Eucharist thanksgiving for the peace that Jesus is and that He gives to us.
This is why just before you come to the table, as we sing to the Lamb of God (that takest away the sin of the world), the pastor holds aloft the Lord’s very body and His very blood, and speaks to you on behalf of Him who wept over Jerusalem: “The peace of the Lord be with you always!” to which you sing in replay, “Amen!” – that is to say, “It is so!” Peace, dear friends! This is what the Lord delivers to us in His battle-scarred hands, feet, and side! This is the war He won when He proclaimed “It is finished!” from the cross.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us lay down our arms! The war is over! We have won, because Jesus has won! Jesus defeated all of our foes: sin, death, and the devil; the world and our sinful flesh – and He rides into Jerusalem as the King triumphant, and He dies on the cross as the King heroic, not as a despotic ruler who taxes us and sends us to battle, but as the King benevolent who comes to us as the suffering servant, who gives everything to us and goes to battle on our behalf, the Prince of Peace!
He pleads with us to recognize this visitation, when He bids you to hear Him absolve your sins, and when He invites you to gaze upon His body and blood even as you are given a place at the banquet table and then invited to eat and drink unto the forgiveness of all of your sins! Jesus is visiting us, teaching us, forgiving us, and blessing us with His most mighty Word that proclaims the peace with the same authority that created the universe. And even though He weeps over our sins, He rejoices in us as His beloved bride, His forgiven people, for whom He has won the war and secured the peace.
Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, peace that passes all understanding, peace that has arrived with the Lord’s visitation, secured at the cross, and delivered to each one of us anew right here and right now. Peace, dear friends! Peace be with you! Amen.
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