August 25, 2019
Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he made a horrifying prediction concerning this ancient city, beloved by God. Jesus spoke of an event that would happen less than 40 years later, when Roman troops would surround the city and besiege it for months causing mass starvation, then they would break down the city walls, kill thousands of Jews both inside and outside the city, and finally raze the temple itself, burning it to the ground.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the worst defeat the Jewish people had ever experienced. It effectively ended their hope of ever securing an earthly kingdom again, scattering them throughout the world. It changed their way of worship forever; to this day no sacrifices are offered in the temple, because it is no more. And the loss of human life was innumerable.
And for this Jesus weeps. He weeps, because he loves Jerusalem. He loves the Jewish people. He weeps, because he came to save them, to bring peace on earth and good will to men, yet he was rejected and despised by the people he came to save. Jesus makes this mournful prophecy on Palm Sunday, just a few days before he would be tried by the high priest and leaders of the Jews and delivered over to the Gentile governor Pontius Pilate to be crucified. Jesus knows full well that he is about to suffer more than any man ever has or ever will, yet he mourns for this city and its people, because they did not recognize him as the Messiah who came to visit them and make peace between them and God.
We cannot look at the destruction of Jerusalem without looking at the end of the age. God’s judgment against Jerusalem for her disobedience is a warning against the whole world to repent, because God’s judgment is coming. Yet, Jesus’ weeping teaches us a lot about this final judgment and how we should prepare for it.
First, God’s judgment will come. Jerusalem developed a false sense of security. The Jewish religious leaders infatuated themselves with their own self-importance. They thought that they would remain forever. When the Messiah came, they thought they didn’t need him. They had the temple, made of giant stones. It could not be moved. They had their traditions and the respect of the people. They didn’t need what God offered, so they rejected God and paid no attention to his warnings neither from the prophets, John the Baptist, nor even his Son. So, we should heed the warnings God sends us, so that we are not caught unaware.
Second, Jesus’ weeping teaches us that God loves the world. He loves the people who live in it. God does not desire the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Jesus shed his blood to make propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Jesus’ weeping teaches us that God desires to save all people. He did not elect some from eternity to go to hell. Jesus did not die for a select few. Rather, Jesus came to earth, took on the flesh of all mankind, and he died for all sins of all people. Jesus weeps, because though he has paid the price to give eternal life to all people, many still reject him and reject the life that he gives.
You cannot blame God for your own sins. No one can blame God for his own unbelief. When people reject God, it is their own fault. Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And God has won salvation for all people through Jesus Christ, who made atonement through his blood. Yet, this must be received by faith. It is through faith, that is, through trusting in this forgiveness and salvation for Christ’s sake, that one receives eternal life. Yet, if someone rejects the faith, there is no salvation.
Jesus said that Jerusalem, a name which means possessor of peace, did not know the things that make for peace. It is Jesus who makes for peace. His suffering and death for our sins forgives our sins and makes peace between us and God. Jesus said that Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed, because they did not know the time of their visitation. It is said that God visits his people when a mighty miracle is done, like when Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. God visited his people in Jerusalem when he sent Jesus to do the mightiest miracle in history, dying on the cross to defeat sin, death, and the devil. Jesus’ death on the cross was a mighty miracle, because by it he did what no human being could ever do, make atonement for all sins. And Jesus himself rose from the dead, assuring us that forgiveness and salvation are indeed won for us whose sins he bore.
And God visits us today through his Son. God reveals to us the makings of peace. And as with Jerusalem, many reject this visitation. Yet, just as there were crowds that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna” and “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” so also do many accept God’s visitation today and receive the peace from God, which surpasses all understanding.
Yet, how does God visit us today through his Son? How do we recognize our visitation? Jesus doesn’t walk into our town as he did into Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus did promise us that he would be with us even to the end of the age. God visits us through his holy Word and Sacraments. God has visited Lane and Drew through Baptism. By the power of the word of God that washing that Lane and Drew received was not just one of water, but a washing of the Holy Spirit! God joined those two children to the death and resurrection of Christ. Scripture promises that all who have been baptized have put on Christ; that Baptism washes away sins, gives new birth in the Holy Spirit, and indeed, gives eternal salvation. So closely has God joined Jesus to the promise of Baptism that we can rightly say that those who have received Baptism have received Jesus Christ.
Yet, Baptism is not the only way that God visits his people. He continues to visit us through the preaching of his Word. When the pastor declares the forgiveness of sins, Jesus promises that he himself is forgiving you through your pastor’s words. Christ’s true body and blood, the same that were pierced and shed on the cross, Jesus feeds us under bread and wine. Jesus visits us today. He visits us throughout our life. And in every that he visits us, he joins us to his cross, where he died to take away our sins; and he joins us to his resurrection, where he secured for us our victory over death. Baptism, the Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, the Sacrament of the Altar are all means by which God gives us the same Jesus, who died and rose for us.
This visitation can only be received by faith. Yet, most reject the faith. Why do most reject it? Because mankind is totally corrupted by sin. Since our first parents’ fall, we have all been born in sin. The common refrain that children are not born haters, but that they learn to hate is simply not true. Everyone is born with hate in his heart. It is called original sin. Original sin produces actual sins. It makes us selfish. Children certainly don’t need to be taught to be selfish. They are selfish. And if that selfishness is not curbed by rules and laws, then selfishness leads to worse and worse behavior.
Original sin rejects God. Scripture says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked...” and “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” It is impossible for children of wrath, who are dead in their trespasses to accept God. This is why our Epistle lesson said, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit must in his mercy create faith in our hearts. He must make us alive in Christ Jesus, so that we can receive him as the one who makes peace between us and God.
The Holy Spirit makes us alive in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, that is, the good news that Jesus bore our sins and rescued us from hell. But sinners reject this good news if they don’t think they need it. And that is our natural state in original sin. We don’t think we need Jesus. We don’t need forgiveness. We don’t need atonement. We don’t need our sins to be covered and washed away in Christ’s blood. We’re doing just fine without it.
This is how Jerusalem was. And this is how our world today is. God laments through Jeremiah that his people do not recognize their sins. They continue headlong like horses into battle into all types of idolatry, adultery, and other abominations. And they aren’t ashamed. They aren’t in the least bit embarrassed that they have offended God. They have no fear of God, because they believe the lies of the prophets and priests, who tell them that God is at peace with them. God is fine with them living their life the way they want.
Does that sound familiar? That is the prevailing teaching of most religious institutions today. And this is a dangerous teaching, that we don’t need to repent and turn from our sins. We need God’s Law. We need to be told that we are sinners. We need to be told when we are doing wrong; when we are not placing God as first in our life; when we are living contrary to his Law; when what we are doing is hurting our neighbor. We need to know that the wages of our sin is death and eternal damnation. We need to be warned about God’s judgment against sin. If not, then we will not see our need for Jesus, his cross and forgiveness. Without the preaching of the Law, we will be content without Jesus.
Jesus preached the Law. He told the scribes and Pharisees that they were not as good as they thought they were, but were whitewashed tombs with no true righteousness within them. When he wept for Jerusalem, he was warning them to turn from their unbelief. Jesus drove out the sellers and moneychangers from the temple, so that people would learn what the temple was there for. And Jesus wants us to hear the preaching of the Law today, so that we never forget that we need him. So that we recognize his visitation as a precious treasure that takes away our sin.
It is Christ’s visitation itself that creates saving faith in sinners, who mourn their sinful condition. The Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the Gospel to create saving faith in your heart. God’s word is powerful. And God’s word is comforting to those sorry for their sins.
If you reject Christ’s invitation, that is your own fault. Yet, if you accept Jesus’ visitation, all credit goes to God, who created faith in your heart through the preaching of the Gospel. Many question how God can at the same time desire all people to be saved, yet not all are saved. Yet, we have no right nor ability to delve into the hidden will of God. We can only know God and his message as he reveals it to us. And the message God reveals to you is this: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. This is done through the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through faith in the work of Christ Jesus, you have certainty that God is pleased with you, that your sins are forgiven, that God has chosen you to be an heir of his kingdom. Through faith in Jesus, you know that your Baptism washed away your sins and clothed you with Christ. Through faith in Christ, you know that he does not weep over you, but rejoices over you, even as he prepares a place for you in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will be no weeping forever. Amen.