Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
August 21, 2022
Less than a week before Jesus is betrayed into the hands of wicked men, beaten, flogged, spit upon, and finally crucified to death, he entered into Jerusalem with crowds shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” Yet, as Jesus approached Jerusalem on a donkey, he burst into tears, weeping. Was he weeping over his impending torture and death by crucifixion, which he had so many times predicted to his disciples and knew was nigh? No. Jesus did not weep for himself, but for this city, which had rejected him.
Jesus told how her enemies would lay siege to her walls, hem her in, and finally dash her down to the ground with her children within her. And the prophecy of Jesus came true and in the summer of 70 AD after a long siege, Jerusalem was destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Jews are reported to have died either by starvation, disease, or violence. The destruction of Jerusalem shocked the world because of its great violence and loss of life. Yet, most shocking is the fact that Jerusalem was God’s city. God chose Jerusalem and no other city for his temple to dwell. Yet, even the temple was laid to ruin. And all this, because Jerusalem, who’s name bears the name of peace, salem, did not know the things that make for peace.
God chose Jerusalem. God promised to be in his temple. Jesus himself called the temple his Father’s house (Luke 2:49). The people of Jerusalem were God’s chosen people. And yet, God destroyed them, the city, and the temple by means of pagan brutes. Jesus noticeably cries. He doesn’t want Jerusalem to be destroyed. Yet, do not misconstrue Jesus’ weeping with reluctance to act. God does not desire the death of the wicked, but he certainly will carryout just punishment on the wicked. And so, we learn that Jesus’ declaration that they did not know the things that make for peace is not merely a message for the people of Jerusalem two-thousand years ago, but these words are written for us upon whom the end of the age has come. We must know the things that make for peace. God threatens severe punishment on those who reject the peace he offers. In this sermon, we will learn how peace is gained, given, and gotten.
Peace is gained in no other way than through the incarnation of Jesus’ Christ, his obedient life, and his innocent suffering and death for our sins. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus, they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) God became man to gain peace for us, because no mere human can give his life to ransom another (Psalm 49:7). Jesus, the Son of God, lived as the one true human peacemaker, obeying God’s law perfectly. And after he suffered and died for all the sins he did not commit, Jesus returned victorious from the grave and said to his disciples, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19).
The peace Jesus came to gain he came to gain for everyone. All people are by nature at enmity with God, because of their sin. All have fallen short of God’s glory. All have rebelled and made themselves God’s enemies. Yet, God in his love, while we were still enemies, sent Christ to die for our sins. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ blood makes propitiation, that is, his blood takes away God’s wrath, not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross gained a universal atonement, that means, it paid for the sins of the whole world. And Jesus’ resurrection from the dead declared a universal justification, that is, God forgives the sins of the whole world for Christ’s sake.
This peace between God and man was gained by Christ alone. You have not done anything to earn your forgiveness and peace with God. Christ Jesus won it of his own accord. This peace with God is a free gift, which grants eternal salvation to all who believe. Yet this gained peace does you no good unless it is given to you. This peace is given through the Word alone. St. Paul writes, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? … So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14, 17)
This peace is also given through the Sacraments, not because the Sacraments are some powerful things outside of the Word, but because the Sacraments are made Sacraments by the Word of God alone. We believe that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of Christ Jesus, which grants forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all who believe it, because this is what Jesus’ Word promises in his words of institution. That is why after the consecration, the pastor holds the bread and wine, which is the body and blood of Christ, and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” In the Sacrament, by the power of God’s Word, Christ visits his people and grants them peace, just as he did with his disciples after his resurrection.
So, there is no other way for God’s peace to be given to you except through the Word and Sacraments. If you reject God’s Word and Sacraments, then you reject God’s peace. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27) Jesus says, “If you abide in my words, you are my disciples indeed, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31). In his second Epistle, St. Peter writes, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2) Well, how do we receive this knowledge of God whereby peace it multiplied to us, except through his Word?
This is why refusing to hear the Word of God is such a wicked and terrible thing. It puts you in jeopardy of eternal condemnation. Jerusalem was destroyed twice for refusing the peace given to her through the Word of God. The people rather listened to false prophets and teachers, who told them what they wanted to hear. They refused to repent. They refused to humble themselves. They did whatever their hearts led them to do. And so, they lost their Savior. Jesus is only a Savior to sinners. He comes to bring peace only to those who repent of their sins. But if you deny your sins or cling to them without repenting, then you are rejecting Christ as your Savior and giver of peace.
God gives this peace to everyone. This word of peace is intended to be preached to the entire world. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” and in Mark 16, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”, and in Luke 24, “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem.”
This is why Jesus grieves with bitter tears. As he purchases salvation for everyone, so he offers salvation to everyone. But not all who are offered salvation receive it. This does not mean that Christ does not want them to be saved. He weeps for them. This does not mean that Christ did not gain for them God’s peace. He suffered for them. St. Peter again writes in his second Epistle that false teachers would “even deny the Master who bought them.” (2 Peter 2:1). They were bought! Their peace was gained for them! Their peace was given to them! Yet, they would not receive it. They rejected it.
And so, we cannot neglect the third part of this sermon. How is peace gotten. Peace is gained by the obedience of Christ Jesus and his suffering and death for our sins. This peace was gained for everyone. This peace is given through the proclamation of the Gospel. This peace is intended to be given to all peoples in every nation. This peace is gotten through faith alone. St. Paul writes, “We hold that one is justified by faith, apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28). And again, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
That we receive this peace through faith means that we do not obtain it with our own works. This peace was gained by Christ alone. This peace is given by God alone freely to all who will receive it. And faith alone gets this peace. Now, some reason that since this peace of God is gained for everyone, and since God intends to give this peace to everyone, that the getting of this peace through faith is our work. God does his part by gaining and giving, and we do our part by getting. But this is not true. We are incapable of getting what God gives unless God enables us to get it. Faith itself is a gift from God. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, “No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”
By nature, we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2). It is impossible for us to please God. We cannot even believe in God or the peace he has gained and given unless the Holy Spirit grants us new birth. This is why we confess in our catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified, and kept me in the true faith.”
Yet, if God gained peace for everyone and he gives peace to everyone, but only those whom he grants faith get it, then does God not really want to save all people? No. That’s not what God says. God desires to save all people. Only those whom he gives faith get salvation. You cannot blame God for your unbelief. You can’t accuse Jesus of having insincere tears. It’s a mystery why some are saved and not others. Everyone who is saved is saved by grace. Everyone who is not saved can only blame himself. We must humble ourselves and recognize that there are some things we just don’t understand. Rather, we focus on what God does reveal to us.
God reveals how he has gained our peace through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. God reveals that we can only be given this peace through his Word in the preached message and in the Sacraments. And God reveals in his Word that only faith gets this peace. The peace of God is gained, given, and gotten by grace alone, that is, according to God’s underserved love for us without any merit or worthiness in us.
That our salvation is by grace does not mean that we can ignore God’s Word and continue in sin, because it’s all up to God. God has revealed that his peace is given only through his Word. And this peace was gained by Christ’s suffering and death alone. So, we must not resist the work of the Holy Spirit and cause anguish to our Lord, who bought us with his blood. Rather, we should gladly hear the promises of Christ, trust in them, and let his Word shape us to live lives pleasing to him. We should trust not only that Jesus’ suffering and death has the power to forgive our sins, but that his Word has the power to create faith, which gets this peace. Now, may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.