Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
August 8, 2021
What makes Jesus weep? Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, because he knows that the city will be destroyed in the most brutal way. About forty years later in the year 70 AD, the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem when it was filled with people, who had gathered to celebrate the Passover. No one was able to leave or enter. There was mass starvation, plague, disease, murder, and all sorts of cruelty. Thousands upon thousands of people, many historians number it in the hundreds of thousands, were killed. The buildings were destroyed and burned, including the great temple. And those Jews who did survive were sold into slavery to do hard labor or were fed to wild beasts as entertainment. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was one of the most horrific events in human history. Yet, that alone is not why Jesus weeps.
Jesus weeps because of the reason such a terrible destruction would befall them. Because they did not know the things that made for their peace. Because they did not know the time of their visitation. Now, what does Jesus mean by “the time of their visitation”? Who has come to visit them? God has come to visit them. Now, how can this be? God is present everywhere. Scripture says, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) God cannot get any closer to us than that! Then, how can Jesus say that God visited Jerusalem? Isn’t he always in Jerusalem as he is everywhere else?
God is indeed everywhere. But he is not everywhere in the same way. God’s presence in hell is much different from his presence in heaven. God’s presence in a brothel or opium den is much different from his presence in a church, where the Gospel is preached. By visitation, our Lord Jesus means that God visited Jerusalem with his grace. Yet, Jerusalem rejected God’s visitation of grace. This is what makes Jesus weep. And Jesus is God. This is what makes God weep. Jerusalem rejected the Gospel. Jerusalem rejected her Lord, who came to her with forgiveness and salvation. Jesus is God in human flesh. He is the long-time prophesied Son of David, whom the people of Israel had been waiting for. And he came first to proclaim the good news of redemption to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but he was rejected. He desired to save them. But they would not be saved. And for this, Jesus weeps.
The destruction of Jerusalem is a warning concerning the coming judgment. Jerusalem’s demise is a type of the demise that the world will experience when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. And if God did not spare Jerusalem and her people, whom he chose out of all the nations of the world, to whom he sent the prophets, with whom he made the covenants, to whom he promised the Messiah from among their brothers, then we should not think that we will be spared if we reject our visitation. St. Paul speaks of this very thing in Romans 11 saying, “For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.”
So, what is the time of our visitation? How does God visit us with his grace today? The time of our visitation is now. And the way God visits us with his grace is through the Gospel. God visited you when you were Baptized and he placed his name on you, washed you of all your sins in Jesus’ blood, and poured his Holy Spirit into your heart to give you a new spiritual birth. God visits us whenever the Gospel is preached. When Jesus is proclaimed as crucified for sinners; when Christ’s resurrection is preached; when your sins are declared forgiven for the sake of Jesus’ innocent, suffering and death, then God is visiting you with his grace. When the body and blood of Christ, our God and brother, is fed to you in the Sacrament of the Altar, that is God’s visitation of grace.
So, how do we reject this visitation as the Jewish people of Jerusalem did? We must know, so that we can avoid this evil and escape judgment. We reject this visitation when we reject Baptism. This is done either by refusing to be baptized against Christ’s command and promise or by rejecting the Baptism Christ has given you through impenitence and unbelief. We reject this visitation when we refuse to listen to the Gospel and when we refuse to believe it; when we find no value in the Sacrament where Christ supernaturally feeds us his body and blood, which he sacrificed on the cross for us, and so refuse to partake of it. We reject this visitation when we persist in our sins and refuse correction; when we refuse to repent of our sins and ask God for forgiveness for Christ’s sake. In short, we reject our visitation when we refuse to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This also means that we receive God’s visitation when we believe the Gospel. When we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, then we receive God’s visitation for our eternal benefit.
The other day I heard a guy on the radio talk about how he believed in heaven and hell. The reason he gave for the existence of hell was that there had to be a place of punishment for murderers and rapists and child abusers and wicked men like Hitler and Stalin. And this is how many people think. If hell exists, it exists for those really bad people, but not us. But Christ comes to visit us with God’s grace to rescue us from hell. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God does not want us to go to hell. That is why he sent Jesus to die for our sins on the cross and make atonement for us. And that is why he weeps when we reject him. Without faith in Jesus, we cannot be saved. Hell is real. And it is for all who reject Christ, clinging to their sin and unbelief.
The fact that Jesus wept over Jerusalem shows that God desires all people to be saved. There are some who teach that since those who are saved are chosen by God before the foundation of the world, that God also chooses others before the foundation of the world to go to hell. In other words, they teach that God does not really desire to save all people, but he only desires to save those whom he ultimately saves. Jesus proves that this is wrong by weeping over Jerusalem. He wants them to be saved. He wants them to receive their visitation. He wants them to know what makes for peace, that is, faith in Christ. But they would not. They have refused to accept the Gospel.
But even after they refuse the Gospel and Jesus has predicted their destruction, he shows his desire to save them by going into the temple to preach the Gospel. And in so doing, he does save some. Even from the cross, Jesus prays to his Father that he would forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. How is God to forgive them, but by bringing them to faith? And it is in Jerusalem, that city whose destruction Jesus has proclaimed, where Jesus sends his Holy Spirit on that first Christian Pentecost, so that three thousand are added to the saved on that day. Yes, Jesus’ tears tell us that he does not delight in the destruction of Jerusalem. He desires to save them all.
And it is not only the Jewish people he desires to save. St. Paul declares that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). No one goes to hell, because God doesn’t want him in heaven. No one goes to hell, because God has destined that person to hell. People only go to hell, because of their own stubborn unbelief. People only go to hell, because they refuse God’s visitation of grace.
So, what should make us weep? It should be the same thing as that which makes our Lord Jesus weep; that people reject Christ’s visitation, persist in unbelief, and are damned to hell. When King Agrippa asked the prisoner St. Paul if he would persuade him to be a Christian, St. Paul answered, “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29) And that is exactly how we should be. We should desire that everyone be as we are, to confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, to receive his visitation and have confidence in our forgiveness and salvation.
In Romans chapter 9, St. Paul makes a disturbing declaration that he could wish that he were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his kinsmen, if it meant that they would be saved. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenant, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs; from their race came Christ our God in the flesh! How awful is it that they would reject Christ’s visitation! And so, we too should pray for the conversion of all Jewish people to the faith God intends for them, that they would accept the Messiah whom the prophets promised to them, who indeed came to save them.
Likewise, we should pray for the conversion of our brothers and sisters, children, parents, spouses, friends, and neighbors, who still will not believe in the Gospel. To them has been given saving Baptism! To them the Gospel has been proclaimed! To them God has been offered as their Friend and Savior! We should weep for them. We should proclaim Christ to them. We should invite them to church. We should pray for them. God desires that they be saved. He sent Christ Jesus to die for them. God does not want anyone to die in his sins. And neither do we.
Finally, we know what makes Jesus weep, but what makes Jesus rejoice? Jesus tells us that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. That is to say, God and all his angels and saints rejoice when one sinner receives his visitation. God’s grace did not fail because Jerusalem rejected Christ. God’s grace does not fail today, because so many still reject him. God has preserved his people. He has given them true faith and made them his children. God’s children are sinners, who have repented of their sins and believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior. God’s people are those who have received God’s visitation of grace through faith in the Gospel of Christ. God’s people do not come from a particular city. They are not limited to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. God’s people come from every nation and language on earth. God’s people are sinners, who have been forgiven, who have received Christ’s visitation through faith.
And so, you should rejoice today, not only that you have repented of your sins and received Jesus’ visitation of grace through faith in the forgiveness of sins, but also rejoice at these your brothers and sisters in Christ, who have received their visitation in faith.
May God keep us as his people and may we continue to receive his visitation of grace, so that we may stand without shame when our God visits us in glory to judge the living and the dead. Amen.