41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19
Jesus loves. He certainly has love for all of creation. Jesus loved Jerusalem. Great city that it was, Jesus had in fact established it as the capital of his people nearly a thousand years before. It had been the city that Christ offered blessing to Abraham from Melchizedek. It was the city that he established the Throne of David. It was the city that he had centered the right worship of his name for all nations at his temple. He had adorned Jerusalem like a bride. He had given it His Word through the prophets, the kings, and the Law. Everything he had done for Jerusalem was to prepare her for his arrival. He was coming to her like a promised bridegroom in His Palm Sunday procession. He fulfils all expectations as the prophet announced centuries before, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” All of Israel's history was centered around this arrival. What glorious day. As Jesus arrives on Palm Sunday Jerusalem’s purpose had be fulfilled. She was meeting her Savior and God.
So what happens as the promised Christ arrives in his holy City? Well Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps for Jerusalem. This is a striking act of Judgement against the city. When I was growing up there were two ways that I knew I did something wrong. First, my parents would get angry with me, they would discipline me and we would move on. Second, was a little more striking. It meant that I had done something really bad. If I made mom cry, I knew that I had done something especially egregious. Here Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and he prophecies her destruction.
It is a terrible day of destruction indeed. As the jewish historian, Josephus, tells us, the Roman Legions surround the city in 70 AD and mount a siege and destroy Jerusalem. In one of the most bloody events described in human history, the city was raised. The population which was swollen due to the time of the siege and destruction was decimated, with death tolls recorded in the hundreds of thousands. There was said to be blood running through the streets. Those who survived were viewed so lowly that thirty could be bought as slaves for a penny.
So what was Jerusalem’s offense? What brings about such wrath? They did not know the hour of their visitation. When the long expected Christ arrives they reject him. They want nothing of Jesus. He comes as their loving savior and is treated as criminal.
The reason that they would reject Jesus is that they did not understand what it really meant to be God’s people. They considered themselves to be the true church. They counted themselves to be invulnerable. They thought that being God’s people meant having the temple and the priesthood. Eating the foods and having the laws. They were doing pretty well. Luther comments, “They were secure, and vainly thought: God will not do such things to us. We own the temple; here God himself dwells; besides we have mighty men, money and treasures enough to defy all our enemies! For even the Romans, and the emperor after he had conquered the city, confessed that the city was so well and firmly built, that it would have been impossible to take it, had God not especially willed it. Therefore they trusted in their own glory, and built their confidence on a false delusion, which finally deceived them.” You see for them, being God’s people had nothing to do with the Christ who was promised, and had everything to do with the status, wealth, glory. Though they claimed to be God’s people, a closer look would reveal pride and idolatry. So much to the point that the promised Christ comes and they want nothing to do with him.
This should give us pause. It should cause us to ask ourselves what creates, sustains, and builds up the people of God? What stands at the center of God’s Church? Jesus’ answer is that it is his visitation. It is when Christ comes to dwell among us. The reformers rightly asserted that the definition of the church is where the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. The reason they are right is because these are the ways in which Jesus avails himself to his people. He comes through the preaching of his Word. He speaks to us through His Absolution. He is truly present in the Lord’s Supper and he joins himself to us in Holy Baptism. Christ is present in forgiveness in these things.
Yet very often we find ourselves not knowing the time of our visitation. Often in American Christianity we see the same sinful pride and idolatry that Jesus rebukes in Jerusalem. A trust in vanity and personal glory. Praising a congregation’s effectiveness not on the basis of right teaching and stewardship of the sacraments, but on how big the church’s budget is and how many they have in attendance on a given Sunday. So ultimate goal is to be big, other more important things go out the window. Doctrine is treated as something that is divisive and of little importance. The emphasis of Word and Sacrament are replaced with personal sentiment and good ole marketing techniques. So there are many so called churches that gather on Sundays yet do not preach Christ. They do not deliver Christ. These Christless churches are doomed to destruction on the last day just like Jerusalem. It breaks the heart to see it. Mark them and avoid them.
Yet more urgently than those churches out there is what exists in us. I have spoken many times about the danger of skipping Church. It is indeed dangerous to despise the preaching of the Word and to neglect receiving the Lord’s Supper. I cannot say that a person who persistently skips church has a dead faith, but I can with all certainty say that they have a dying faith.
There is another danger that exists within the Church of God, that is coming to church regularly and not taking the preaching to heart. How often do we come to church and fill the space on the pew, yet walk out as if nothing happened? How often do we hear the law in scriptures and reason our way around it so that it doesn’t apply to me? How often do we receive the Lord’s Supper without truly examining ourselves? Our Faith? Our Need? Our confession of Doctrine? How often do we speak the confession just rumbling through the words without acknowledging our sin? Worst of all How often do we leave the church on Sunday and feel and act as if nothing actually happened? As is if we had not stood in the presence of Christ? As if we did not just receive full pardon and absolution for our sins? How often do we come to Church because it it just part of what I do on Sundays and it doesn’t change who I am the rest of the week? How often do we live as if we are not baptized?
Yet in all of these things, Christ is visiting himself upon us. He promises to be here in these things. He promises to create saving faith in the preaching of the word. He promise to freely give his name, work, and sonship to those who are baptized. He offers his very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for our forgiveness. He promise to forgive as the pastors speaks forgiveness. To not see him in these promises is a rejection of Christ. That can bring on fate worse than that of Jerusalem. To deny Christ is to choose to remain in sin and that means death and hell. This should give us pause and drive us to Christ in his forgiveness.
Notice something, in all of this Jesus does not change. Jesus loves. As he weeps over Jerusalem knowing that they have rejected him, he does not leave them. He does not abandon his people. He does not stop what he is doing. What does he do after he weeps? He preaches. That is how he loves. He calls them to repentance. He spends the following days in the temple declaring that he has arrived for them. He does so boldly out of love for his Church. There are those who hear him and repent and believe. So it is for us today. Our God is longsuffering. He is patient. He will not stop proclaiming his son to the world. He will always persist in admonishing the people and preaching Christ. His word will never be silenced. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. Christ will always be proclaimed on the earth.
His preaching is not limited to the temple. His preaching continues all the way to the cross. There we see his love to the fullest extent. There he delivers his word of absolution as he says Father forgive them and it is finished. There he he bears the wrath of our sin. There he suffers what we deserve for our desire for personal glory over the approval of God. There he dies our death. There our sin dies too.
His love does not end with his death. His love destroys death. He rises for us to know that he is indeed suffered the wrath in our place in order that those who see him...Those who receive him in faith..Those whose trust is in him. Those ones have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Christ has visited himself upon us. He is doing so today. In a few minutes you will eat and drink and in doing so you will partake in the all of the riches of the kingdom of God. You will have forgiveness, life, and salvation placed in to your mouth. Christ our lord will be here! Christ our Lord is Here. He is here for you. He is here because he loves. In this pardon, peace, forgiveness, and ultimately his love. Because you are not destined for destruction like Jerusalem. No, you are destined for life. You are Baptized! You are forgiven! You will live as he lives.
In the name of Jesus. Amen