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Sermon for March 17, 2019, Second Sunday in Lent

Luke 13:31-35 (Second Sunday in Lent—Series C)

“O Jerusalem”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT 

March 17, 2019

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is today’s Gospel reading from Luke 13:

31In that hour, some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Go away from here and continue your journey because Herod wishes to kill you.” 32And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow and on the third day I am brought to my goal.’ 33Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to journey today and tomorrow and the next day because it is not possible for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often have I willed to gather your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing. 35Behold, your house is being abandoned to you. I say to you, you shall surely not see m until you shall say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

           “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus lamented. How His heart ached for the people of this city, the city which kills the prophets and stones those sent to her in the name of the Lord. Jerusalem, the people, had a long-standing pattern of rejection of the Lord’s prophets.

          It is so terribly tragic that the “holy city” of Jerusalem would become known as the place that “kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her.” Regarding those called by God to speak His Word of Law and Gospel to the people, Jerusalem’s history is a bloody one. For example, today’s Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah 26 records the threats against the prophet Jeremiah, “Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, ‘This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears’” (Jer. 26:11 ESV). Nine verses later we read, “There was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people.” (Jer. 26:20-23 ESV).

          Other Old Testament texts show the viciousness of Jerusalem against the prophets speaking God’s Word. In 2 Kings 21:16 we are told that King Manasseh, “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (2 Ki. 21:16 ESV). In Jewish tradition, this was understood to refer to all righteous Jews, including the prophets. The historian Josephus wrote, “He spared not even the prophets, some of whom he slaughtered daily, so that Jerusalem ran with blood” (Jewish Antiquities 10.38). Nehemiah 9:26 summarizes, “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against [God] and cast [His] law behind their back and killed [His] prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to [the Lord]” (Neh. 9:26 ESV).

O “Jerusalem,” “Jerusalem.” Do you and I also have a history of rejecting God and His Word? To find out, look at your life in comparison with the Commandments. You and I are to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” When we trust in our skills, power, friendships, and honor we have a god, but it is not the one true God. How often have we rejected the one, true God in favor of our idols, the gods in which we have mistakenly placed our trust—money, possessions, self, other people, prestige, knowledge, status? Our inclination to sin ensnares us. We are not able to believe God nor to fear and love Him. We reject Him. We turn away from Him. We place our trust in ourselves and in the created things of this world. In doing so, we indicate that His Word is a sham. It’s unnecessary for our lives. We don’t want what the Lord wants to give. And that includes a Savior.

When people reject God’s Word of truth, they do not confess that they are sinful and unclean by nature. People don’t want to hear that they are not right with God and so they turn away and place their trust in themselves. They don’t agree that they are really and truly sinners who are condemned to death and hell. Therefore, what do they need to saved from? There is no need for Jesus to save them from a condition they don’t believe that they suffer from. So it is when we fail to know our sin as it is pointed out by God’s Word. We falsely claim that we have no need of what God wants to give us—forgiveness and salvation. It is exactly the situation that John describes in his first letter, words that we know very well from the liturgy, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8-10 ESV). O “Jerusalem,” “Jerusalem.”

From the first sin of Adam and Eve, God has desired to gather His fallen, sin-filled, rejection-laden people to Himself and to restore them. From His First Testament people to Twenty-First Century people, the Lord wants to gather the lost, rescue them from sin and death, and make them His own. But they, and we, were not willing to be gathered. Sin and rebellion against God are a stubborn thing. We can’t overcome it on our own. The fact of the matter is, all people, including us, would be lost forever, condemned to eternal death, if God Himself had not willed that “all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).

And with that desire to save and to gather sinners under His everlasting wings of grace and mercy, like a mother hen gathering her chicks, God the Son was given to us as the gift of the Father. The eternal Son of God became fully human so that He might journey to Jerusalem and be THE once-for-all rejected Prophet. “It is necessary,” Jesus said, that He continue His ministry of casting out demons and healing the sick in body and soul so that He might complete His goal established even before creation—that of saving and rescuing sinners from death and hell.

Throughout the past Season after Epiphany we have read over and over that the work of Jesus’ earthly ministry was one of releasing those captive in bondage to Satan, sickness, and sin. And the way in which that salvation and freedom would take place involved Jesus’ own rejection in Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. Why? It is not possible for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem. And so Jesus, as THE Prophet, in solidarity and continuity with His Old Testament prophets, travels to Jerusalem to be “rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Lk. 9:22 ESV). “Jesus’ prophetic destiny of rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection must take place in Jerusalem, the holy city, that place where God dwells, and atonement must take place.”[1]

          And so, He goes as it stands written in the Holy Scriptures. He goes to Jerusalem to die on a cross for your sins and for mine. He suffers the condemnation of hell on the cross in our place. Jesus sheds His holy, precious blood to make atonement for the sins of the whole world so that, by God’s grace through faith and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, all might receive the forgiveness of sins. Through His sacrificial death, Jesus has purchased your release. You are set free from sin, death, and the devil because of Jesus’ saving work for you accomplished on the cross!

And on the third day, Christ rose from the dead, forever defeating the power of death and hell. Did you catch the allusion to the “third day” in the text? “Behold, I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow and on the third day I am brought to my goal.” Along with Luke’s first readers, we can recognize “on the third day” as an allusion to Jesus’ resurrection. The third day is the day of the final release of all creation from its bondage to sin and Satan. It is the beginning of the new creation. After taking on Himself the world’s bondage while He was on the cross and burying it in the tomb, Jesus rises from the dead. As humanity’s substitute and representative, Jesus accomplished salvation for us all with His death and resurrection! This is the goal of His journey to Jerusalem—our freedom from sin, death, and the power of Satan.[2]

In the Word of the Gospel combined with water in Holy Baptism, the crucified and risen Savior came to you and gifted you with saving faith and trust in Him as your Lord and Savior. Baptism has given to you exactly what the words and promises of God declare: the forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation. In the read and preached Gospel, the Crucified and Risen Savior comes to you with His forgiveness and the new life of faith so that you no longer live under the power of sin, but in the freedom of Christ. You can now fear, love, and trust in God above all things through Gospel at work in you by the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit. Shortly, we will sing in the Sanctus, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Crucified and Risen Jesus comes to us in His Supper where we eat and drink the true Body and Blood of Christ with the bread and the wine for the forgiveness of sins, for life, salvation, and the strengthening of our most holy, Christian faith.

By faith, we receive the ministry of Jesus that took Him to the cross and the grave in order to save us from our sins. By faith, we trust that He was rejected for us, so that we might never be rejected by God because of our sins and our sinfulness. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! What great joy we look forward to because of the saving work of Christ! From Revelation 21, a picture of us, the holy, Christian Church, the new Jerusalem: “‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, . . . And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9-10, 22 ESV).

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! “With milk and honey blest—The promise of salvation, The place of peace and rest—We know not, oh, we know not What joys await us there: The radiancy of glory, The bliss beyond compare!

Around the throne of David, The saints, from care released, Raise loud their songs of triumph To celebrate the feast. They sing to Christ their leader, Who conquered in the fight, Who won for them forever Their gleaming robes of white.” (LSB 672:1, 3)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Arthur A. Just, Jr., Luke 9:51-24:53, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 1997), 563.

[2] Ibid., 561.


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