O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Second Sunday in Lent, 2019 – Deacon Rex Watt

Jeremiah 26:8-15 / Philippians 3:17-4:1 / Luke 13:31-35


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

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear saints of Redeemer.  Have any of you heard about the young lawyer who posted on her Facebook page an image of one of those annoying minions along with this caption, “My goal in life is to tick off at least one person every day.  So far, I am 6 months and 27 days ahead of schedule.”  Have you known anyone like that?  Surely there is no one in this congregation like that.  Surely, we would never think of the Lord Jesus that way, would we?  And yet in today’s Gospel we see him picking what appears to be a fight with the Pharisees, and King Herod.

Jesus has been battling with the Pharisees for some time now, exposing their hypocrisy, their legalism, and their self-righteousness.  They always seemed to come up on the short end of the stick with Jesus, so this time, they try a different tactic.  They thought that they could intimidate him.  “Get away from here,” they say, “for Herod wants to kill you.”

Did Herod want to kill Jesus?  Could be.  Jesus proclaimed the same message that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   John’s bold proclamation got him in trouble.  He called out Herod for his illegal marriage to his brother’s wife, and it cost him his life.  It could be that Herod, hearing that Jesus was proclaiming the same message as John, would have wanted him dead.  But in the end, after Jesus had been arrested Herod didn’t condemn him.  He and his troops “treated him with contempt and mocked him,” then sent him back to Pilate, who was the ruler who ordered the crucifixion.  Still, Herod was not a person you wanted to tangle with.

Jesus’ response was basically, “Go and tell Herod that I will not be intimidated.  I have some work yet to do, and I will finish my course.”  These are prophetic words.  They are pointing to his arrest, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  They cannot be taken for three literal days, for all the events between our text and chapter 19, where Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, takes more than three days.  Coupled with the statement, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem,” and it is clear what Jesus is indicating.  He is God’s final prophet, just as we heard at his Transfiguration, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

People don’t like to hear prophetic words.  When I use that term, I am not speaking about words that foretell the future.  While the Old Testament prophets often spoke concerning the future, most of their preaching was preaching of repentance.  Those are hard words.  Just ask Jeremiah!  His preaching of repentance got him into a lot of trouble.  But that’s a prophet’s job.  A prophet is one sent by God to faithfully speak God’s word.  And people today, just like in biblical times, don’t want to hear such speech.  They don’t want to be confronted with God’s word because they have become too comfortable with their sin and unbelief.

Does the Church today still faithfully speak God’s prophetic word?  We live in a very casual and permissive society today.  People have become all too comfortable with their sins; comfortable with adultery, which they call having an affair; comfortable with fornication which is now called living together; comfortable with homosexuality which is called an alternative lifestyle; comfortable with the murder of innocent babies, now called a choice.  Every night violent crime, profanity, and pornography are cabled into our living rooms and the world calls it entertainment.  People have become comfortable with greed, being convinced that the only way to succeed in the world is to lie and cheat and steal just like everybody else.

Perhaps the Church today has grown fearful of proclaiming God’s prophetic word.  Perhaps we have allowed the world to intimidate us; bully us; convince us that it is more loving to overlook such sins rather than confront them.  Do you know what the most quoted Bible verse is?  It’s not John 3:16.  It’s “Judge not, lest you be judged.”   It appears that the Church has become increasingly tolerant of sin, speaking words that don’t offend anyone, but those are not God’s words.  The world needs God’s words.  The Church needs God’s words.  Any you, my brothers and sisters, need God’s words.

It’s time once again for the Church to say, “Thus says the Lord.”  It doesn’t matter what the laws of our land allow, it doesn’t matter what society permits, or what everyone else is doing, tweeting, or posting on social media.  God will not tolerate sin.  Your sins, my sins, or societies sins.  Repent, or you will perish.  That’s the prophetic word that you and I are sent into this world to proclaim no matter what our vocation might be.  Oh, sure.  It will tick some people off.  But if they don’t hear God’s Law, they would never know of God’s mercy and grace.  They would never truly hear the Gospel.  They would never truly know Jesus.

When you look back into Old Testament history you will see that the faithful prophets always dearly loved their people.  Jeremiah spoke harshly about the people’s sin and rejection of God, but listen to the depth of his love for them.  Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
(Jer 9:1)  Jesus also lamented over his people.  Do you hear the anguish in his voice, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (vs 34)

Do you sense the depth of his love for his people?  Do you hear how he longed to save them?  He was willing to die for them.  He was willing to go to the cross for them, but they were not willing to hear his word, they were not willing to repent of their sins, they despised the final prophetic word sent to them and they crucified him.

Can you hear Jesus today lamenting over the world that you and I live in?  Can you hear him lamenting over this community you and I live in?  Can you hear him lamenting over you?  In the depth of his love for you he was willing to suffer and die on a cross for your sins.

On that first Easter afternoon, two disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus when, they were met by a stranger who asked why they were so downcast.  They told him about Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and deed, and that they had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.  “They had hoped.”  Those are probably the saddest words in all of Scripture.  Imagine their surprise, and joy, when the crucified and now risen Savior revealed himself to them through the opening of the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread.  Yes!  Jesus is a prophet.  He is the Prophet.  But he is more than a prophet, he is your crucified and risen Savior.  The forgiveness of all your sins, no matter what they are, was delivered to you in your Baptism.  You, dear saints of Redeemer, sit here today with all the same joy and hope that those two disciples on the road to Emmaus had as they walked with Jesus, because your Jesus, in your Baptism, in your hearing of his word, in your reception of his own very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion has brought you into the New Jerusalem, the Holy Christian Church.

During Lent we walk with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem.  We re-create what he has already done.  Today, we see Jesus lamenting over his beloved city, Jerusalem.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…but you would not!”   But you and I know the rest of the story.  There will be a day when Jesus returns again, and again he will cry out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”  But this time the cry will not be one of lament and anguish.  It will be a cry of joy from the lips of our Lord himself as he sees the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  When that day come, we will hear our Savior say, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem; O George, George; O, Mary, Mary; (insert your own name there); how I have longed, for you!”  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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