Trinity 10 – July 30th and 31st, 2016 – Luke 19:41-48
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
I want you, for a moment, to picture in your mind all the things you normally think of on Palm Sunday – Jesus on a donkey, surrounded by crowds calling out Hosanna. Children smiling and laughing, waving palms. And then, to that picture, add the opening words of our Gospel lesson. “And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!’” This Gospel lesson takes place on Palm Sunday. There Christ Jesus is, and He is weeping. Weeping because Jerusalem doesn’t know the things that make for peace. And this is so horrid, so ironic, because the name “Jerusalem” means “Abode of Peace” – that “Salem” or “Shalom” is the Hebrew word for peace. You, Jerusalem, you are the place where peace should dwell, for you are where the Temple is, where Mt. Zion is, where God Himself is present to forgive the sins of His people, to undo and destroy sin and death and to give life and peace… and yet you do not know the things that make for peace. The Prince of Peace rides into the Abode of Peace, and He laments, for the people there do not desire peace – not real peace. “But now they are hidden from your eyes.” There you have God Himself, come to save His people from their sin – and even the crowds praising Him, who among them understands, who desires true peace? They want freedom from Rome, kick the bums out. They want more wealth, more stuff, more carnal security. They want things of this world – but the things of peace – not wanted. And they will follow a path of violence instead.
Our Lord says, “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Many in Christ’s day hoped that He would lead the glorious revolution against Rome. But He doesn’t – and thus He is rejected. Instead of simply clinging to Christ and His Kingdom, so many would try to make their own kingdom in this world, and so over and over the Jewish folks in Jerusalem would rebel. In 66 AD, they drive the Roman legions out… but Rome comes back and surrounds the city, blockades it for 4 years, and then lays waste to it. Destroys the Temple – blows up the Holy of Holies. While the temple isn’t rebuilt, Jerusalem was, yet it gets destroyed again. Around 130, there is another revolt, and this time the city is utterly destroyed, and all the Jewish folks living there are forced to move – are scattered to the winds. And Jerusalem has been fought over since then – a history of blood and violence and pain and suffering – all because people do not know the things that make for peace.
We see this truth further demonstrated when Jesus reaches the temple. “And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written My House shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.’” Christ Jesus steps into the temple, steps upon Mt. Zion, and His sorrow turns to righteous anger as He sees these people who are profiteering off of the temple sacrifices, who are engaged in commerce with nary a thought to what is actually happening in that Temple. Casts them out. Same word used when Jesus casts out a demon. Again, a focus on money, on wealth, on “mammon”. Not upon the things that make for peace.
That's the contrast here in this text – Christ and His peace versus the power and wealth of the world. So then, I will ask - what it is that we crave? Do we desire the things of this world, or do we desire the things that make for peace? As Americans, what do we want? Turn on a TV, and what do you see? In the papers, on-line – what are they showing you? Or consider the campaign speeches of the politicians – what do they promise? All the talking heads, what are they selling us, what are we wanting? It's all pretty much promises of money and power, isn't it? They aren't selling, they aren't offering peace. See, here's the thing. Even though we are Christians, we are not immune to the pull of the world. We all have different things, different desires, different idols about which we think, “If only this, then life would be better.” We are not immune, we get caught up in the rat race, I have to do this, I have to buy that, if I just get X, Y, and Z, then things will be better. And on and on, we run around chasing after our passions, our lusts, our desires – whatever they are. And so rarely are we at peace. So often we are driven by fear, by worry, by angst. So often we trust in earthly power and might.
I know that what I’ve been talking about isn’t very specific. I know that I’m not lambasting specific things, specific items as “this is bad” – because I can’t do that thinking for you. I can think about what calls to me, what tempts me to become an idol in my life, what I desire. But I don’t know your thoughts, your hearts – so I ask you to ponder. What do you crave, what do you want, what makes you act like the tantrum throwing 5 year old, just determined that you won’t be happy or satisfied until you get “fill in the blank”. It might be respect or a raise or a new this or that, or lust or just a desire to not have any more responsibilities so you can just live for yourself – there’s too many options for me to address or guess. But you, pause and consider. What tempts you? What is it that isn’t healthy, isn’t good for you and you know it, yet it continually calls out to you? Or in other words, “how does Satan attack you?”
Because, that's really what this is. Satan wants you bound to the things of sin. Satan wants the things of this fallen world, money, power, busy-ness, lust, greed, prestige – whatever – Satan wants these things to more and more dominate and shape your life, so that you get caught up in them and forget what makes for true peace. So what does make for true peace? “And He was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on His Words.” Do you see the two camps, the distinction that is made? On the one hand, you have those who are craving after power and wealth and might – and they want to destroy Christ. To be done with Him. To put Him in the ground and never have to hear His Name again, to be utterly separated from Him. Is this not what Satan tries to accomplish in your life with sin and its distractions? But on the other hand – here are the things that make for peace – Christ Jesus and His Word. It is the Prince of Peace Himself who brings peace with Him.
The temptations of the world offer us so many things that seem appealing, things that they tell us they will bring us joy when they only bring strife and pain and suffering. But what does Christ Jesus bring with His Word? He brings to you forgiveness, so that you are free from guilt and are given peace. He brings with Him life everlasting, so that even as the world shouts, “you need this, you need that” – you know that you have life that lasts beyond just this chaotic life. He brings you joy – not mere pleasure but a peaceful contentful joy, where you know that no matter what you see in this wild world, you are loved by God, forgiven on account of Christ, that God is Your God who cares for you and that there is nothing the world can do to change that. In His Word, Christ Jesus gives you Himself – He Himself is with you, and because of Him you have peace. When you hear Christ, when you dwell in Him and He in You, when you meditate upon His Word of forgiveness, His love for you – you have peace. It’s not that this place and the Word of God here makes all the troubles of this world go away. That will have to wait for the life of the world to come. But Christ Jesus gives you peace – gives you strength to stand on His firm and sound foundation, and so the world can swirl around you – it may rage like a hurricane, but you are in the center with Christ, you are with Him. And Satan will try again and again to distract you, try to suck you up into the tumbling vortex of this world – and in response Christ will speak His Word to you – He will warn you of Satan’s ploys, and then He will say, “Peace be with you.” Be at peace – know that you are forgiven, know that with my death upon the Cross I have defeated Satan, that I have defeated the world – know that with My resurrection I have ensured that even should you die, yet you shall live. This cruel and mean and jealous world can in reality do nothing lasting to you – for the Prince of Peace has come to you, He has made You to be His own temple when He baptized you, washed you clean, drove out your sin and promised to forgive you continually. He has made you His own dwelling place – and He makes you to know peace. He makes you to be focused upon Him, to hear His Word of peace over and over again.
My dear Christian friends – you are in a world that will try to buffet you, that will try to twist you, that will try play on your fears and hurts. A world so harsh even Christ was driven to tears. And all this world will do is leave you empty and hurt and wanting more. But over and against this world, Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace, speaks His Word of life and peace to you. You are filled with Christ and His spirit. Your sins are forgiven. You have true life in Christ. You do not need whatever the world is selling – for you are His, and all of the life of the world to come is your inheritance. You don't need to buy what the world is selling, for Christ Jesus has given you forgiveness and life and salvation already. This is His peace for you. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.