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Sermon for Trinity 10 (St. Luke 19:41-48)

by Rev. Brian Hamer ~ October 1st, 2009

Sermon on St. Luke 19:41-48

Trinity 10

O’er Jerusalem Thou Weepest (TLH 419)

Today’s OT lesson describes the right relationship between God and His people. Speaking to Israel in the days just before Babylonian Captivity, Jeremiah stood in the gate of the Lord’s house and called Israel to repentance: “Thus says the Lord of hosts . . . Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.” Live in daily repentance and faith, and Solomon’s magnificent temple, along with the city of Jerusalem, will be a place of peace between God and man. Similarly, today’s Gospel lesson tells us about Jesus’ calling Jerusalem to repentance and cleansing the Temple. And our Hymn of the Day (TLH #419) describes Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem and applies it to our own Christian faith and life. And so, guided by this hymn, today we discuss Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem.

O’er Jerusalem Thou weepest / In compassion, dearest Lord.

Love divine, of love the deepest, O’er Thine erring Israel poured,

Crieth out in bitter moan:  “O love city, hadst thou known /

This the day of visitation, Thou wouldst not reject salvation (TLH 419.1).

Jerusalem was the capital city, the seat of the Holy Land, and the destination of OT pilgrims. Established several thousand years ago, Jerusalem was given to the people by God as a city of peace and prosperity. Recall Israel’s promise of the Promised Land, the conquest under Joshua, and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom. Recall the three kings over the united Monarchy – Saul, David, and Solomon – followed by the rule of the southern kings, a few decades of captivity in Babylon, and later resettlement in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Jesus’ day, Jerusalem had more of a political tone. Rome wanted some of the splendor. Herod Antipus and Pontius Pilate got a piece of geo-political action. And many in Jerusalem came to understand the coming messiah in political terms, expecting a this-worldly king who would deliver them from Roman occupation.

This is the context for Jesus’ final approach to His holy city or, as the hymn puts it, “O loved city.” No wonder Jesus reacted in tears (“O’er Jerusalem Thou Weepest”) rather than joy: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” The name Jerusalem means “city of peace” – not worldly peace, as many then and now have longed for, but the eternal peace between God and man through Jesus. The things that make for Jerusalem’s peace are the birth of Jesus, His life and death, His resurrection and ascension. That’s why Jerusalem was established–to be a place where the Messiah would come and proclaim peace between God and man. But, as you all know, Jerusalem turned against God and became a place of war and bloodshed. It became the city that rejected the Messiah, cast Him out as a common criminal, and crucified Him between two thieves.

And how did God the Father react to the rejection of His own Son? About forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He turned the tables on their political expectation of deliverance from Rome and sent the Roman Army to sack Jerusalem and destroy almost every remnant of its heritage. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says, “Your enemies will set up a barricade around and . . . tear you down to the ground,” etc. If I may recommend a little summer reading on this vital event, please see the book, Josephus: The Essential Works, edited by Paul Maier (Kregel,1988/1994). Writing as an eyewitness the horrors of the destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus, a Jewish historian, describes the fulfillment of Jesus’ words. The Roman army barricaded the city to starve it into submission. They attacked the city, killing women and children, even priests serving at the altar. They leveled the ancient fortress to the ground, not leaving one stone upon another. And, in the ultimate insult, they sold the holy things from the temple to help fund the building of the Roman Coliseum.

What does this mean for us? I would especially highlight in our hymn why Jesus weeps: “In compassion, dearest Lord.” His entire being goes out to all who reject Him, yes, even the Jewish and Roman citizens who delivered Him to be crucified. And so it is for us. Left to ourselves, we would secularize our expectations of God and reject the Messiah. On our own, we would expect God to do great things in the eyes of the world now, to deliver us from persecution now, and to make our church a great big success story now. But that’s not His way, is it? Rather, He saw us in our sin and unbelief and had compassion on us; compassion enough to become one of us, to die our death, and to rise from the dead. And since the old Jerusalem has been destroyed, Jesus established a New Jerusalem, the church. This is the true city of peace between God and man. Here we are cleansed by baptism. Here, in this Christian church, we have the peace of full and free forgiveness in Christ. In the new Jerusalem we have God’s visitation in the person of His Son, the Divine Service of His word and sacrament.

By the love Thy tears are telling, O Thou Lamb for sinners slain,

Make my heart Thy temple dwelling, Purged from ev’ry guilty stain.

Oh, forgive, forgive, my sin!  Cleanse me, cleanse me, Lord, within!

I am Thine since Thou hast sought me, Since Thy precious blood hath bo’t me (TLH 419.2).

Having approached the holy city and wept over it, Jesus then entered the crown jewel of Jerusalem, the temple. Recall the temple, built by Solomon. An inner sanctum where only the high priest went and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Designated places for prayer, both for men and women. A large altar for daily sacrifices at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., not to mention countless individual and festal sacrifices. If the city was God’s visible presence to the world, the temple was God’s special presence for Israel. In the temple He heard their prayers, He received their sacrifices, and He cleansed them from their sins. As the prophet said, “The Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple” (Mal 3:1).

But what did Jesus find in His temple? The moneychangers, buying and selling during the lucrative Passover market. Recall that Israel had to journey to Jerusalem three times a year to offers prayers and sacrifices. Rather than bring the sacrificial animals all the way from remote portions of Israel, most of the Hebrews purchased their animals in Jerusalem. To buy and sell outside the temple was appropriate. But buying and selling in God’s house, somewhat parallel to our sanctuary, was intolerable. The word “profane” literally means “outside the temple,” and that’s exactly where business should have been transacted. No wonder Jesus quoted the Scriptures regarding the temple: “My house shall be a house of prayer” (Is 56:7). My house, the temple, shall be a place for holy things: prayer, sacrifice, worship. “But you have made it a den of robbers.” Jesus then overturned their tables and drove them out of the temple.

And what about us? Our hymn teaches us the need to be cleansed and to stand righteous before God–the very reason for the existence of the temple. Our new Temple is Christ. And He is not bound to any building of brick and mortar, but to the church and to her administration of the means of grace. It all starts with His sacrificial death, just as a bloody sacrifice was required at the old temple: “By the love Thy tears are telling, O Thou Lamb for sinners slain.” As OT pilgrims brought one-year old lambs to the Passover, so Christ is the Lamb of God, the One who takes away the sins of the world. “Make my heart Thy temple dwelling.” Christ is the new Temple. We, by faith, are in Christ and He is in us. So we are also the new temple, the Christ-bearers to the world. And in His house of prayer, we pray, “Oh, forgive, forgive, my sin! Cleanse me, cleanse me, Lord, within!” Forgiveness and cleansing here are quite the same thing. To forgive is to send away, recalling the scapegoat in the wilderness. To cleanse is to wash away, recalling the many uses of water for ceremonial cleanness. Forgiveness, cleanness, righteousness–all are yours in Christ, who makes this church a house of prayer where you may commune with Him!

O Thou Lord of my salvation, Grant my soul Thy blood-bo’t peace.

By Thy tears of lamentation / Bid my faith and love increase.

Grant me grace to love Thy Word, Grace to keep the message heard,

Grace to own me as my Treasure, Grace to love Thee without measure (TLH 419.3).

This stanza describes the Christian life. We leave this sanctuary fed and nourished. We have heard God’s word of preaching and absolution. We have received His body and blood. Now what? We go back to our daily lives, where God’s gifts have their fruition: faith toward God and fervent love for one another. As the hymn puts it, “Bid my faith and love increase.” Love comes down from God in Christ. Faith is created and receives His gifts. And faith toward God and fervent love toward one another shape our daily lives the rest of the week. And see how it’s all under the umbrella of grace: “Grant me grace to love Thy word, Grace to keep the message heard . . . to own Thee as my Treasure . . . to love thee without measure.” No room for human effort here (Synergism), for purpose-driven living (Rick Warren), or for finding the better you (Joel Osteen). Rather, it’s all the work of God for us in Christ. The Christian life, what we call “sanctification,” is not our effort to be better Christians, but Christ in action through you.

In short, today’s Gospel lesson is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah that those who live in daily repentance and faith will dwell in the new Jerusalem, the church, where they will abide in the new Temple, Christ. And like our forefathers in Solomon’s temple, we will suffer persecution, bloodshed, and maybe even war. But Christ is with us and He simply cannot fail. Even when it seems that all is lost, Christ still has compassion on our churchly Jerusalem; He still prays for us as our Great High Priest; and He promises, in His own time, to end all suffering and to give us the final resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

God grant it unto us for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Rev. Brian Hamer

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Bayside, NY

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