Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lent 2, Series C

Sermon on Luke 13:31-35
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 24, 2013 (Second Sunday in Lent)

Wayward children.  That’s how Jesus speaks of Jerusalem in today’s text.  The people of Jerusalem are wayward children.  Children are born sinful, and so through the course of their lives they do many things they shouldn’t do.  But when they get to be teenagers, and on into the process of becoming adults, their parents have less and less control over how they live their lives.  And sometimes children will continue to live rebelliously once they are free of parental control and have become adults, simply because they can.  These overgrown teenagers, so to speak, are a major cause of heartbreak for their parents, as they see their children doing one thing after another in their lives that is contrary to the way they were raised, but the parents can do little more than pray for them.  Very often such people have no idea, if they even care, of the pain and sorrow they are causing their parents.  But the parents continue to pray for them, and continue to hope that the Word of God which was taught them as youngsters will eventually bear fruits of repentance in their lives.  The parents continue to love their children despite the children’s seeming rejection of that love.

Such parents are a picture of God’s relationship to sinful humanity.  The pain and the heartache our sins have caused our God is beyond imagining.  That pain and sorrow was shown most fully in the painful, bloody, tormented death of God’s Son on the cross.  But there are other times during Jesus’ ministry when the loving sorrow of a parent for wayward children comes out as well.  This text is one of those occasions.  You can hear the anguish in Jesus’ voice as He cries out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  And Jesus has real reason to weep over Jerusalem.  As the Son of God, He was present in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies for the centuries of decline in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, while abomination after abomination took place in the city, often even in the courtyard of the Temple itself.  We can get an idea of the wickedness of many of the Israelite leaders by reading the prophets, such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah.  And now the religious leaders of the Israelites are about to commit the ultimate abomination against their God, namely to put Him to death for blasphemy, of all things.

At the same time, though, the sins of Jerusalem and the Israelites are only a small part of the suffering and pain which Jesus endures.  Not only the sins of Israel, but our sins as well grieve Him.  Our sins also contributed to His suffering and anguish.  We too have been wayward children from our birth, who refused the guidance, counsel, and comfort of our heavenly Father.  We too have run after everything except the one thing needful, namely Jesus Christ and His Word.  We too have killed Christ, for it was our sin which nailed Him to that cross.  We, too, made it necessary for Him to travel to Jerusalem and die.

But there was something else which caused Him to go to Jerusalem and be killed by the high priests and the Roman government.  The love of God the Father for His creatures, a love which His Son shared, also caused Jesus’ suffering and death.  Just like the prophets of old, Jesus was sent by God to His people in order to preach repentance and forgiveness to them.  And just like the prophets of old, the leaders of the people, and many of the people themselves, rejected the message Jesus brought them, and they put Him to death.  This is what happens to a prophet when he has delivered his message.  It happened to all the Old Testament prophets, and it happened to Jesus as well.  But God kept sending prophets to His people, and finally He sent His own Son to preach to them, and even Him they killed.

There is one difference, however, between the death of the prophets and the death of Jesus.  When the prophets were killed, it meant that they had to some extent failed.  Yes, they had delivered the message they were sent to deliver, but the people did not receive the message and instead killed the messenger.  And of course it’s not the prophet’s fault that the people refused to listen to him, but nevertheless, the deaths of the Old Testament prophets were not victories for God; rather they were victories for the satanic forces who killed them and thereby silenced their preaching.  With Jesus’ death it is just the opposite.  Jesus’ death is His goal.  He intends to die in Jerusalem.  It is for this purpose that He came to earth.  While the crucifixion of our Lord may look at first glance like a victory for Satan and those who want to silence the preaching of a true prophet, in fact Jesus’ death is the greatest victory that has been won for the people of God.  Through His death He destroyed death.  Through His death He has won eternal life for those who believe in Him.  Through His death, in other words, He has healed us of our offenses and sins.  In His three-day journey through the cross and the grave to the resurrection, He healed us.  He cast out the demons, the servants of Satan who would tempt us to sin.  He healed us of every form of disease and suffering we now experience.  And on the third day He reached His goal, namely to become the firstfruits of those who will rise again from the grave and live forever in God’s presence.

Everyone baptized into Him has been baptized into His death and resurrection.  In those few moments when we were washed with water in connection with the Word of Holy Baptism, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we took that three-day journey with Christ.  We traveled with Him through death into life.  When He was raised to life on that first Easter morning, He reached His goal, and we reached it with Him.  When you were baptized, you died with Christ and were resurrected with Him.  When you finally die to this life, and when Christ comes again in glory and raises you up out of the grave to live forever with Him, what will be happening is that you will be experiencing what already happened to you when you were baptized.

On that last great day our journey through death to life will be fulfilled.  We will have reached our goal, even as Christ reached His goal on the third day when He was raised from the dead.  He will come again in glory, and we will meet Him with joy and exultation, for we will know that our sorrows and are pain are ended.  We will greet Him with joyous shouts of exultation, saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” just as the crowd did on Palm Sunday.  And, truly, He is blessed who comes in the name of the Lord, because that Man is our Savior, who has taken us from death into life, from sorrow into joy, from sin into righteousness, from corruption into perfection.  He has had mercy on us children of men and sent His only begotten Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior.  While the ungodly ones who rejected Him will be crying and gnashing their teeth, even as they recognize Jesus as the Son of God whom they rejected, we will be greeting Him with open arms and with the voice of praise and thanksgiving.

We greet Him that way even now in the Divine Service.  He comes to us here to give us what He won by His suffering and death.  The same body that was broken for us, the same blood that was shed for us, is given to us today in the Holy Supper.  And with that body and blood come all the blessings He has for us.  Despite our sins, despite our inborn sinfulness that expresses itself with rebellious and wayward childishness, He comes to us to forgive us and to nourish the new man in Christ which He has created in us in Holy Baptism.  He comes to gather us under His wings in His care and protection.  He comes in the name of the Lord, with blessings more than we can recount.  Today, for you, He comes with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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